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Chances are, if you’re a mother, you’re no stranger to mum guilt. Whatever choices we make in our life and in our parenting, there is always a nagging feeling that we could do better, be more.

Does mum guilt rear its head in your parenting days?

It’s such a prevalent feeling that authors Ita Buttrose and Penny Adams called it Motherguilt and wrote a book about it.

‘Wanting only the best for their families, mothers run themselves ragged, taking care of everyone and everything else before considering their own needs. When things go wrong, as they inevitably do, they blame themselves and Motherguilt takes over,’ the book explains.

So, are you guilty of…mum guilt? Well, that makes two of us.

Only the other day, my daughter wanted me to ride our horses with her. Early in the week, I work nights too, so I can be free during the day for school pick-ups and other mum duties. It was Monday afternoon and I told her I had to work. That’s when she took me by surprise and said: ‘That’s ok mama, I understand. Some kids don’t even see their mums, but you are always here for us in the mornings when we wake up, and after school to bring us home. We can ride together on Friday or over the weekend.’ And that’s that. Bless her.

They’re not always that understanding, our kids, particularly when they’re younger, but if they’re not, guess who absolutely needs to be? That’s right, you need to give yourself grace and greet that guilt with kindness.

How does mum guilt look like?

Mum guilt is so shameful to admit to, that we might turn away from it as soon as it rises in us.

Here’s how it might look like for you…

…It might show up when you need to work and you’re late picking your child up from school, or you forgot to get their fancy dress  costume organised

…It might catch up with you when you’ve finally decided to do something for yourself, maybe a massage, a haircut, a dinner with a friend, and you get a nagging feeling that you’re selfish

…Or when you compare yourself with other mums and feel you come out short. Your lunch box not as wholesome, your house not as tidy

…Or when you simply chose to sit down with a book instead of playing with your children..

In her book Buddhism for Mothers of Schoolchildren, writer Sarah Napthali reminds us that the ‘unprecedented pressures today’s mother endures to be a perfect mother, are unrealistic and have grave consequences towards herself, no matter what choices you make.’

Like any emotion, particularly emotions we perceive as negative, guilt deserves our kindness and attention. Instead of judging yourself for our choices, and doubling down on those not-good-enough feelings, I think we could use guilt for good.

Use your guilt feelings for good

In Psychology Today, Dr Marika Lindholm explains how we could reframe our feelings of guilt, and…work with them.

‘Guilt, or what I like to describe as a healthy conscience, can be useful if it inspires more productive involvement or a sincere apology, or if it helps us bite our tongue. But if guilt is your primary emotion, overriding feelings of pride, affection, and empathy, it can negatively impact your parenting,’ she says.

I couldn’t agree more. Do I think guilt is a useful feeling or a waste of energy? Both. Like any feeling we push to the side, unaddressed guilt will fester and hurt us and our children more in the long term. If we do look closely and listen to what it has to tell us about ourselves, our beliefs, our expectations, then we will likely benefit from it.

Guilt is not inherently bad. It’s just a feeling trying to tell us something.

So listen, mama, what is your guilt ( or healthy conscience?!) trying to tell you?

If you ask me, I think it’s asking us to look at our relationship with our child, and with ourselves, and review how we’re living our values in these key relationships.

Let’s say you have been working hard on your business, things got a little bit hectic and you had to step up. As a result you have been less present, or missed a parent-teacher meeting, or even a school pick-up. Recipe for a perfect mum-guilt storm. You feel like you’re failing this parenting gig.

That sound familiar? I know it does for me.

Let’s start with forgiving ourselves for those times when we feel we haven’t been good enough. For being human and trying hard. Forgiveness is the start.

Then…dig deeper and ask yourself…

Get curious with your guilt

Ask yourself…

What is your guilt about?

Were you not living up to your expectations of yourself as a parent?

Were you concerned you might be seen as a not-good-enough parent by others?

Are you worried you might be missing out on milestones, on precious moments of their childhood?

If you’re a fan of journaling, take your notebook out and start jotting down the thoughts that go through your mind. Have a conversation with them. This is where change starts to happen. When you engage with what’s deeper, underneath your surface feelings. I talk and share a lot about how you can make long-lasting impactful change in my course 7 Days to Slow Down Fast.

Guilt about quality time

I can’t talk about mum guilt without not touching on one of the biggest causes of guilt that mums suffer from. Time. More time with their children.

Parenting is only one of our jobs (and a very demanding one) and it feels like everything else we do is taking away from time with the kids.

I remember an interview from years ago with Uma Thurman talking about being a working mum. Despite the tug to be with her kids, she felt confident that by choosing to work she was teaching her children about leadership, stepping up, independence, a legacy she wanted to instill in her children.

I think that our kids know in their hearts when we are present and emotionally available for them, regardless of the juggle.

My teens are true testament to this and it makes me proud to see them be able to simply enjoy their own company while I am working, and then connect wholeheartedly with me when it’s time for us to do something together.

There is a current dogma around parenting that the more time you spend your children, the better parent you are. But is that really true? I think it’s time we release that guilt. I don’t believe that parenting is about providing round the clock entertainment for our children.

What about you?

How do you deal when guilt rears its head? Do you run and hide from it? Do you open up to what it might tell you?

What causes you guilt around your parenting?

I’d love to know. We’re all on this journey together, trying our best, failing often, and learning all the time.

Please comment below and let me know your answer. I would love to know what you think.

Thank you so much for being here and for adding your perspective. It means the world to me. Please share this post with someone you love, because they might be in need of some slowing fun today too!

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Blessings, Hiddy xx

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