Mum Guilt Can Do One! Banish It by Doing These 3 ThingsAs a mama of three, I’m well versed in the dreaded mum guilt. The old adage that we’re damned if we do, and damned if we don’t can feel all too pertinent. But here’s the thing: if we have nothing to feel guilty about, then we shouldn’t. 

Many things can bring on the mum guilt 

At a time when we’re at our most vulnerable, and need the most support, we can often end up feeling desperately alone. Everything has the capacity to make us feel rubbish while we’re learning how to do the hardest job in the world. 

It doesn’t take long for the guilt to kick in. From the way we feed our babies as newborns, and the methods we use to get them to sleep. To the routines we choose, or don’t choose. Then when some of us decide to go back to work, or not go back to work, guilt comes along and bites us in the ass once again. It’s never ending, but it doesn’t have to be.

Things changed for me a while ago. I was sick of feeling like nothing I did was good enough, because with everything I do for my family it was frankly absurd. It was a light bulb moment, and I realised how privileged my children are to live the life they do.

I’m so much happier now that I’ve ditched the mum guilt. Today I’d like to share my three main tips for you to do the same.

Make good decisions that you won’t regret later 

When we make well informed decisions, and are happy with the outcomes, we have ZERO to feel guilty about. Seriously, it’s that simple. From what I can gather, work appears to be the biggest guilt trigger. I completely understand the need to work. Be it from a financial perspective or an emotional one. However, if the working mum guilt is crippling you, then you must find a way of staying home with your child(ren). At least for some of the week.

Even when we aren’t earning a huge amount, we always have options. In fact a small salary can make the decisions easier, once we realise how expensive nursery fees are. If work isn’t the issue, but your kids aren’t happy with their childcare provider, then don’t be afraid to change it.  

After my eldest was born I knew I wanted to go back to work part time once maternity leave was over. My husband couldn’t support us all back then, and I was on statutory maternity pay, earning a low wage. So hubby and I went on a cost cutting mission. The biggest saving was made by moving out of our beloved London flat and downgrading our living space.  

In the end I lost my job a month before I was due to go back. It was a horrible time. I didn’t quality for a redundancy payout, and we were seriously low on funds. Then a miracle happened. A much better job presented itself – one where I’d work less and get paid more. I couldn’t believe my luck, things like that never happened to me! In fact less than two years before I had to declare bankruptcy, but that’s a whole other story. I loved that job, and happily worked part time for five years.

Unfortunately going back after my third maternity leave was too much for my family. My eldest was struggling at school, and my little ones hated their childcare. I knew it would mean tightening our belts once again, but decided to take voluntary redundancy so I could focus on being at home. Had I not made this move I know the mum guilt would have eaten away at me. Nowadays I make a little bit of money from writing. I’m able to work around my children, and wouldn’t have life any other way.

Ultimately as parents, we should feel confident and empowered enough to make bold decisions. We shouldn’t feel pressured by societal norms, or allow ourselves to be railroaded by others. When we do it can leave us riddled with the feeling that we’re getting it all wrong. This is because sometimes we are. It’s usually only upon reflection that we’re able to see it though. Learn to trust your gut, it will rarely let you down. If you’re lacking in confidence, and it’s holding you back, you might find my self-help book useful.

Monkey see, monkey do

It’s a well known fact that children naturally imitate their parents. We are their entire world, and it makes sense for them to want to emulate us. Which is why it’s absolutely imperative that we set them a good example to mimic.

None of us are perfect, and we shouldn’t even try to be. But it’s good to take stock of our own behaviour when the kids are being super challenging. We all know that calmness is key, and consistency is vital – they can be tricky to master when we’re busy doing ten things at once though. I still lose my temper with the kids now and then, but I don’t shout nearly as much as I did a couple of years back. Have a read here for more details.

The main thing here is not being afraid to admit when we are part of the problem. How can we expect our kids not to shout if we’re always shouting at them? How can we expect them to respect their boundaries if we’re constantly moving the goal posts and they don’t know what the boundaries are? Giving in to the odd demand for an easy life is necessary once in a while. Doing it too often will almost certainly lead to disaster and perpetuate the cycle of mum guilt.

I don’t have babysitters on tap, so am no stranger to dishing out the devices if I need to get an urgent piece of work finished. I wouldn’t dream of letting the kids loose on them all day every day though. I learnt long ago that there’s a distinct correlation in my house between too much screen time and appalling behaviour. I’m aware that this goes for me too. If I spend ages ‘just having a quick look at’ stuff on social media, I’m irritable when I get interrupted. The reality is I’ve probably been ignoring the kids for far too long, and that’s simply not fair on them. 

This rule applies to pretty much everything when it comes to parenting. If the kids watch us speaking to others with kindness and manners, they will naturally do so as well. If they see us respect ourselves, then so should they. Even if I look in the mirror and think I could do with losing weight, I would never share these thoughts out loud. 

We can only do our best

Babies aren’t small for long. In the blink of an eye your squishy little newborn is starting school. They grow up fast, which is why it’s so important to try and cherish the early days. Even through the blurry haze of having three children in four years, I knew that it was vital to make happy memories amid the chaos.

I’m the very last person who will say that parents need to enjoy every second of every day. It’s just not possible or realistic. Especially in a family like mine, with severe sleep deprivation at play, and additional needs to consider. As long as I can honestly put my hand on my heart though, and say I’m doing my best, then I know I’ll have absolutely nothing to feel guilty about when I’m looking back.

The days are long, but the years are short. Rather than having to banish the mum guilt later, put measures in place right now to prevent it being an issue in the future.

 

If there’s one photo that sums up motherhood for me it’s this. The agony directly after giving birth to Freddy is etched into every feature on my face. I’ve gone through similar pain on a daily basis every day for the three years of his life. Fortunately I’ve not experienced physical pain like childbirth – my pain has been emotional. I’ve torn myself into a million pieces over whether I’m doing a good enough job for my kids. I have tormented myself and beaten myself up time and again. But I’m starting to realise that what will be will be. Although I’ve always known that I can only do my best, it’s time to stop worrying that it’s not enough. My children are privileged to live the life they do, and some day, they’ll work that out for themselves 💖

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I have never been a fan of bog standard children’s birthday parties.

You know the drill. A selection of the class are invited, usually to some lame hall or smelly soft play centre. The kids are given ridiculous amounts of junk to eat and drink, then they run around like loons for a couple of hours. At least one kid always cries.  

It can take longer than the party lasted to calm your kids down afterwards. 

Not my idea of fun

Parties for the children of real friends are different of course. The mums are my friends, and I often go early to help out with the prep. It’s a good opportunity to catch up with people we only see sporadically.  

When Polly was at school she wasn’t invited to tons of parties. She spent reception and year one walking around in a sleep deprived haze, so wasn’t particularly aware of what was going on. Which was a good thing in many respects.

She went to a couple of parties, and it was heartbreaking having to send her to them with a packed lunch. This was one of the many ‘joys’ of her allergies back then. Never being able to just eat the food that the other kids were eating. It was more hassle than it was worth, because the fallout was immense.

One party does stick in my mind though, for all the right reasons. The girl’s mum had been working in the school, and was aware of Polly’s situation. When she gave me the invitation she told me to text her with a list of Polly’s favourite treats. When we got to the party, there was a tray of food marked Polly. Her face lit up. My eyes welled up. Oh the kindness. I texted the mum afterwards to tell her much it was appreciated, but she will never really know the true extent.

The parties we throw are always fab, if I do say so myself

Polly’s birthday is in the height of summer, and we’ve had some cracking do’s. Last year was just perfect. The weather was glorious, and we had an amazing turn out. So many of our nearest and dearest came, and everyone had a really great time.

Freddy and Clara’s birthdays being in February make it trickier but not impossible. We had a beautiful party for Clara’s first birthday, and an awesome triple celebration two years ago for Freddy’s first birthday, Clara’s third and mine and hubby’s wedding anniversary.

Now that Clara’s at school, I’m back to viewing birthday parties with dread. She started in September, and the first party was in November. She wasn’t invited. Not only that but the little sh*t took great delight in rubbing her nose in it.

“You, you and you are coming to my party. You, Clara, are not.”

She sobbed in my arms more than once because of his cruelty.

We were going to throw her a party next month to mark turning five

the politics of children's birthday parties We were going to conform, and invite the whole class. If nothing else so she got invited to other parties in return. When push came to shove, it didn’t feel right. My instincts were screaming ‘don’t do it, don’t do it!’ 

Making the decision without consulting her didn’t feel right either though. In the end we gave Clara the choice. A birthday party or a family day out, and she chose the latter. 

So we’re off to London to see the Lego Batman movie in one of the fancy cinemas on Leicester Square. Then we’ll have lunch in China Town, and a whizz around the new Lego store for her and Freddy to pick their birthday presents.

As it turns out Clara’s best friend is having a birthday party the weekend before, so that will satisfy the party fix without it causing us too much pain. In an ideal world, my kids would go to a birthday party every few months, and we’d throw one a year ourselves, but I’m aware this is wishful thinking!

For now, I’m not even going to pretend I’m not relieved to have ducked it. 

Surely I’m not the only parent in the world who feels like this? What are your thoughts?

Motherhood without a mum

Motherhood is a complex subject for people like me. Mother’s Day is always a mixed bag of emotions. 

In the early days of my estrangement from my mother many people told me that I’d change my mind once I had children of my own.

As if the decision to cut ties with her and the rest of my family was made so lightly it would all just get swept under the carpet and forgotten about the second I was pregnant.

As if it had been nothing more than a minor spat that could be rectified by having a group hug and doing a bit of forgiving and forgetting.

Believe me, walking away from my family wasn’t something I did without agonising over it for years first

I don’t speak about them often, online or in real life. I grieved for them long, hard and self-destructively directly afterwards. Nowadays I don’t harbour animosity towards any of them, and I see no benefit in dredging up the past and justifying why I don’t have them around.

Not that I need to do that of course, but I’m sure it comes across that way.

It’s a strange one to get your head around isn’t it? A person claiming not to have ill feelings towards their mother, yet actively choosing to exclude them from their life. Depriving their children of an extra grandmother in the process.

“Don’t you miss your mum?”

motherhood without a mum Concerned friends have asked me this countless times over the years. I’d be lying if I said no, not at all. The fact is, I do miss not having a mum around. One who could help see me through the daily grind known as motherhood.

One who would demand to take the kids off my hands regularly so I got a break. One who could be a brightly shining positive influence for my children.

If I thought for a second that my mother was capable of these things, I wouldn’t have cut ties with her in the first place

When I put my damaged self through therapy after breakdown number one in 2002, my counsellor opened my eyes to how toxic my relationship had become with my mother. Before that I genuinely had no idea. I knew my family was far from ‘normal’, but whose is, and what is ‘normal’ anyway?

The biggest irony is that my mother had a very volatile relationship with my grandma, and she was extremely vocal throughout my childhood about that never happening with her own kids.

In lots of ways I feel sad for her, because her life wasn’t easy or fun, then to top it off she lost her eldest daughter. Not through some tragic accident or awful unfair disease, but because that daughter decided she couldn’t be around her anymore.

For the sake of her sanity, and self-preservation, she was done

Done with the lies.

Done with the dramas.

Done with her good intentions being thrown back in her face.

Done with the guilt.

Done with feeling that she was responsible for fixing everyone else’s problems and should always be doing more. Giving more. Being more.

motherhood without a mumShe was done. I was done

In April 2005 I made the toughest decision I have made to date. In my darkest, most horrendously depressed moments, where I’d feel alone in a room full of friends, I miss the idea of a mum so much it physically hurts. A superhero mum that would put her cape on and make my challenging life easier.

Then I remember the reasons I walked away in the first place

So, do I miss a mum? Yes of course. Do I miss my mum? No, sadly I don’t. Do I wish things were different? Hell yes, but they aren’t.

I’m the mum now, so rather than pine after something that doesn’t exist, I’m going to plough all my energies into being the best mum I can for my own children.

I will let my actions, not my words, do the talking.

That way, they should never feel the need to cut me out of their lives when they grow up.

 

When Being Me Sucks

Carefree days when I thought wearing a plastic bag on my head to keep me from getting soaked in monsoon was absolutely hilarious!

There’s absolutely no way to sugar coat this and turn it all into a positive – being me sucks this week. Big time. 

On top of the usual woes we have to deal with in my house as standard, it’s fair to say we’ve had quite a few extras, and it’s only WEDNESDAY for crying out loud! 

On Sunday I discovered worms for the third time in six months

Which meant we spent almost an hour at the doctors getting a prescription for stronger medicine than the stuff we’d previously taken. I’d done three loads of boil washing by midday, including all the kids favourite night time teddies, which are now about a third of the size they used to be.  

After the doctors, we went to the dentist for our six monthly check ups. I got told off for my 4yo’s teeth not being a nice as they could be, and also got told that my eldest was going to need braces at some point. Apparently the poor little thing has a small jaw but large teeth and these things happen. That’s all very well and good for the dentist to say, but for my highly sensitive girl, who can’t stand the slightest irritation, this is going be an effing gigantic big huge deal.

So that was Monday, not exactly what I’d class as winning…

Tuesday morning was a relentless onslaught of challenging behaviour, interspersed with children screaming in my face. I did come up with an effective time out method though, which seems to be working, so every cloud and all that. 

My friend popped over in the afternoon, and I was telling her about my extremely itchy head. The one that I’ve been scratching for the best part of a fortnight. 

“Do you want me to check for nits?” she asked.

“Surely I’d know by now if it was nits?” I dumbly replied, the penny slowly dropping, for until that point the thought of creatures living on my head hadn’t even crossed my mind.          

“Hmmmmm, I can’t see any crawling around, but I think there are some eggs here. It’s hard to tell because your hair is so dark.” 

The optimist in me wanted to believe it was just a random itchy head, but the realist knew there and then that I would be finding critters when I went through my hair with the nit comb.

Sure as anything there were plenty of live bugs dancing around. I thought the kids were in the clear, but realised today that they weren’t, so I spent approximately three hours of my life combing out nits… and eggs… and dousing our heads in tea tree oil and cider vinegar.

More lost opportunities

If all this wasn’t bad enough I was supposed to be doing something pretty special for the blog tomorrow, but as hubby can’t work from home or even get home early I’m having to miss out. Again. It’s hard not to feel a teeny bit sorry for myself. Oh I know how fortunate I am, and that so many others have it so much harder, but sometimes a pity party is in order.   

I’m using every single one of my super powers to resist opening a bottle of wine and drowning my sorrows right about now. 

Instead I’ll try and cheer myself up by looking at old travelling photos. 

Things can only get better right?!