Is it just me, or does motherhood come with an enormous amount of ‘mummy guilt?’ Those feelings that you’ve made a wrong decision somewhere along the way, that you’re not doing enough for your child’s development, or that your child has a few chubby little rolls because of YOU?
It’s everywhere. Mothers are constantly made to feel a sense of guilt and shame about their decisions. I, for one, am sick of feeling this way. Motherhood should be a happy occasion, not a painful journey of guilt and constantly questioning our decisions.
Here are four ways I’m going to ditch the mummy guilt for good:
1. By accepting my decisions
I’ve found that accepting the decisions I make – no matter how big or small – have made it so much easier to banish the guilt. I can dwell on it for hours, days, months, or accept that this is how it is. Instead, I will spend my time and energy caring for my child rather than overthinking about all the ways that decision is going to impact her.
2. By quitting justification for every decision
If justification was a kingdom, I'd be the queen. You stopped breastfeeding because your nipple shield was filled with blood on a daily basis. You use screen time for a bit of a break. You end up co-sleeping when your daughter is sick because you just don’t have the energy to sit up and rock her back to sleep. Every time someone would ask a question, I’d feel the need to justify EVERYTHING to avoid being judged. And it does nothing but foster guilt. At the end of the day, a happy and healthy child and mum are justification enough for each of my decisions.
3. By realising that comparison is an evil tool
Here's a fact. All kids are different. Every. Single. One. They develop differently and sometimes there's nothing you can do but encourage them and help them along the way. Some crawl quickly, walk early, talk early and there'll always be that kid who's done it all first or earlier. I used to think my daughter was 'behind' her peers when she couldn't walk by 14 months and I would ask myself did I do enough to help her walk? Is this a reflection on my parenting?
But here’s the scary part – after walking, there’s talking, then potty training and endless other things to compare and feel guilty for 'not doing enough' about. So I stopped comparing. Best. Thing. Ever. I stopped the perception that I wasn't doing enough. My daughter is developing at her own pace and that's ok with me.
4. Replace negative thoughts with positive ones
Since becoming a mum, I've come to the conclusion that negativity and guilt seem to go hand in hand. If I think “I don't do enough for my child – we should be doing arts and crafts every day, singing for hours and playing with dolls first thing” then I start to panic and feel guilty about what a crap job I'm doing. I pull out the crayons and all my daughter wants to do is put them all back in the box, one by one while I end up trying to get her to draw. And where’s the fun in me dictating what she will and won’t enjoy doing?
When I think about all the things we do get up to, such as going to new parks and playgrounds, playcentres, play dates and reading, then the guilt disappears and I think hey – I am doing lots! It's a rule that can be applied to anything. Instead of thinking 'I had too much trouble breastfeeding and I've failed my baby', think 'there's no way I'm failing as a parent if my child is fed, nourished and content every day'.
Mummy guilt... be gone! It has no place in motherhood and I tell myself every day that every decision I make is for a good reason. At the end of the day, the only person who can make you feel guilty is you, so take a stand and ditch the mummy guilt for good.
When my daughter started daycare, I spent a lot of time trying to find the right fit for her and our family. I did a lot of research and asked a lot of questions. Over and over again though, the answer to my question would come back the same, "she'll be fine."