Because you have the right to enjoy motherhood and your children...
Dear Mummy who suffers from mum guilt,
Let me tell you a story. We were trying desperately to have a baby for years. We tried everything: IUI, naturopathy, acupuncture, IVF… nothing worked. Then, a little over seven years ago, we were at a friend’s party where I had a few glasses of bubbly and a good time.
Two days after that, I found out I was pregnant.
Along with the flood of feelings that rushed over me, I felt an emotion that shouldn’t have been there… but it was in a big way. It was guilt. The guilt was related to the bubbly which I had before I found out I was pregnant, so realistically, I shouldn’t have been feeling it.
What if I hurt my baby? We’ve been trying for so long and now, what if I’ve put my pregnancy at risk? And so the little nattering voice in my head kept making me feel guilty with such questions.
That little voice didn’t really belong to me. It was not one voice, it was a babble of accusing whispers from society, from the media, from collective mothers-in-law, aunties, even other mums, that wriggled their way into my being along with my baby, never wanting to leave.
(My baby is just fine by the way – he is seven now.)
Mum guilt is a terrible thing and if you’re reading this letter right now, you’ve probably experienced it in some form, whether you are a working mum or a stay-at-home mum.
But I want to tell you to try and stop, because you really don’t deserve it. So hear this, mum to mum:
To the working mum,
Your kids will turn out just fine (like millions of other children around the world) despite the fact that you are not there with them during the day.
When she is at daycare, don’t think for one moment that she sits around moping for you. Yes, she may cry and make a fuss when you drop her off the first few days, even weeks. But trust me, soon, she will come to love the place.
By placing her in daycare, you are not neglecting her. You are, in fact, teaching her invaluable social skills, which she gains through interactions with other kids and caregivers. See how beautifully she shares her toys with others during those weekend playdates? Notice how she asks to wash her hands before eating? How she says ‘pweese’ and ‘tank-oo’ so sweetly?
She also learns valuable cognitive skills. How cute is she lisping “Five little ducks” to you at night? Marvel at the fact that she knows the words to the song as well as how to count to five. Those are her linguistic and maths skills blossoming right before your eyes.
How can you blame yourself for not spending time with your little one? You dedicate full weekends, holidays, dinner time and bedtime and more to your precious child. During this time, your love and attention are doled out in bucketloads (you can see it reflected in your child’s bright eyes and sweet smile).
So you might have run late to your child’s first concert, but you made it. You might miss her bedtime once in a while due to work. But you still kiss her sweet cheeks and whisper “I love you” as she slumbers and she hears this in her dreams
You are a great mum, doing what you have to, and don’t let anyone make you feel otherwise.
To the stay-at-home mum,
Yes, it’s true you are with your child all day, all night, but I know that you experience mum guilt too. How is this possible, others might ask.
But I know how guilty you felt for giving your child mac and cheese for dinner for two consecutive nights because you were just so damn tired from staying up most of the night with his newborn sister.
I know how you felt when you lost it with your child when he asked you for the millionth time to find his favourite lost toy (“how dare you get angry with your child over something like that”, said the little voices, “you chose to be at home to look after him so you jolly well should help him find it”, they concluded).
Cut yourself some slack, mum. Yes, you have chosen to stay at home and raise your child, probably pushing away years dedicated to writing that thesis or that lucrative job offer in the process. But this does not mean you should be a slave to parenthood.
Your child loves mac and cheese and certainly is not judging you for getting his favourite dinner two times in a row. In fact, he probably thinks you are the best mum in the world. And you have the right to discipline your child without feeling guilty afterwards, because if he doesn’t learn to look after his toys now, he is never going to learn how to be responsible.
And please, don’t you dare feel guilty for asking your mum to babysit while you take that well-earned break, whether it be just for a few hours shopping, or for a few days re-charging your batteries, with your husband.
Mums think about it.
Your child will never, ever judge you or make you feel guilty. It is society, and all the pressure and (mostly unreasonable) expectations that drop on your deceptively fragile shoulders (that can really lift the weight of the world) the moment you saw those two little lines.
Don’t compare yourself to other mothers and grow a thick skin to the the criticisms of those nattering little voices. In your heart, you know that you are doing the very best you can, and don’t let anyone tell you otherwise.
Set your own bars (and set them low if that’s what works for you). Reclaim your right to enjoy motherhood and enjoy your children, free from the shackles of mum guilt.
A mum who no longer feels guilty.