We’ve all been there ― feeling like we can’t measure up as mum.
Notes Tammy M Fontana, director at All in the Family Counselling Centre “Generally, mums feel guilty because they are trying to match an unrealistic idea of a parent model that has nothing to do with their situation or who they are.
“People do mental, often unconscious evaluations against an ideal image of how they believe they should parent. If the model they are evaluating against has nothing to do with them or their life, they’ll feel bad and possibly guilty.”
While guilt is a sign that you love your child, it can also be an unhealthy emotion that cripples you.
Therefore, it’s essential to know when to stop wasting your energy on unecessary feelings of guilt. We present five issues mothers should not feel guilty about.
“Mums feel guilty because they are trying to match an unrealistic idea of a parent model that has nothing to do with their situation or who they are… If the model they are evaluating against has nothing to do with them or their life, they’ll feel bad and possibly guilty.”
#1. Bottle feeding
Breastfeeding is the way to go, since your baby enjoys the best nutrition. But you may feel bad if you need to bottlefeed your baby, especially if your little one won’t latch on or if you can’t breastfeed for other reasons.
“When we introduced the bottle to my daughter, I felt a little bit bad about that and didn’t want to,” says Ruth Gertler, mum of a son, 5, and daughter, 8. “But she was always hungry and wouldn’t stop crying.”
Whatever your reasons for bottlefeeding bubba, it’s never something a mother should feel guilty about. There’s no right or wrong about it, and no one should shame you for how you decide to feed your baby.
“If you determine that you are not doing something wrong, decide to stop feeling guilty,” says Fontana. “It’s not helpful to anyone. Guilt is a choice.”
#2. Going back to work
Once maternity leave is over, it’s natural to feel guilty about returning to work as well. At work, thoughts such as “am I missing out on any of my child’s milestones?” or “will my baby be all right without me?” may understandably run through your head.
“For me, it’s really a juggle between how much you work and how much you don’t,” Gertler says. “If I have a meeting in the afternoon, and I know the kids are back from school, I sometimes feel bad.”
When you feel guilty, bear in mind that you’re doing the best to provide for your baby and family. Working is a means of looking after your child and providing for their future.
“I just switch it off, it doesn’t help me to feel guilty,” says Gertler. “It’s mind over matter. Breathing and being present in the moment helps, and knowing I’ve got someone looking after them.”
#3. Going out
It’s no secret that your social life takes a backseat once baby arrives. After all, you want to spend as much time with bubba as possible and make sure they receive the best care.
As such, even going out for a simple meal with your husband or friends can leave you feeling guilty and keep you from having a good time.
Gertler recalls, “When we first had children, I felt rather guilty about going out to restaurants with my partner. We went out more than our friends who didn't do that very much.”
Though outings might bring about a guilt trip, maintaining a close bond with your husband or friends is essential, especially with them being your support system during this all-too-challenging journey of motherhood.
“Looking back, I don’t feel guilty about going out now at all ― what’s important is having a relationship with your partner,” Gertler says.
While it’s great to raise a well-rounded kid…let them explore their own interests, and don’t be afraid to let them make mistakes along the way.
#4. Sleep training
If you decide to adopt the cry-it-out method when sleep training your baby, letting her cry herself to sleep may be tough and leave you wracked with guilt.
“With my daughter, I did the cry-it out method and it was awful,” Gertler recalls. “If she wouldn't go to sleep, I would leave the room and hear her screaming. The method worked in the end, but I was always wanting to come back in.”
This sleep training tactic might seem cold and heartless, but bear in mind the end goal of getting your child to sleep on their own (which also means longer periods of uninterrupted sleep for you and your spouse).
You should also stop comparing yourself to other mums who don’t adopt the same method of sleep training. Parenting is personal, so it’s up to you to decide the best way to parent your child.
#5. Not “pushing” your kids enough
In our competitive society, parents sign their kids up for various sporting, music and enrichment lessons ― all with the hopes of making them as well-rounded as possible ― are a dime a dozen.
So you might feel that you are shortchanging your offspring by not “pushing” them to excel in all areas because you aren’t helping them to unlock their potential.
“I do feel bad sometimes for not doing sporty things such as cycling or playing football with my children, which I see other parents and children doing,” Gertler says. “Some parents also register their kids for a lot of activities, so, sometimes I wonder if I’m not pushing them enough.”
While it’s great to raise a well-rounded kid, remember that you (and your kids) are only human and can’t be expected to learn or do everything. Rather than raising over-achievers, let them explore their own interests, and don’t be afraid to let them make mistakes along the way.
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