Mum guilt. If you are a mum I am certain you know what I am talking about, am I right?
Even now in this COVID-19 ‘lock-down’ and everyone is home…I feel pangs of guilt for working and asking my husband to look after the boys, or asking him to feed the boys even though I planned, prepared and cooked everything. He’s their dad for goodness sake! Why do I feel that way!? I am sure he actually wants to do it…but I still feel like I am being judged or doing something that I shouldn’t be, prioritising incorrectly and shirking my responsibilities.
I have been trying to manage mum guilt with various amounts of success since the birth of my twin boys.
There are many aspects to mum guilt but the one I have struggled with most is feeling that I lost myself, or at least the things that made me ‘me’.
For me I have struggled greatly not having time to myself and not being able to work in my business as I once could. I felt like I lost what made me feel of worth through helping my clients, and I no longer had the same time to learn and develop my knowledge and skill set, something I literally feed off.
I am a ‘mum’. My days revolve around the needs of my babies totally. Everyone else in the family (we have a dual living home in which my parents live downstairs) can get on with ‘all the things’ they ‘want to do’, but I ‘have to’ care for the boys. I must ask permission to go out or to have time to do my work, and I need to have everything in order for the time I am away.
For the first 10-11 months, my twins didn’t really sleep for longer than 40 minutes in the day, so I had very little time to do anything other than prepare food and do the housework. Their night sleeps were generally in 3-4 hour blocks and I was breastfeeding for the first 8-9 months, so again I wasn’t getting the continuous sleep I needed, waking to their every need.
I started to feel resentful and I disliked myself immensely for it. Why was I feeling this way, I should be grateful for my life, I am so lucky, what an ungrateful cow I was being!
Without going into all the details, I had a couple of completely crazy-ass-wild-psycho-bitch moments within a few days of each other, where I literally lay on the floor kicking and screaming that it wasn’t fair, I needed help…I needed some time to myself!
I look back now, and I’m totally embarrassed at how I was. I remember even being ‘inside looking out’ at the time thinking, “far out lady, chill the F down!”, and the look on my mum’s face like ‘gee she’s lost it!’. But it was my breaking point and clearly something needed to change.
Fortunately, I followed my crazy with rational discussion with my family and got some much-needed extra support where I could have a few hours a week to myself.
I hate not being in control and I have perfectionist and self-critical qualities that mean I really punish myself and feel like absolute crap when I am not being ‘as I should be’. I should be able to do all the washing, cleaning, cooking, shopping, and mothering for fur and human babies, whilst running everything for my business, and being the best practitioner, I can be for my clients, no!? There’re so many other mums out there that do!
Maybe there are…but I am pretty sure their babies probably sleep for hours in the day and maybe they out-source some of the daily tasks at home and in their business…but even if they don’t, I am me, and I clearly couldn’t, I was putting too much pressure on myself and I needed help…plus…we should never compare ourselves to others because we never know what’s really going on in other people’s lives.
Since working with clients again I noticed how my energy and mood does a whole 180 after a session. It’s like I am on a high, I am buzzing, super chatty, smiley. I am a way more fun mum. I get sillier, more creative, I have more patience, I am a nicer person to be around, and I even like myself.
Throughout my personal health journey and work as a health practitioner, I have learned the importance of self-care, self-love, ‘me-time’, sleep, rest, mindset, and doing what you enjoy. …I think every one of those goes, to some extent, when you become a mum.
Yes, we gain so much, and we wouldn’t want it any other way, we love our babies immensely and are forever grateful they have chosen us to be their mum (all the typical mummy justification and reassurance that we all do)…but that doesn’t mean it’s not freaking hard!
I am sure you will know yourself when and why you feel mum guilt, and it’s likely because your personal needs, those things that make you ‘you’, aren’t being met.
I want to acknowledge ‘mum guilt’ as a thing, remind you that you are not alone feeling this, and let you know that it’s OK…it doesn’t mean you are a bad person or a bad mum.
One thing I do with my clients when they are struggling with happiness, is to go through their human needs with them. As I was going through this with a client recently, I began to reflect on myself and realised that sometimes all that’s needed is a mindset shift. Let me show you what I mean…
The 6 human needs are: Adventure, Significance, Connection, Growth, Impact, and Certainty
Adventure – a need for the unknown, change and new stimulation – before being a mum, this may have been going on holidays, hikes, doing adrenaline junkie sports etc…but as a mum the unknowns, changes and new stimulations happen every day, so effectively this need can still be met! For example…what will be broken next, what new sound will your little one make, what new face will they pull, what amazing delights will be produced in their nappy today, and where will your treasure hunt take you in the search of your kitchen utensils!?
Significance – feeling unique, important, special, or needed – this is one I have had to remind myself often…the lack of significance I feel from not being able to work as much and help people, doesn’t mean that I am not significant. Remember, you are a unique mum of incredible importance to your little one, so special and completely needed by them. This is the most significant you could ever be!
Connection – a strong feeling of closeness or union with someone or something – you may not have the same connection with your husband or the same libido you had before the kids, but you can bond with your husband over the achievements of your children, and be warmed and hug each other looking over the little devils knowing you made them. Of course, you may also get a few seconds of hug time and closeness with your little one between their own adventures, or you may hit jackpot and get nap time hugs together!
Growth – an expansion of capacity, capability, or understanding – before motherhood this may have been growth of your skill set, new courses and experience et cetera. As a mum your personal development goes through the roof! You learn a whole new meaning to patience, anger management, and troubleshooting. Your capacity increases with ‘all the things’ you need to do to just get through a day, your capability is limitless because you did it all and survived the day, and your understanding goes up tenfold as you now fully comprehend the meaning of ‘mummy brain’!
Impact – a sense of service and focus on helping, giving to and supporting others – this was likely through your work or volunteering offerings before kids, but now you are making a huge impact to the lives of those “Mini-Me’s” you are raising and supporting, helping them through life and giving them everything you can. You are having the most significant impact on their lives.
Certainty – to feel that everything is under control, a desire for systems, processes, and other preservation mechanisms – well you could be certain that there is no control, and none of these things will be in place…or you can switch gear and see that the routine you have from wake-up time, meal times, bath time, and bedtime and your systems of getting to each of those processes, your tactics for some self-preservation time at the end of the day, actually means there is great certainty each day!
Bingo! Everyone’s needs are met!
In all seriousness though, it is freaking hard being a mum, and it’s not always easy to put a positive twist on things. So, remember to show yourself some compassion, offer yourself some caring advice (what would you say to a friend in your situation?), and show yourself some gratitude and appreciation for the work you are doing as a carer, cook, cleaner, laundry maid, window washer, meal planner, kitchen hand, chief financial officer, entertainer, psychic, rule enforcer, teacher, investigator, translator, friend, nurse, referee, personal assistant, chauffeur, life coach, and role model!
The development of our children in these first few years are the fastest they will ever be. If we blink or stay down feeling sorry for ourselves, we will miss it.
I am sure in years to come we will look back on this time with great admiration and respect for ourselves, or maybe we will just forget the pain like we did that of child birth!…either way, I know I am trying to appreciate as much as I can, remind myself that it’s OK to ask for help, it’s ok to sit and do nothing when I have the chance, and it’s vitally important to shut down that mean voice inside trying to bring me down.
We are doing our best and that’s all anyone can ask for.