We have all been there before, when you feel like your little one has been playing up and you have told them off, but the it turns out a couple of days later that actually, they were coming down with something! Have you been that mum before? I have been there more times than I would like to have been. The guilt you feel is so bad, but its not only that but they are many other occasions that I feel this guilt!
It manifests in many ways and I often let it get the better of me! I second guess myself and think that I am not a great parent. There is always something I can find to feel guilty about it could also be lack of reading enough books to my daughter, the deficit of baking I do with her (I cannot bake to save my life!). I kick myself that I don’t get the arts and crafts out enough partly because this really screws with my need for tidiness and order, and lets face it; glitter flying everywhere is never ideal, nor is the dogs eating play-doe scraps off the floor (although I have often thought rainbow poo would be great). Whatever it is I think I could have done better in any situation, I am so tough on myself when it comes to parenting!
Our situation has been one where Sienna has had to get on with things more than most and in some ways I have had to leave her to her own devices a little to get on with the day to day. By that I mean, I have had to stick her in front of the tv while I have got on with the odd thing here and there, left her to play alone more than I would like, where I feel like I should be the one sat with her. There have been no grandparents to take over for the odd hour here and there while I cleaned the house or when I was setting up my business. We lived on our own for two years so there really wasn’t anyone else to pick up the slack. I look at little ones now and think that I actually thought that she was older than she was, were my expectations unrealistic, did I expect too much with my first born? I think I probably did in hindsight? Hindsight, isn’t that a wonderful thing!
It’s that awful ongoing feeling no matter what I do I just can’t ever seem to shake it. I have it all the time with all manner of things when it comes to Sisi; this guilt I can never shake. It could be the smallest of things and it never seems to go away! It manifests in all sorts of forms; did I spend enough time with her today… Did I give her enough attention… Maybe I should have spent that bit longer focused solely on her, it always feels like maybe I could have done more with her opposed to getting distracted by all the things you have to do as a parent. It’s the prepping, organising, ferrying around is endless and I can sometimes go a day without feeling like I have spent enough “quality” time with her whatever that counts as on any given day. I do find myself asking what is quality time, it is quite subjective I think in this busy crazy life where we are constantly on the go, more than ever it would seem. Emails on the go, calls to take, in my case a business to run, I also wonder what it would be like if I had another child to focus on, I would potentially feel even more guilt. Since I started my business it’s been tough to balance it all and often I could be on my phone a lot due to emailing, social media etc. I feel awful when I am on my phone and not giving her attention. I have pledged to manage it differently and have ‘phone free’ times even if that means an hour when she is with me but it is hard, don’t you think? Whether it’s business related or making an appointment with the doctor, school admin, responding about a play date, trying to organise a babysitter or just responding to a friend THE.ADMIN/PHONE TIME.IS.ENDLESS (and that’s without the odd scroll through Social Media!).
Things have luckily been very different in the last 5 months. I did an interview with City Run Mum who writes a fantastic blog series on women in business and how the juggle work/life/children which you can read here; it gives you an idea of what life was like with a business and another job! I am really lucky that I have been able to leave my previous job and focus solely on my business. Forever grateful to my boyfriend for being so supportive, but when I wasn’t in this position it was a very different story. Any spare time was spent on the business out of my office hours (which were during the school day) and this meant literally slogging away any time I could after school. A huge strain on my relationship with my partner and I, but also Sisi and I; she played up because I wasn’t spending enough time with her and when I was with her I would become inpatient because the never-ending to do list was becoming longer and longer.
That said, I still have the time balancing guilt because there are still occasions on which I need to work, and things crop up that have to be prioritised over but I have learnt that spending even half an hour or an hour with her in busy times, to then go on and do a few more hours in which *gasp* she watches TV while I plod along on my laptop next to her. This is much more effective than having 5 minutes with her and an extra hour working. Luckily now I am in a position where I can mostly blitz my work in the school day if I work through, then I can have my time with Sienna after school and then when she’s in bed it means I can carry on with other bits. That said the first part of the school summer holidays this year was a massive struggle! All of my new product arrived and was launching at the same time as the start of the holidays which meant that every morning I would get Sienna to watch a movie or two to then spend the afternoon with her. Did I feel guilty, totally! But it was a ‘needs-must’ situation. That said, I do think it is a good for them to learn to just ‘be’ without any intervention, to play by themselves and potter with whatever they can do. Sometimes I think it could be worse if she was never satisfied and required constant intervention but god it’s tough, I beat myself up so much. Will she remember the times I spend with her in years to come or will she remember the times I was working and was too busy?! A natural worrier, I constantly battle internally with my decisions as a parent!
The pendulum also swings the other way where I feel like maybe I overdid it, did I loose my sh*t over something that actually in retrospect was totally, completely and utterly irrelevant but seemed in that very moment to be important, but hey, I can’t go back on it now because I already went there so without conviction so I have to follow through, right? It’s funny isn’t it, I look at the moments where I have occasionally got crosser than I perhaps should have done but it’s generally after the 10thtime I have said something and truly feel like a broken record. It could be something else going on and in retrospect maybe I wasn’t in the best mood and I have just tipped over the edge.
While I think I do have a good amount of patience there are times where I find it really hard. I do think as a mum you are also learning like they are. I can only imagine that every child you have is a learning curve because they are all different too. How testing is motherhood?! I remember to this day in one of my anti-natal classes a midwife saying that the hardest part was the first year… I also remember talking to my boss at the time before I went for my maternity leave, who said ‘at least with childbirth you have an epidural but there’s nothing to take the pain away for the years after that’. At the time I had no idea what was to come but now I know which statement I totally agree with!!!
I never knew that this would go hand in hand with motherhood, a guilt that you must never shake as a mum! NO, this wasn’t in the job description, not at all!! You always want the best for your child (or children) and you as a parent are so passionate, I am not a pushy mum at all but I want the best for her. I wonder if this is where this guilt stems from. I want her to have the best childhood, to be happy, remember the good time; me baking with her (the trick is rice krispie cakes or cheese straws and that’s as technical as I can get!) playing with her, will she remember all of this or the parts where I was telling her off or the times I was working?! Maybe this desire for her to have the best childhood is where the guilt comes from but my gosh, I wish I could turn the guilt down at notch or two.
Sometimes I do apologies to her if do misjudge things, I think it’s important for her to know that I can be in the wrong and there are other factors which influence the choices that I make and they aren’t always the right ones. I am confident no matter what happens she knows that I adore her, that she is loved and that I try my best. I do nothing but love even if on the odd occasion I may not have shown it entirely. Are there moments that you have felt guilty in motherhood and what gets you through this feeling?
I have pledged that I will really try not to beat myself up so much about what I haven’t done with her, this as well as having ‘phone free’ times should be the key moving forward but I would love to know if this is also a thing for you as a mother, father, parent. I am naturally a worrier so am I just overthinking it all!? Is 'mum guilt' an actual thing?! I do wonder if I just worry too much! I hope you see some familiar points in this blog and if you do these are my pointers for you and what I am going to try and remind myself when that guilt creeps in:
- Do something that you both love doing together which is manageable and easy in the time you have for example don’t get the arts and crafts out if you only have half an hour!
- Phone free times even if it can only be an hour solely focus on them
- Get outside for a walk where none of you can be distracted
- Remember that no matter how it seems you ARE doing a good job
- If you lose your temper and think you were being unrealistic, apologise, it’s not a sign of weakness and its good for them to know its ok to be wrong.