“It’s most often called “mommy guilt” because we moms tend to berate ourselves—and be judged by others—for our child rearing, but fathers experience this guilt as well. It comes with the territory of being a parent” LifeHacker.com
What is “Mummy Guilt”?
As a parent, I’d say I’m always feeling guilty about something… as the definition states, it’s comes with the territory. I completely agree that this guilt is a reality for some if not all parents. But, why do we allow ourselves to berate our decisions and be judged by others? Thinking about all the things I’ve personally felt guilty about, I can’t see one specific thing, it’s a multitude of small things with the occasional wobble that sends you into major meltdown. Guilt is an overwhelming emotion that sits and niggles, often unleashing it’s power when you least want it to.
From personal experience, having a baby with the internet being accessible, as it is to many, allows us to talk more about our thoughts, feelings and even seek advice from strangers. This can both be good and bad in all situations. I’ve often found myself searching the internet asking all kinds of questions, such as, “what sleep routine should a 1 month old have?” But when I look back now, I wished I’d trusted my own instincts more, instead of spending that time trying to work out which was the ‘right’ advise and whether I was doing the ‘right’ thing and even if I was being a good Mum. Which is a genuine worry because after all, I’ve never been a Mum before.
I don’t want to blame the internet for ‘Mummy Guilt’ but ultimately, we all want to know how everyone else does it, what’s successful for others and to look at other people’s seemingly perfect lives. The internet enables this and drives the guilt but it’s the world we live in today. So how can we believe in ourselves more with all the distractions around us that can bring us down?
It’s a huge responsibility to mould a young life and be a primary role model. When I fell pregnant I was so excited, I’d always wanted to be a parent. But at the same time, the guilt started to set in. I’ve never been the most organised person, I’m a little bit scatty and love a to do list but nothing ever gets ticked off. It felt like a new beginning for me, a time that I could prove to myself that I could be a responsible adult and be on top of everything – but could that be a reality for me? Why did I put so much pressure on myself from the very beginning? After all, what might look perfect to you on the outside might not be so perfect on the inside. The internet has allowed us to view what people want us to see and that might not be a reality. When I walk into my (slightly) untidy home because I’ve not had time to clear it up, I feel guilty because I’m the only one right? – Wrong! People’s home don’t look perfect all the time and worst of all I instantly forget that it’s because I decided to go on a walk or spend time playing with Harry and I should feel proud of being a good Mum. I find myself constantly having to remind myself that my reality is someone else’s perfect and to be proud of my home, family and self.
For the first few months of being a Mum, I found myself on a massive learning journey. I had to unlearn a lot of what I thought I should be doing and learn to trust myself. I would find myself googling daily, and often find myself feeling less then worthy after I’d completed/given up on whatever I was searching for. A lot of what you find on the internet is extremely vague, leaving you with more questions and usually leads you on a path of looking at unrelated subjects that make you feel overwhelmed and guilty for not knowing the answer instinctively – as if being a new parent isn’t overwhelming enough!
Over the months, I decided to trust in getting the answers from my son. I might now know, vaguely… what a 1-month old sleep routine should look like, but we did our own thing and Harry has always been happy and healthy and that is the only thing that matters to me. This led me to relieve myself of some of the Mummy Guilt I was feeling.
During Harrys first year, I was really aware of what others thought of me. Not only just as a Mum, but my personal appearance and finding myself again as an individual after becoming Harrys Mum. I still want to be me, but how do you achieve this with a new friend attached to my hip all the time? I’m still working on what this looks like for us, but for the time being, I’m a stay at home Mum who adores the time I get to spend with Harry. I will feel grateful, not guilty for not returning to work. Although, that’s a whole story of it’s own!
Eventually, I learned to stop asking the internet such important questions and started looking to my amazing support system that is my family. I know this isn’t something available to everyone, but my family forum is non-judgemental, trustworthy and available for face to face support. They have been there, they understand how hard it is, they will be there with you through the ups and the downs. If I can offer once piece of advice – find your own support forum and take a step back from the internet.
Harry, his Dad and I are on this journey together. There is no right or wrong, there is just love and understanding. We will always make sure Harry is heard and we take lead from him. We’ve never set a routine, Harry sets it himself and sleeps, eat and plays beautifully. Is this just luck? Maybe! But it’s worked for us and therefore I refuse to feel guilty for making that decision and not taking on the advice from ‘experts’ on the internet. I’ve learned to stop putting so much pressure on myself and what others might think of me, Harry loves me for who I am- his Mummy! Who is always there for him even if it’s just for a cuddle, to catch him when he falls or to laugh and cry with him. Being a parent isn’t easy, babies don’t come with a guidebook. So, don’t feel guilty for stuff that’s completely out of your control. Trust your decisions, talk to those who love you, don’t compare yourself to others and enjoy this special time.
By Natalie Smith
Images by Natalie Smith