Everyone who’s everyone has heard of mum guilt, or should I say, in this social media age; #mumguilt. Well, you have if you’re a mum. Fed your baby pre-made baby food instead of organic, home-grown, home-mashed mush? #mumguilt. Stuck the baby in front of the TV for 5 minutes peace whilst you cook? #mumguilt. Dropped the baby off at nursery and sighed with relief? #mumguilttothemax.
But why are we so hard on ourselves as mums? As a parent, and therefore an individual with total responsibility for another actual life, you accept that there is going to be more pressure put on you to make sure you hit certain criteria. Your child needs to be fed. Your child needs to be safe. Your child needs to be loved. Those are the three main tenants of parenting. And yet we put pressure on ourselves to achieve more and more for our children at our own expense.
I am one of those awful individuals who are guilty of incurring #mumguilt on a daily basis. I use it to laugh off something that actually makes me feel a bit, well, a bit crap. It’s a pre-defense. If I get in there first and claim #mumguilt then everyone else will know that I KNOW I’m letting my kid down. In reality, I’m far from doing that. But that’s mum guilt for you. It gets you right in the feels whenever you really don’t need it.
When I imagined motherhood in the pre-baby days, I imagined all the lovely bits; the smiles, the cuddles, the amazement at creating a human being. From scratch. And there are times when motherhood, for me, is like that. Albeit a slightly less polished, more ‘be grateful we’ve got dressed today’ version of it. What I didn’t imagine was all the rubbish-y bits that come hand in hand with it and the guilt I’d feel for feeling like that.
I didn’t consider the bone-aching tiredness that comes from night after night of broken sleep, fixed only by letting my baby sleep next to me. Mum guilt for the clearly failing my baby in some way because why else wouldn’t they sleep. Mum guilt for putting my child’s safety at risk by co-sleeping.
I didn’t consider the stress of breastfeeding my baby; an often painful and time-consuming process. Mum guilt for sitting there mentally compiling a list of all the jobs that actually needed doing instead of making the most of my baby time. Mum guilt for considering formula. Major mum guilt for considering it the perfect time to catch up with social media.
I didn’t consider that I’d have a baby. Permanently. Even when I needed the toilet. Mum guilt for wanting to shut myself in the toilet for just ten minutes longer in peace. Mum guilt for throwing the baby at his father the minute he walked through the door. Mum guilt for using the jumperoo as an unpaid babysitter (incidentally where the baby is right at this second).
But mostly, I didn’t consider the overwhelming guilt at feeling guilty. The overwhelming guilt at wishing, momentarily for a second of my old life back. The overwhelming guilt at not enjoying every single moment. I am one of the lucky ones, I have the baby that many people dream off. People who spend every waking moment hoping and trying to get pregnant, foster or adopt just to experience what I was experiencing. People who mourn for babies lost too soon, for babies with poor health, for babies they could not have.
I use #mumguilt alongside many others, often in jest, and yet it crippled my first few months of parenting. Now, as we hit our stride as a family of three, the mum guilt continues but I’ve gotten stronger. I know it’s okay to admit that motherhood, whilst incredible isn’t always a barrel of laughs. It’s life changing, awe-inspiring and sometimes, a little bit shit.
p.s. After writing this I removed my child from the jumperoo only to find he’d had a little accident. An accident that spread from his chest, down to his toes and required copious amounts of wetwipes, an emergency shower and rapid washing-machine action. And I thought he’d just been enjoying himself.