By Maz, creator of Twins & Things.
Motherhood can often seeing us become our own worst critic, it’s time to stop the madness and regain some clarity. Say hello to your new best self:
Here are my top 7 tips for dealing with mum guilt, so you can say goodbye to it for good!
1. Quiet your inner martyr and ask for help.
I mean, we all do this sometimes – our inner people pleaser, trying to do all the things. When dealing with mum guilt we often desperately try to do everything alone. We somehow convince ourselves if we don’t do it it won’t get done, or it won’t get done properly.
We seem to exist in this insane culture whereby we think the more overworked and exhausted we make ourselves as a parent the more praise and applause we receive from others. Does that ever happen? Um, no!
People are so wrapped up in their own lives they don’t notice that you did 3 loads of laundry today whilst batch cooking the weeks meals, Marie Kondo’ing your fridge and helping with maths multiplications at the same time. There will be no award waiting for you once it’s all done. If you truly thrive on the constant hustle then go right ahead, but for the majority all this does is build up resentment and exhausts us in the process. It leaves less energy for the things that actually matter, engaging fully with our children in play, ensuring our self-care needs are met, being present. Next time you find yourself on this exhausted wheel, stop and put the brakes on and ask yourself:
Who are you doing all this for and what are you trying to prove?
What can you let go?
Is your Mother-in-law always offering to help with laundry, but you’re so embarrassed about the back log you keep saying no for fear of judgement?
Did you say yes to baking that cake for the bake sale – even though you were planning on catching up with a friend this evening or working on an important work project?
Do you shun offers of childcare for fear that no one will do things the exact way you want them done?
Do you really need to make that elaborate meal from scratch, or could you buy it ready made? Could make double next time so you have some aside in the freezer?
Is your kind school playground friend always offering to take your eldest into school, so your mornings are easier with your new-born. Although you’re worried how you’ll look if you’re not there to drop off in the morning school run…… I could go on, but you get the gist.
Let it go, readdress, accept the help – it does not make you a bad parent, just one that’s a little less flustered. This approach is crucial in dealing with mum guilt.
2. Make a list of daily non-negotiables, and don’t budge.
This task requires a bit of quiet sitting with yourself and tapping into what really matters for you on a personal level as a parent, and as a person! What is important to you, what fills you up? What brings up feelings of guilt in motherhood or resentment?
These non-negotiables will look different for everyone and every family and there is really no right or wrong. It’s about shining a light of what’s really important to you. Scheduling it in your daily routine, just like brushing your teeth.
When dealing with mum guilt – notice what your triggers are, and what’s important to you as a parent:
Do you work 9-5 and feel empty if you’re not there to read stories at bedtime? Maybe you work evenings and want to schedule in a special breakfast for your kids? What are your passions, hobbies – do you make time for them? Are you looking after yourself?
This does not have to be complicated, but if you spend some quiet moments realising what matters most to your situation – and actually plan it in and don’t budge on it (yes you can do that, go back and read step 1 again!) the things that make you feel guilty and resentful will start to slip away.
For example, if you are a working mum who is out of the house 9-5pm weekdays in a busy job which you work your butt off in – your list might look something like this:
- Leave work on time 3 nights a week to have dinner as a family and put my children to bed.
- Get up an hour earlier 3 times a week to make time for self-care and exercise.
- Have one hour of one-on-one time with each of my children at the weekend doing an activity they pick.
- One hour of self care time on a Sunday morning doing something purely just for me, for example going for a massage – meeting a friend for coffee.
- Sunday lunch together as a family.
You get the gist, here is a peek at some of mine – I work mostly from home, but have one day a week of working all day out of the house and have 3 children (an 8-year-old and two-year-old twins) so my day to day is pretty hectic:
- 15 – 20 minutes of one-on-one time with each child daily (I’m pretty much with my children 24/7 but I’m talking about one-on-one attention – normally an activity they’ve instigated, complete attention. Such as reading a couple of stories to one twin whilst the other is engaged in some colouring etc. (This is obviously much easier at the weekends when my partner is home.)
- I get up two hours before my twins to focus on my work projects and get my head together before chaos ensues.
- Schedule in some form of daily exercise every day, even if only for 15 minutes (I’ve realised my stress levels are hugely improved when I do this.)
- Fresh air daily for me and my children (rain depending!) otherwise I feel anxious and my kids stat to climb the walls….
- 20 minutes unwinding by myself once children are asleep.
- 1 x date night monthly.
- An evening out of the house (or a Sunday morning) with a friend twice a month.
- Read daily.
I am by no means saying you should do this; this is just what works for me in my current situation and keeps me at ease. It’s something that is personal to you and customised to your own unique lifestyle and situation. So find a quiet moment this evening – pour a nice mug of something hot, dig out your notebook and pen – and see what non – negotiable’s come up for you.
3. Unfollow social media accounts that bring you down.
When looking at patterns of and dealing with mum guilt – look at what you are choosing to consume.
How many hours a day do you spend scrolling endlessly through social media at other peoples edited lives? Have a look through your accounts; why waste energy following some girl you went to school with on Instagram – who seemingly now has a perfect life, a huge dream house and has an exotic holiday every year. Are you comparing lives with them?
Is it filling you up or dragging you down?
What about your school mum friend with perfectly behaved children who keeps instagramming their kale salads for dinner making you feel guilt for serving up pizza? These lives are edited highlight reels, spend an hour examining the people and companies you follow and unfollow anything that does not lift you up. There, gone – how much more lighter and liberating does that feel? Follow accounts with useful tips on how to make your life easier! (ahem @twinsandthings13), people that inspire you and give you value, people that cheer you on and make you feel good about yourself. It really simplifies your outlook, try it I promise you’ll feel better….
4. Stop feeling bad for working or having time to yourself!
You. Are. Important. Read that again. Let’s put a stop to manifesting mum guilt through either;
a. working (most households run on two incomes now), or
b. having time to yourself. When you are the one handling the heavy load and dealing with all.of.the.damn. things – do you really need to feel guilty about pursuing your passions in a career you love?
Or taking a couple of hours just for you at the weekend when the mental load is weighing you down, no – you really should not.
Do you feel mum guilt when you compare yourself to another friend who stays at home 24/7 with her children as she doesn’t need to work, for all you know she might desperately want to work but can’t find the right childcare or job position.
The same can be said of buying something for yourself, how many of us invest huge swaths of money feeding, dressing, entertaining and saving for our children but feel a pang of guilt about spending £20 on a face cream for ourselves? Or a bunch of flowers, or an extra special bottle of your favourite wine? Let it go, if everyone’s needs are met and your finances are in place just buy the dang thing every once in a while, you earnt it!
5. Evaluate the day.
When you’re dealing with mum guilt – at the end of yet another long, hard and challenging day when things did not seem to work in your favour; before you pour yourself a nice glass of wine and reach for the Cadburys do this first…
Spend 10 minutes somewhere quiet (if you can find it!) and just evaluate in your head how things went.
What stressed you out? What made your day harder? Did you try and do too much?
Did you feel frazzled and distracted trying to answer emails at the same time as making breakfast?
Did you get any alone time? Did you wake up to a messy kitchen? Did you lose your temper? – why?
Were you running late, and no one would put their coat on? Brain dump it all down on a piece of paper or in a journal and imagine its someone else, what would your advice be to make their life easier? Maybe its to get up earlier? Lay out clothes the night before?
Give yourself more time to leave the house or put a meal in the slow cooker instead of trying to make something when your children are tired and hungry – making you feel irritated and snappy?
Just evaluate how your day went and how you can let go of what no longer serves you in order to make improvements when the situation arises again.
Getting to grips and dealing with mum guilt is going to require you to do a bit of analyzing and emotional digging. When something isn’t working or consistently turning to chaos – take it as a sign something needs adjusting.
6. Take “advice” with a pinch of salt – especially if you are a new mum!
People; like to be helpful, I genuinely do believe that – and if someone has had parenting success in one area they like to tell people about it…
However this can often have an adverse affect. When you’re dealing with mum guilt – these “helpful” pieces of advice can just make you feel like you are doing everything wrong (you’re not btw).
Family, friends, gurus online, random people in the supermarket – like to dish out advice on everything from potty training, tantrums, weaning – and everyone’s favourite – sleep!
It can get a little overwhelming, and confusing.
By all means if someone has had success in a certain area and you genuinely want to know all their secrets – dive in! But if people are handing out advice and comments you don’t need, learn to say, “thank you, I’ll give that some thought” and move on.
Do not forget your intuition trumps all, all humans and children are individuals and what works for one may not work for another.
This is especially hard when you a brand-new mum, exhausted with the sudden life change and find yourself drowning in a sea of people who like to tell you how things should be done, and how things were done when they had children.
Soak up and digest whatever is useful and learn to let the rest go. The mum at playgroup who keeps quizzing you on why little Johnny still uses a dummy, or barely talks / walks / or still wears nappies – smile, move away, and move on – and have confidence in your own intuition. And as for that delightful older lady that berates you in the supermarket or restaurant when your child has a meltdown, run as far away from her as possible.
And breathe, isn’t that better?
7. Do what makes you happy!
What brings you joy and fills up your cup outside of your family?
What did you spend hours doing before you had children?
What inspires you and makes you feel like YOU (remember her?). Maybe you used to run every day, or go dancing? Maybe you played an instrument or went to gigs?
Maybe you liked drawing, swimming, watching old movies ANYTHING, whatever it was – find time to work it into your life. There are ways to make things happen. When we let these parts of ourselves get forgotten it builds up resentment, it brings us down – even if we don’t realise it.
More importantly don’t feel bad for it, when you are happy, fulfilled and taken care of you will radiate a better energy to everyone around you, that includes your family. And as people tend to absorb the energy of those around them that energy in turn rubs off on your children, its contagious! So, instead of thinking that you are doing them a disservice by taking a break for an hour on a Sunday to go for a hike listening to your favourite tunes, you are actually doing them a favour. You are also modelling how important it is to be yourself, follow your passions and live life to the fullest.
Now that’s nothing to feel guilty about is it? I do hope some of you find this useful, please leave a comment below and tell me what your takeaways are and what brings on your mum guilt?
(I’m not a parenting expert, just a small town mum of 3 and I’ve learnt a few tips and hacks along my journey. To read my full blog Disclaimer please click here.)