The overwhelming love, the desire to protect them, the devotion you feel – most of us expect these emotions when we have kids. What we’re less prepared for, perhaps, is the guilt. But, sadly, it seems that’s part of the package too. There are so many things mums feel guilty about.
It shouldn’t be. We mums work hard. We do all we can to keep our families healthy, happy and cared for. We run our homes and hold down demanding jobs. We do the best we can, but we feel it’s not enough. I can tell you until I’m blue in the face that it is, but I know it won’t do any good.
Instead, I’m going to give you five of the main reasons mothers feel guilty. Maybe knowing you’re not the only one will help.
1Your feeding choices
If you decide to bottle-feed, there’s a generous scoop of guilt mixed in with that powdered formula. I know – I’ve been there. Twice. Never mind that I was unable to breastfeed my son and had no choice if he was to thrive. My mind insisted it was my fault. (I’ll admit I didn’t even try with my daughter. I couldn’t go through that again.)
But breastfeeding is no picnic, either. It’s far from easy for many women. Is your body producing enough, are they drinking too much or too little? Answer – feel guilty. And what about the first time you decide to express and try them on a bottle so your partner can help with overnight feeds? Or when they end up with an upset tummy because you’ve indulged in a spicy curry and too much wine? Maybe a glass of guilt will help.
2Going to work – and enjoying it
Not many women have the luxury of choosing to be a stay-at-home mum these days. A regular salary – and therefore a job – are often a necessity. That said, it’s something many of us would opt for anyway. I love both my kids to distraction, but being with them 24/7 would have driven me crazy. I enjoyed working and being among other adults. I liked feeling in control – knowing I was doing a good job with the skills I had. As a new mum, I often felt I was muddling my way through without a clue.
I was lucky enough to have the best of both worlds. After working for two or three days a week I spent the rest of the time with my babies. But I still felt guilty for looking forward to leaving the house. To wearing smart clothes that didn’t have regurgitated milk down one shoulder. To adult conversations that didn’t revolve around sleep patterns or whether Buzz Lightyear could beat Spiderman in a race.
3When they hurt themselves
We know we should keep an eye on our little ones at all times. Make sure the flex from the hot iron isn’t within grabbing distance. Fit stairgates so they can’t tumble down when we’re not looking. Your children will still find ways to injure themselves, and when they do you’ll feel terrible.
I made a rookie error with my daughter. I left her on her changing unit for the briefest moment while I grabbed a clean towel from the cupboard. In that time, she discovered she could roll over and ended up on the floor. Cue a trip to the local hospital to make sure she was ok. Everyone was lovely and told me it was one of those things. They didn’t try and make me feel bad. They didn’t have to. I was doing that to myself.
4Using the television as a babysitter
We want the time we have with our kids to be filled with precious memories. With exciting activities that will enrich their lives and stay with them forever. Sometimes, though, we’ve had enough. We’ve sung endless nursery rhymes, done some smudgy finger-painting, read The Very Hungry Caterpillar ten times, played ‘shops’ and dug in the garden for worms. Now, we just want to sit quietly with a cup of tea and catch up on Facebook. Or maybe we need to get on with cooking dinner.
You know what? You’re allowed to do that. Sticking your child in front of Peppa Pig for half an hour while you peel potatoes or call a friend for gossip and moral support won’t ruin them for life.
5Not having enough time
Arguably the biggest guilt-inducer of them all. There always seems to be something else to do. If we drew up a list of our most-used words and phrases when our children were little, I’m pretty sure “in a minute” would hold the Number 1 slot.
There’s no magic solution for this. We can’t add extra hours to the day. The good news is, it’s not as bad as you think. You might feel like you’re constantly fobbing off your kids, but chances are they still get plenty of your attention. If they’re the focus of your time together, that’s what they’ll remember – not the occasions when they had to wait for you to finish up what you were doing.