Keeping Mum Guilt In Check

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Motherhood brings with it a whole range of feelings and emotions that you never even knew existed or thought you were capable of experiencing with such intensity! On one end of the spectrum, we finally understand firsthand a mother’s mountain-moving love – and on the other hand, we are subjected to some less-desired feelings, such as… mum guilt.

Mum guilt can come in so many forms, as seen evidently in our Mama Secrets sharing last week. We experience guilt surrounding decisions about going back to work, or giving our kids screen time, or any of the countless other (big and small) choices we make over the day. One mama even shared that she felt guilty about not experiencing mum guilt (for the record, this certainly isn’t a measure of how good you are as a parent). 

Common sources of mum guilt

Some all-too-familiar reasons cited by our #makchicmumsquad for their feelings of mum guilt include:

  1. Being a working/ stay-at-home mum;
  2. Taking time for ourselves;
  3. Not spending ‘enough’ time with the kids/ being too tired to be their playmate;
  4. Breastfeeding decisions;
  5. Overindulging/ ignoring our children’s wants;
  6. Losing our cool; and 
  7. Not being able to provide ‘enough’ financially for our kids.

More often than not, a major cause of excessive mum guilt boils down to an unfounded belief- that we need to be the perfect parent for our children. Although experiencing a certain amount of these emotions might be normal, if you’re feeling like you just can never measure up no matter how hard you try, it’s time to take some action to counter these harmful thoughts.

Managing Mum Guilt

1. Review your expectations

We’ve said it before and we’ll say it again: there is no such thing as the perfect mother! In this day and age, there’s so much pressure to do it all,  have it all, be it all. Often, this stems from the (many) unrealistic expectations faced by women in society today. 

Parenting expert and clinical psychologist, Dr. Claire Halsey reiterates that “there is no problem in wanting to be the best parent you can, however, expecting to be perfect in every way is an unreasonable pressure and a recipe for disappointment.” Be kinder to yourselves, mamas – and learn to let go of the myth of parenting perfection

2. Identify the source

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Self-reflect and notice the beliefs that cause you to feel guilt or shame. Is there a deeper reason as to why something might be a trigger point? Is it a rational response? Journaling is a great way to help you get in tune with yourself, your feelings and your reactions. Decide what source matters most, and work to uncover what your true values are as a parent.

3. Trust your instincts

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Every parenting journey is different, and every family uniquely special. There is no one size-fits-all method and (unfortunately), no Parenting 101 manual. Who knows your child better, but you? So, if your next door neighbour inadvertently makes you second guess your parenting methods, don’t immediately assume you are guilty of going down the ‘wrong track’. It’s always good to stay open to different perspectives and feedback, but not to the point where you consistently go against your heart.

4. Do a social media audit 

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A survey in 2019 shows that Malaysians spend almost six hours daily on their social media platform. That’s a whole lot of subtle (or direct) ideas and suggestions to be bombarded with everyday! And we all know how toxic it can get when we get caught up in the comparison game. Regularly review groups you are in, and the people you follow.

Perhaps it’s time to take a social media break from those glossy lives you see on the ‘Gram – especially if their (often unrealistic) standards are causing resentment to breed. Remember: social media often serves to present curated snapshots into people’s lives, and we don’t always see the struggles that fellow parents invariably go though. Instead of comparing lives, start being more intentional about who and what you choose to follow on social media, 

5. Know that it’s okay to be real 

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Lost your temper or got into an argument with your partner in front of the kids? Stop feeling guilty! It’s okay to be real and make the occasional ‘mistake’- your kids don’t need an unrealistic, picture-perfect front. What they need is to see however, is their parents role-modelling healthy communication and working though conflict, acknowledging errors and extending empathy to one other. 

6. Take time for your needs 

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You’ve heard this countless times before…You. Need. To. Self-Care! We know it can be hard to shake off those lingering feelings of guilt for taking time for yourself amidst #mumlife – but trust us when we say that your kids will be at their healthiest and happiest when their mamas are. Take a page from the books of these wonder women for inspiration, find creative ways to sneak in some “me time” or pamper yourselves, or step out of the house for a bit for a breath of fresh air and to decompress amidst nature

We hope this helps you to alleviate some of those tough emotions, #makchicmumsquad. Here’s to treating ourselves with the self-compassion we deserve, and keeping that dreaded mum guilt in check! 

Elaine is a mummy of two who moved from the financial world to become an early childhood educator. She loves travelling, books and her cup of tea to unwind after a long day of diapers, school runs and pretend play.