I didn’t appreciate that when I gave birth to Beaver and Godivy I’d also be giving birth to…
An emotion that can rear its head regardless of whether things are going well or not. And one that I will live with from now on. Happily ever after. Ha ha.
They don’t tell you this on the NCT course. That it’s a mother’s prerogative. I guess it’s not a strong selling point. ‘Come to NCT. Let us tell you about the joys of motherhood. How to rock labour on just a glass of wine. Oh and meet Guilt, your new other half.’
Feeling guilty is something that most of us suffer from once we become mothers. It got me thinking. What do we feel guilty about most?
So I asked you. And you were gracious, kind and more importantly, honest. In our society, where so many mothers work, I’d expected lots of comments about leaving your children. Hardly anyone mentioned this.
Coming in at number 1 with more of you saying this than anything else was…
NOT PLAYING WITH OUR CHILDREN ENOUGH
I was pretty gobsmacked. Because this is the thing that tops my ‘Guilt List’ too.
PLAY. Not playing with them enough. Not wanting to play with them enough. Not losing myself in the activity when we do play. Secretly counting down the minutes until I can do something else.
Up until now, I’d imagined you all at home, doing crafts with your kids (I have particular anxieties about not doing crafts with them. Even though I’m not particularly crafty. In the ‘making’ sense, that is).
If I could just do crafts with them, I’d eliminate all traces of guilt, I thought. But I’ve tried. Beaver loses interest by the time I’ve got all the bits laid out whilst Godivy’s eating a pipe cleaner… there’s just no structure to it. So they end up watching Mister Maker do crafts instead.
Which leads me to number 2 on the Guilt List. WATCHING TOO MUCH TV. I’m starting to really, really like you lot.
Here’s the rest of the top 10, according to you.
The Top 10 Things Mothers Feel Guilty About
- Not playing with our children enough
- Letting them watch too much TV
- Not spending enough quality time together
- Losing tempers, snapping, shouting and being too hard on them
- Always saying ‘in a minute’ because we’re trying to do other things
- Leaving them to go to work and then (secretly) enjoying work
- Not being patient enough
- Splitting time fairly amongst siblings
- Not feeling guilty when we leave them
- Not teaching them more
Goodness. We even feel guilty when we don’t feel guilty! Can we win?
Yes. And no. Our lives are complex these days. We want to be good mothers, whilst possibly having careers and running homes and we also want space to be ourselves. But there isn’t enough time so we end up feeling permanently guilty about whatever we’re not doing in any given moment.
But we can’t do it all. Not well, anyway. Or in a fulfilling manner. Multi-tasking is about as big a myth as saying we can have it all. We can’t, so let’s stop trying. How many times have you played with your child/done their homework whilst putting the washing on and making lunch/dinner? Talk about stressful. No wonder, it’s not enjoyable.
So, having identified that the thing we feel most guilty about is not being with our children or giving them the best version of ourselves, let’s change it. And it doesn’t need to be all or nothing. If we only set aside one hour a day to focus 100% on our kids, isn’t that better than several distracted hours? The rest of the time, it’s fine for them to do what we’re having to do; they just love being with us. And there’s a lot to do. Fact.
If that sounds a bit unrealistic, don’t worry. Because it’s actually OK to feel guilty.
If you think about it, the guilt we feel as mothers comes from loving our children to the moon and back. From our desire to do right by them, to be the best mothers that we can be and to give them as much of us as they deserve.
So, next time you feel that pang of guilt, instead of berating yourself stop for a moment and acknowledge it for what it really is.
Love. Complete and utter unconditional love.
We’re doing the best we can. And it is good enough.
Just look at the Top 10. We can’t all be wrong.
Footnote: thank you to everyone who contributed to this and openly shared your guilty feelings with me. I was overwhelmed (and reassured) by the response. You’re all marvellous.