How To Cope With “Mum Guilt” In A Healthy Way
STORY: Priyanka Elhence
13 December 2021
Being a mum can give you a never-ending to-do list, making you feel inadequate or guilty when you’re not able to complete it. Persistent guilt from the shoulds, the supposed to’s, and the other mums are doing can turn into shame, and it is painful to constantly feel like you are a bad mum or not doing enough as a parent. Unchecked guilt can even be dangerous, leading to unhealthy behaviors and depression.
Here’s how to let go of mum guilt or at least cope with it in a healthy way:
1. Help yourself first
Letting go of guilt has to start with a commitment to stop beating yourself up over your choices and circumstances. Loving yourself is one of the best ways to love your children, so making time for yourself is a win for your family, too. Be kind to yourself! Tip: Every time you think to yourself, “I feel bad about...”, replace the thought with this mantra, “I made that decision because...”, and then do what you have to without guilt.
2. Stay true to your values
Know what’s important to you, and then live your life around those values and priorities. You only have a finite amount of time each day, so juggle your to-do list by setting clear boundaries and saying “no” to unnecessary commitments so that you have time and energy for people who really matter.
3. Be kind to yourself
A classic and common source of unhealthy (and irrational) mum guilt is returning to work shortly after giving birth, as the new mother is incessantly guilt-ridden that being away from her baby could hurt the little one’s development. It doesn’t, but all that worrying will definitely make you less efficient as a worker and as a mother. The truth is that returning to work is harder on you than on your baby, because most children thrive and flourish even when both parents work full-time. So breathe, relax and trust your caregiver or day-care provider and know that your baby is in good hands so that you can have a good day at work.
4. Be present when it really matters
In addition to being physically present, it is more important that parents are emotionally present to comfort their child, attune to their child’s feelings, and support their child, in order to build a healthy and secure parent-child bond. When you can make your child feel cared for and connected, without sacrificing their personal needs and health, it’s a win-win situation for both of you! Tip: Don’t strive to be the perfect mum who seems to have it all together. Be the happy mum who takes care of herself too so that she can give more of herself emotionally to her child when it really matters.
5. Build a circle of real supportive people, not social media idols
If someone is sucking your energy or constantly making you feel bad about yourself, it’s time to cut out the negative energy (even if it comes from relatives). Don’t raise the bar based on perfect social media posts. Instead, surround yourself with a small group of people that really care about you, so that they can support you when you feel like you’re falling apart, perfectly understanding what you’re going through.
6. Beware of the bragging game
Parents are notorious for bragging about their kids, and it’s easy to get caught up in it, only to leave you feeling totally inadequate and like a complete failure. You and your child are unique, so resist the trap of comparison. Let go of the guilt and boldly embrace the parent you are and the child you have.
7. Ask for help
One of the hardest things for many women to do is to ask for help, even if they have a very supportive partner who fulfills all their responsibilities. Instead of asking for help, a working mum usually fuels her own stress by trying to do it all herself, realising that it’s just impossible and then living the vicious cycle every day. Asking for help may make you feel like a failure, but that’s just in your head. Reality is that it really does take a whole village to raise a child, so no one can do it alone. Reach out to trusted neighbors, friends and relatives, and before you know it, your support network would have been a reciprocal relationship in which everyone benefits.