PARENTING + SELF-CARE
As a working Mum with two little peeps, I’ve experienced my share of Mum Guilt. 95% of it stems from the fact that my little ones have been in other people’s care longer than my own on a daily basis from a very early age. That wasn’t the plan… but that’s how life worked out.
For years I felt guilty about dropping them off at daycare early and picking them up late. Then as they reached school age they transitioned to Out of School Hours Care (OSHC) both before and after school. On top of that, when we got home the usual end of day chaotic routine began… snacks, shower/bath, dinner, make lunches, homework, cuddles, bedtime…
Talk about #GroundHogDay – every weekday this was our routine.
Not only did I feel terrible that I didn’t have the energy or time to spend with my little ones to give them my undivided attention. I also ‘hallucinated’ that others would be judging my parenting prowess or lack thereof. I was constantly grumpy, exhausted and despite all my efforts to be that unicorn Perfect Mum, definitely not keeping on top of everything.
If you feel like this or can relate to my experience—take a moment to stop and be kind to yourself. Parenting is challenging. Working + Parenting is harder. Beating yourself up + Working + Parenting is just plain crazy!
So many Mum’s I’ve spoken to through my research efforts over the last 12 months are feeling exactly the same way. So I decided to do a little research into the causes and potential changes we can make to relieve ourselves of the dreaded Mum Guilt plagues parenting.
What is Mum Guilt, really?
Mum Guilt, according to Health Line is “a pervasive feeling of not doing enough as a parent, not doing things right, or making decisions that may “mess up” your kids in the long run.”
The origins of Mum Guilt are many:
- Expectations – your own or someone else’s, perceived or real, they can all add to the feeling of not being good enough.
- Working and having your children in other people’s care (like in my case) – read on for an allieviator for this one.
- Comparing yourself to others, especially on social media. We all know people like to show their best in public, especially ‘Influencers’ on social media – but don’t be fooled – you never know what’s real off camera or behind closed doors.
- Exceptionally or unrealitic high standards – let’s face it, life changed when you became a parent, so should our standards (especially when it comes to housework or how much you can fit into a day).
The list could go on, you get the gist I’m sure. And to be honest, it makes no difference where it comes from – so long as you’re aware of it, you can do something to remedy it.
Not all guilt is bad though. According to Mind Tools “guilt can also be a very useful emotion. At its most constructive, according to research, it reminds you that you can do better in the future. Experiencing it also shows that you have moral and ethical standards and empathy. Sometimes, though, we feel guilt unreasonably, for things that just aren’t our fault.”
What can we do to relieve unhealthy Mum Guilt?
Here are three things I’ll share with you that helped me relieve Mum Guilt and be kind to myself, which helped my sanity simply by letting go of some pressure.
You’re not alone
My situation was/is like hundred’s of thousands of other working parents and at some level, it is somewhat comforting to know I’m not alone in this conundrum.
“In the March quarter 2020, 45.1 per cent of children aged 0-5 years and 31.8 per cent of children aged 0-12 years used approved child care. 1,376,470 children and 986,000 families attended a Child Care Subsidy approved child care centre in the March quarter 2020.” according to the Dept of Education Child Care in Australia report Qtr March 2020. “During the March quarter 2020, average weekly hours of child care use per child (excluding In-Home Care) was 25.2 hours.”
In our recent survey, over 75% of respondents shared they feel guilty they aren’t able to participate in school or daycare activities or their Little Peeps can’t participate in extracurricular activities due to work commitments.
Those numbers are astounding and paint a crystal clear picture that hundreds of thousands of families also utilise child care services. Agree with it or not, it’s part of our way of life in today’s society (a topic for debate another time). Everyone is doing the best they can with the situation they are in and with the resources they’ve got. Including you and me.
I know that sounds harsh, but it’s actually a technical term from the study of Neuro-linguistic Programming (NLP). Hallucinating refers to imagining something and treating it as real without evidence or proof or sensory experience, guessing or mind-reading.
Let me explain using an example… Every time I had to admit that my little peeps were in full-time daycare or OSHC, I felt guilt and shame.
Why? Because I was ‘hallucinating’ that other people were judging me as a terrible or selfish parent. The truth was no-one actually told me directly they thought I was a shocking parent with no clue how to look after my children and should really quit my career and focus 100% on raising the little peeps I brought into this world.
I assumed and jumped to my own conclusion (aka judged their potential judgement of me – yes, that’s ironic, right?) because I felt bad and guilty for being in that situation. I was completely projecting my personal feelings about my situation on others.
Doh! That’s not really helpful for anyone. So if you find yourself thinking others are judging you. Stop. Take a breath and check whether you have cold hard evidence or are you simply hallucinating. And if you happen to be hallucinating… focus on the facts, what do you actually know to be true?
Control what’s in your control
BC (Before Children) I had extremely high standards and the capacity to achieve massive results in minutes. I had the energy, the clear headspace, the time and the resources to achieve A LOT!
Because of that conditioning over many decades, it took me quite some time to realise AC (After Children) things are different. The exhaustion, the juggling of many more things than previously, the steep learning curve and the increased sense of responsibility all contributed to a changing of priorities.
Something I wish I realised earlier (despite some caring peeps trying to tell me) is it’s ok to adjust your standards and expectations to align with your current priorities.
Who cares if there’s a speck of dust on the table or a plate on the bench? So the washing isn’t folded and put away – close the door to the spare room and no one will know any better. Change your wardrobe to ironing free clothes and find ways to make your life easier by delegating and engaging others to help. You don’t need to be Super Mum to be a great Mum.
In fact, the ironic thing I found about controlling what is in my control is my stress levels decreased, which made me a more tolerant and nicer Mum. I got to spend more meaningful moments with my Little Peeps and allowed myself the freedom to enjoy them.
Mum Guilt isn’t helpful to anyone, especially to you or your little peeps. So ease up on yourself and look for ways to get over the guilt and focus on the good stuff.
- Remember, you’re not alone. If your job requires utilising child care services, it’s not something to be ashamed of or feel guilty about, it’s a sign of our times.
- Stop hallucinating—stick to the facts. Don’t be the judge of the so-called judgers. Your mental health and everyone around you will thank you for it.
- Get good at controlling what’s in your control—if you want to be the best at something, make this the one to beat. Change your goals to suit your current priorities. Enjoy the freedom of a little imperfection. You can always go back to being Ms Perfect later.
It’s a big topic, so stay tuned for more and feel free to share your thoughts and experiences by leaving a comment below.
Some resources you may find helpful
For those who need quick access to the ‘Tude Choosing tool so you can get started immediately.
For those who want to learn life-changing personal development habits for themselves and your little peeps.