It’s time to ditch the new-mum guilt.
Posted by: Sue Atkins
My interview with Gurgle
Hey, New Mum, meet Guilt. Guilt will be moving in for a while (well, indefinitely), and you two will be well acquainted in no time. Rather like your newborn, (seriously, if you don’t decide on a name soon, this child will start thinking it is called Baby), Guilt tends to need feeding on a daily basis. But don’t worry, you’ll find no end of help with that.
Ring a bell? If you’re like me – and just about every other mum I know – it will. Ok, maybe guilt wasn’t introduced to you in that manner – it tends to sneak in without you noticing – but for countless new mums who feel they’ve been hit by a juggernaut of emotions and responsibilities, it suddenly becomes part of everyday life to berate themselves, or question their choices. And it can be exhausting.
But where does it come from? And why do so many previously confident, self-assured women suddenly find themselves stuck in the guilt pit, feeling bad because they’re not getting everything right?
One suggestion is that, with more women having children later in life, loads of new mums have enjoyed a great career and a balanced existence they felt in perfect control of. But throw a baby into that mix and – woah! – the same women experience utter bewilderment at suddenly not having a clue what they’re supposed to be doing.
That must be part of it, but it’s not the whole story. Mum guilt, as it’s become known, has its roots in a complex range of factors. Author and parenting coach Sue Atkins believes guilt is actually programmed into motherhood, as part of our desire to do the best we can for our children. But there is so much more to it, she says. It comes from all angles, from past experiences – and some personality types will suffer more than others.
‘Perhaps a parent was a martyr type, and that stuck with you,’ she says. ‘Or maybe you’re naturally a perfectionist, or you have some low self-esteem issues, so you question yourself and assume you’re doing badly.
‘Then there are the external factors. Not only can other people’s opinions and expectations contribute hugely to what you feel about how you’re doing as a mother (if you let them), there’s also the media. There are thousands of websites, articles and blogs telling women what they “should” be doing to be a great mum. It’s brilliant that we have so much information at our fingertips, but it can provide thousands of new ways to convince mothers they’re doing things wrong. Let’s be honest, very few of these media projections show mums and babies covered in sick and snot – even though that’s often the reality.’
We all know this is the reality because we live it, so why do we still feel guilty? And how can we shake it? Well for a start we need to get real and, according to Sue, readjust our expectations by acknowledging that other mothers are not necessarily doing ‘better’, they are simply doing ‘different’, just like their baby is doing things differently to yours.
‘Guilt is a really negative emotion,’ Sue says. ‘It holds you back or pushes you down, and at its worst it can be paralysing, or lead to emotions such as anger, frustration and resentment. So you have to recognise it for what it is, and be a bit reflective. Think about all the things you feel guilty about and ask: is this feeling helpful, or can I just let it go?’ Sound good? Thought so. So let’s take a look at some of the common guilt trips and what we can do to keep them in check.
Read the full article here