I don’t get mum guilt. There, I said it.
I don’t feel guilty for the choices I have made as a parent. I refuse to give in to mum guilt.
Here are some things that I don’t feel guilty for:
- I don’t feel guilty for returning to work when my daughter was a few weeks old.
- I don’t feel guilty for taking her to work with me.
- I don’t feel guilty for keeping her out late now and then.
- I don’t feel guilty that she rolled off the bed the other week.
- I don’t feel guilty that she caught the sun a little bit at the park.
The fact that I don’t feel guilty doesn’t make me a bad parent or mean that I don’t care. Although I don’t feel guilty about these things, I do reflect on them and ask myself if I can/should do them any differently:
- I was unhappy doing nothing while my daughter slept. I enjoy working. A happy mum = a happy baby!
- It’s fine to take my daughter to work with me. She actually loves it – she is just as happy playing with her toys in my office as she is at home.
- Life goes on with baby in tow! If we were at home every time Lilly wanted to sleep we’d never go anywhere or do anything!
- I didn’t realise she could move that far yet. Accidents happen. She is a baby and I’m sure there will be many, many more falls to come. I’ve got a barrier around the bed now.
- She did have sunscreen on, but perhaps not enough. She wasn’t badly burnt, just a little red. She’ll wear more sunscreen every day now, even if we aren’t out in the sun for long.
Mum guilt or self-reflection?
I often wonder if people get ‘guilt’ confused with ‘self-reflection’. Self reflection is a good thing. It can help us grow and improve. But just because we might do things differently next time doesn’t mean we should feel guilty for how they played out the first time around. Hindsight is a wonderful thing.
Guilt is defined as ‘the fact of having committed a specified or implied offence or crime.’ This implies that there is a right way to parent; but who is responsible for deciding what is the ‘right’ way to parent anyway?
It seems to me that most ‘mum guilt’ centres around an expectation of what a mother ‘should’ look like. Most parents would agree that raising children is the the most important job in the world. If this is the case, why do we let people who don’t know us, who have never lived a day in our shoes, or better yet, have never raised a child themselves, have any say in how we raise our children? Why do we let ourselves feel guilty because of unattainable and, in any case, conflicting, expectations from society?
Have you noticed that there are always two sides to every ‘mum guilt’ trip:
- I feel guilty because I didn’t play with the kids
- I feel guilty because I spent all day playing with the kids and didn’t clean/work/make dinner
- I feel guilty because I want to return to work
- I feel guilty because I don’t work so we have to do without some luxuries
- I feel guilty because I have my kids take-away food
- I feel guilty because I never let them have take-away food
- I feel guilty because I would like some time to myself
- I feel guilty because I went out with my friends instead of staying home with the family
- I feel guilty because I don’t feel guilty
… and on it goes.
I refuse to give in to society’s expectations as to how I should raise my daughter. Being a parent is tough enough without the weight of the world looking in. No one is perfect. We’re all on the same roller coaster; learning every day and doing the best we can.
Let go of mum guilt
The one piece of advice I would give to mothers it to let go of the guilt. Stop comparing yourself to others. Just do you. You don’t need to justify your parenting decisions to anyone else and you certainly don’t need to feel guilty for them.
If you feel guilty because you’ve made a choice you aren’t happy with, change it! Don’t let feeling guilty let you off the hook from making change. If you feel guilty because you’ve made a choice that goes against what society tells you you should do, let it go. Look at your kids. Are they happy and healthy? Do you provide them with love, comfort, security and fun? If the answer is yes, I doubt you have much to feel guilty about.