If you’ve already started reading this article, then the answer to this question is obvious right away. You’re not a terrible mum.
Would a terrible mum spend time worrying about whether or not they’re terrible? Would they lay awake at night, running over the day in their head, vowing to do better tomorrow? To try something new? Would terrible mums ask for advice on the internet or amongst their friendship group?
The answer to all of those things is a resounding no. If you truly were a terrible mum, you wouldn’t give a rat’s ass about any of those questions. You wouldn’t give the emotional, social or physical development of your children a second thought.
You’re not a terrible mum. What you are experiencing is a rough case of Mother’s Guilt. Aka Mum Guilt. And it’s a cruel, lonely and tricky place to be.
What is Mum Guilt?
Mum Guilt is a little trap that we set for ourselves. It’s duly aided by the media and by the culture around us. Mum Guilt works to persuade us that, no matter how much we try, nothing is ever enough. It tells us that we are always failing in one aspect of our lives – children, work, home or relationships.
Mum Guilt tells us that we are not enough. It says to us that, despite our best efforts, we’re always going to come up short compared to someone. We’re not as good at parenting as our friends or family are. The lunches that we pack aren’t as healthy as the ones other children receive. Our home isn’t as clean. Our marriage isn’t as good. We’re just not good enough.
Am I The Only One Who Feels Like This?
You’d be hard pressed to find a mother among us who hasn’t felt exactly this. Look at the expectations that are so often placed on women – this idea that we have to give all of ourselves at all times to other people. We make jokes about getting our “Me Time” by doing the grocery shopping. Is it any wonder that we feel this intense pressure to push ourselves to be better?
Mum Guilt and Mental Health
Anxiety is rife in today’s society and has a large part to play in the experience of Mum Guilt. If we’re constantly on high alert and punishing ourselves for not living up to an impossible standard, it’s safe to say that insidious conditions like anxiety, self-doubt and potentially depression could very well begin to creep in. If we take on the entirety of the mental load that comes with running a household, our brains never get a chance to rest. We’re always chasing that never-ending to-do list like a hamster running endlessly in a wheel. Never finishing, never resting, never done.
What Can We Do About Mum Guilt?
There are lots of ideas about navigating and organising your family life to allow for more ‘flow’. When it comes to managing Mum Guilt, however, things aren’t as cut and dry.
You need to both prioritise yourself AND go easy on yourself. Buying into this cultural stereotype that mothers have to do and be EVERYTHING to everyone perpetuates it. What is true is that one cannot draw water from an empty well. If you want to be the best mum that you can be, you need to be allowed to be human. And being human means making mistakes.
You’re not a terrible mum. You’re a goddamn human being trying her absolute best to keep small, relentless human beings alive. You’re doubting yourself and you’re losing sleep and you’re crying in the shower but, my god, you are TRYING.
Go easier on yourself. Try to laugh off your crappy Pinterest fail birthday cakes. Take short cuts. Snuggle on the couch with the kids. Go for a drink with your friends. The world will continue to spin. Your children will continue to grow up and become the unique individuals that they were always going to be.
You’re not a terrible mum. You’re a mum. And the rest of us are just like you.
If you are worried about your mental health and suffering more than a case of the old ‘Mum Guilts’ please seek out the following resources:
- Mum Space: Australia’s one-stop website supporting the mental health and emotional wellbeing of pregnant women, new mums and their families.
- Beyond Blue for Families: Resources for pregnant, post natal and families struggling with depression