Scared you're a terrible mum? Me too

I couldn’t quite believe the words that came out of my friend’s mouth. So much so, I had to ask her to repeat them. 

‘I’m such a rubbish mum,’ she said again, tearfully. ‘My little one got sent home from nursery because she had a temperature but I was too scared to tell my boss, so I stuck her in front of a film, while I finished off this urgent project on the sofa next to her.’

Instantly my heart went out to her. Because what working mum hasn’t been in that situation? When you’re torn between a deadline and your daughter? Your son or a spreadsheet? 

Let me tell you, I know a lot of amazing mums – this lady is one of the best. Her children have beautiful bedrooms, filled with books and toys, she takes them swimming and to the park, she cooks for them, she does the most amazing arts and crafts (she once made a pizza hut out of a cardboard box! I mean, seriously!) and she sets the best example by being a working mum who also helps so many people in her job. 

Admittedly, these things aren’t necessarily out of the ordinary. They’re what any good parent does. But she loves them, she cuddles them, she is there for them. They are her first thought and her first priority. 

Yet, here she was, doubting herself because of one afternoon. A classic case of mum guilt. 

In case you haven’t heard of it, mum guilt is where you feel like you’re not doing enough for your little ones, or that what you are doing will have long-lasting negative consequences on their future. The vast majority of these feelings are wholly irrational and illogical, but that doesn’t make them any less potent. I hear it all the time from various parent friends. 

But I also hear myself say them regularly.

‘I’m a useless mum.’ ‘I’m letting them down.’ ‘I don’t do enough for them.’

Guilt is the emotion I feel – and talk about – most often, without a doubt. I experience it so often, it’s now like a general humming in the background of my mind. 

I’ve never quite understood the phrase ‘work like you’re not a parent, parent like you don’t work’. How is that possible when last-minute meetings are put in at 5pm, when you were just getting ready to make your apologetic retreat? Or when children catch chicken pox the week after they were sent home from nursery with a runny nose and you need to explain to your boss once again that you won’t be able to come in? 

‘Shush,’ I’ll hiss at my children, as they charge through the front door when a meeting hasn’t quite finished. Or ‘Let Mammy just finish off this email.’ Or ‘Just 10 more minutes, baby, that’s all I need.’ 

Even as the words are coming out of my mouth, the guilt starts to rise. But as a journalist who constantly works to the tightest of deadlines, those 10 minutes can make all of the difference. 

And, as any mum will know, if you do reject the late meeting, or close down before you finish the feature, the guilt works the other way. You feel terrible for your colleagues, imagining they think you’re slacking off, or finishing early – no matter how many hours you work in the early morning or late in the evening to compensate for it. 

I’ll force myself to ignore the ping of my work email as I make the children’s tea, force down the temptation to read over my latest feature one last time while I ask them about their days at work. Sorry, I mean, nursery. Talk about a Freudian slip! 

And of course, it’s not only work that can bring on the mum guilt. Spending time away from them, their chocolate-to-vegetables ratio, how much television they watch… the list goes on. 

The one that really sticks the knife in for me personally, is an argument before nursery. When I lose my cool and shout my 37th request that they stop watching television and put their shoes on.

Because that’s when the tears will invariably start and I’ll have precious few seconds to say sorry and wipe their cheeks dry before bundling them off for the day, then running back to log onto work, all the while worrying about the emotional scars I’ve inflicted on them. 

So hearing my friend – a perfectly wonderful example of motherhood – express doubts about the job she’s doing raising her children broke my heart. I wished, for that one minute, she could see herself through my eyes. Or, more importantly, through her children’s eyes. If she could, I know that all of those doubts would be erased. 

And that’s when it hit me, like really hit me. This needs to stop. 

So ladies, I’m issuing a call to arms. We need to put a stop to mum guilt! All of us! 

Not only because those who feel it most are definitely the ones who shouldn’t, but it’s an entirely redundant emotion. It doesn’t spur us on, it drags us down.

Worrying, over-thinking and second-guessing ourselves only takes away time that could be better spent laughing, playing with and adoring our children.

We all have to accept that we’re doing the best we can, and remember that mum guilt is a mere feeling, not a fact.  

Do you have a story you’d like to share? Get in touch by emailing [email protected] 

Share your views in the comments below.

Source: Read Full Article