The Power of Breaking Free From Mum Guilt
Mum guilt is the weirdest thing I have ever experienced.
When I use the term ‘mum guilt’, I don’t mean the idea of being shamed by another mum. That’s simply ‘mum-shaming’ and I refuse to even touch on that today because I can’t believe it exists. (We’re literally a giant collection of women all doing the same, hard, life-changing job. Can we just stop with the keyboard bashing and the quick tongues? Okay, noooow I’m not going to touch it on it.)
‘Mum guilt‘ is this weird experience where we can feel guilty for an action that we are either only very slightly or not at all responsible for. I believe that most of our guilt comes from self-expectation, based on pre-conceived ideas of parenting, people around us, and media-portrayed concepts of motherhood.
I never expected to be a perfect mother. Unlike some mothers, I knew very little about babies, and did very little research into parenting before giving birth. So when it came to motherhood, I didn’t have high expectations. It was literally, “Keep child alive. Check.” Turns out, I’m capable of much more than that. (Thank you, God!)
Even so, I’m actually finding that I still had a solid number of unspoken expectations.
Like, for example, I expected to be more patient after a while. I expected to get used to less sleep. I expected to embrace my new role as a mother quickly and to start rolling with the punches once I got used to the chaos. I expected that as my son grew, that I would learn how to adapt quickly. I expected to be creative in teaching him new things. I expected to be strong regardless of others opinions or the hardships we experienced. I expected to be confident in my decisions.
These expectations were based on how I am in every other area of my life, so I was a bit astounded when, as we hit my son’s one year birthday, I hadn’t personally conquered anything on this particular list of what I expected to be normal.
Just recently, I visited my child health nurse for my son’s twelve month checkup. I was actually pretty excited, because even though he has been in struggle-town with his eating (his logic is why chew when you can drink milk? Work smarter, not harder!), he is really leveling up in the arena of attempting to walk and being basically an active little dude. I am so proud of him, because he is so fun, and strong, and brave, and I was pretty excited to share all of that with my nurse.
So I sit down in the office, and the first question she asks me is:
“How many words does he have?”
…how many words does he have?! And like, words, plural?! If the question was, “How much noise does he make?” My answer would be, “Non-stop babble-town!” But he only has one word. ‘Mama’. (Not that it’s a competition, but… *high-fives mums everywhere*)
And then this is where mum guilt led me within a matter of seconds: He’s only got one word. Oh no, okay. I thought that was okay. Maybe I’m not reading enough with him. Oh, and he does watch The Wiggles once a day. Ugh, I’m a TV mum. People hate TV mums, I must be stagnating him! I should probably cut out that twenty minutes of dishes I do to spend more time with him. I hope he feels loved. Maybe he’s lonely. Am I doing it right? What can I do better? There must be something I’m doing wrong. He’s so behind. I’m not the best mum I can be.
Sigh. Exhausting, right?
Although there are important areas that you should always check in to (which is all my health nurse was actually doing), I find that thanks to mum guilt, mums can be quickly led down a path of lies, just in their every day, well-intended thinking and problem-solving. And sometimes those lies can sound like truth, which makes it even harder! And that somehow, if your son or daughter isn’t textbook material, you are responsible and your child will definitely rob a bank or sell drugs or go to a Shannon Noll concert in their teenage years.
Wow. Slow down, mumma.
It’s important to keep your heart in check always. In the bible, in Jeremiah, it reminds us that the heart is a good ol’ trickster, and if we assume everything we think and feel is 100% accurate to what is actually happening, we will go down a long, winding path of confusion. It is important to stop, take a breath and actually focus on what the truth is in a situation. I even have to speak it out loud, declare it into the atmosphere sometimes, to understand it better!
Because, you know what? We love our kids. And we want the best for them, always. But sometimes we need to remember that children are not robots, meaning life is a rollercoaster of change every, single day. They are just tiny, confusing humans who are doing the best they can, and we are just large, confusing humans, doing the very best we can.
So I’m here to say this: if you’ve ever had that niggling untruth that you’re not doing the best you can because your mothering is different to someone else’s, that your child’s growth and understanding of love has been stunted due to your shortcomings, that your child is being neglected because you decided to vacuum the house or wash your hair or accidentally let them fall onto the hard floor or let them eat a stick or didn’t read the signs right and they’ve actually been thirsty/hungry/tired/angsty for a solid part of the day…. it’s time to get real and say THEY ARE LIES AND YOU ARE DOING A FABULOUS JOB. It’s time to rebuild that foundation. You, yes you, are an incredible mother. You are running a house and loving a child and making sure you stay alive and sometimes holding a job and maintaining friendships and sanity and you are doing amazing.
As mothers, we have a tough job; we have to be switched on every day to hearing God’s stable, unwavering voice of truth amongst our uncertain emotions and human understanding. If you feel guilt, track it back to its source. What do you feel? Is it true? How is it true? What is God’s truth in this situation? Talk it out with Him, let him show you the truth in each and every moment of unsuredness and then say it out loud. You have been created as the perfect parent for your child and no guilt in the world can override that.
Mummas, punch that mum guilt right in the kisser.
You’ve got this. Don’t let anyone (or you) tell you otherwise.
Kat lives in Perth, Western Australia and is pretty happy with her dandy life of 30 years. She is married to Andrew, who is a freelance graphic designer, all-around cool guy and now dad to their ridiculously adorable little boy.
Kat is a manager of a cafe, with a background that looks like a bag of assorted mixed lollies – administration, finance, selling yoghurt, image consulting, making coffee, and account managing. She loves Jesus, reading, drinking a decent cup of coffee, writing and cooking.