What is “Mum Guilt”? You know, it’s that overwhelming feeling of doing something wrong by your child, for example, going to work, going out for the evening, first day of school. Have you ever had that peculiar wave of emotion come over you when you leave your 6 month old at Nursery for the first session so that you can go back to work, or to the gym? That’s “Mum Guilt”. Now just because this has been titled “Mum Guilt”, doesn’t mean that its a female emotion, I know of some Dad’s that feel this too.
As a single parent, aged 21, I experienced “Mum Guilt” on a daily basis. Sometimes it was my own fault and sometimes others made me feel bad. Older women who state that I should have waited to have a child if I couldn’t cope. Coupled up Mums who state that their other halves supported them through this. Yes Thanks. So helpful! Parenting is tough, we shouldn’t be making each other guilty when our own conscious does enough damage.
My first “Mum Guilt” struggle was in May of 2012…Lily’s first session at Nursery at 6 months old. Now we had done 3 settling in sessions but this was the first official “see-you-later” time. It only lasted 5 hours but felt like it was ages. Walking away from her little face (who hadn’t noticed I had gone) gave me this overwhelming sense that I was doing something wrong.
I was doing what any other mum does, allowing her daughter to socialise and learn. I wasn’t due to start work until August, however wanted to give Lily the time to settle in, and in case it all went tits up, enough time if she needed to be moved. I went back 4 hours and 45 minutes later to reports that she was perfect and seemed to really enjoy herself, well as much as a 6 month old can. I told myself that “Mum Guilt” was unnecessary. The key workers at nursery were fab and Lily stayed there until she was almost 5.
Another guilty day was the first trial day at Primary School in June 2016. People forget that when the children go to school, they are only 4 (sometimes 5). They have only been on the planet 4 years, and yes Lily had been to Nursery but this didn’t make this new stage any easier on me. We arrived not knowing anyone (Nursery was in one county, school in another), Lily was quiet and could probably sense my high-running emotions. We walked into the Hall to introduce her to her teacher with her hand getting tighter around mine. Yes the guilt was starting to rise…who are these teachers? They don’t know Lily and what she is like. They don’t know me or our situation. I was trying harder and harder to make it seem exciting for my slightly anxious 4 year old. The announcement came that all parents were to leave and the children would be taken into their classrooms. I popped a sweet in my mouth (was once told that sucking sweets reduces the chance of tearing up due to the same muscles being used) and tried to get Lily to go with this teacher.
After 10 minutes of my best persuading and this teacher eventually grabbing her hand and leading her away. “Mummy” being shouted down the corridor whilst I walked away and tried not to look back. Yes the tears came, and it still makes me choke even now and she has almost finished her first year there.
I did the whole convincing myself speech on the walk back home. She has to go to school. They know what they are doing. They do it all the time. I’m sure they are lovely. She will have fun. She won’t have even missed me. And true to that, she had a great time.
So after these two, and many other, experiences, how do I cope? Well I started with distraction techniques, going shopping, watching a movie, going out for tea. This was fine until I had two minutes to myself, usually on the loo, and the tears would appear again. I then tried spending time with family who have been through this. But when I thought about it, I actually found that my “Mum Guilt” was worse in the build up to an event rather than while the event was happening.
So I did what any normal person would do…try not to think about it. Does that ever even work?
I found that I needed to do my research. Ask the questions I needed to ahead of the event and that it was the “unknown” that was making me feel this way. What was my child going to be doing? How can I prepare her for this? As her mother, what can I say?
My advice to you is to talk about it. Talk to other mums about how you are feeling, talk to your child about how you are feeling. Yes they are younger and less mature but you will feel better talking it through with them.
You aren’t doing anything wrong. You parent the way you believe is best, and you are doing your best! Don’t let anyone or anything make you feel that you aren’t. Like I said, parenting is tough…but let’s support each other through it.
You can do this!!
Over and Out