Tackling “Mum guilt”

mum-guiltMum guilt – it’s a relatively recent phrase but not necessarily a new phenomenon.

You are not alone if you suffer from the occasional dose of mum guilt. A recent BabyCenter survey revealed that 94 per cent of mothers feel a degree of shame or guilt over a range of issues from the amount of time they spend with their kids to the kind of nappies they use and the meals they cook. Those issues are inflated today with a large proportion of mothers working as well as being home-makers.

It doesn’t seem to matter whether you are a CEO or at-home mum, a teen mother or a 40-year-old who put of parenting until post career: most mums today experience mum guilt at some time.

Where does it come from?
Mum guilt usually has to do with expectations – society’s expectations, the expectations of friends and family, and the expectations that mums put on themselves. The key to beating mum guilt is working out where the expectation comes from and getting a little perspective.

At its best, psychologists say that mum guilt can be a motivator to pay better attention to how we parent, but at worst it’s a way to punish ourselves for not measuring up.

Here are 4 key mum guilt situations for new mums and how to deal with them:

1)    Not feeling it
Although most women do feel a bond with their baby after giving birth, there are many who don’t. This can be due to a number of factors including a traumatic birth, caesarean section, emotional stress and sleepless nights, to name a few. The key here is to accept that bonding often takes time. As you care for and nurture your baby, that bond will grow.

2)    Not breastfeeding
There. We said it. We all know that breast is best and that there’s a lot of pressure for new mums to breastfeed. This can leave new mothers feeling horrible about the health benefits they feel they are denying their new bundle of joy if they choose not to breastfeed. The worst thing is that other mothers are often the ones to point this out. Mothers – be kind to one another. We’re all on the same team. Being an unhappy breastfeeding mother is not better than being a happy mother feeding your baby with formula.

3)    Returning to work
This is perhaps the biggest guilt trip of all. The first day that you drop your littlie to an early childcare centre and head into work often ends in tears – for both you and your child. The good news is that experts say children are remarkably resilient and can adapt and thrive in many different types of childcare arrangements. For many women, having an outlet and sense of purpose both inside and outside of the home helps them to feel whole – and sane. That makes for a better parent.

4)    Taking time for yourself
With the day-to-day juggling act of motherhood, making time for yourself can seem selfish. It’s anything but. If you feel guilty making time to exercise, spend time with friends or going for a date night with your partner, check yourself. A more relaxed, refreshed and energised you is a better, more patient mother.

Love this article? Check out “When grandparents cross the line” in our parenting section.