Do you ever feel like a bad mum?
Can you relate to any of these things? I’ve forgotten my daughter’s pre-primary presentation, I don’t organise after school play dates because I’m usually trying to be home to organise dinner, school lunch box contents feel way too repetitive, and of course, I yell way more than I care to admit.
Mummy guilt of a working mother is constant. It doesn’t seem to matter that you work hard to provide for your children, that you read with them every night, that you enrol them in fun after school activities and feel like you spend half your life driving them around and waiting for finish time. It never feels like enough. There is always something more you could do. More you feel you “should” do. At least that’s how I feel a lot of the time.
So how do you stop the guilt?
Here’s 3 things that work for me.
1. Talk about it.
We all need to have these conversations with other working women to be reminded that we aren’t alone. Most mums are struggling with a sense of not being good enough.
Aside from my sisters who are always there for me, my mothers group provide this outlet for me. We’ve known each other since our first children were born 8 years ago, and have seen the best and worst of our parenting lives. Find your tribe of supportive women and make sure you catch up with them regularly for a reality check.
The fact is, you’re not alone. We all have other mums that we look to who seem to have it all together. We think to ourselves, “How does she do it?” The best way to find out is to ask. More often than not, the answer is the same. She will tell you that she may look serene on the surface, but underneath she is madly paddling trying to stay afloat. Sometimes she is barely keeping her head above water.
2. Take a break from social media
Some of my friends an people I follow on social media seem to have the perfect life. They have perfectly mannered children who write loving stories about their mum. Those same kids are always receiving school merit awards. They often publish public declarations of love to their partner, are always smiling and doing fun and exciting family activities together. I’m guilty of this too. If you can’t bring yourself to delete Facebook, then I challenge you to limit your time on it each day – and go back to Tip 1 to get the real story behind the public image.
You can’t change how other people choose to portray their lives, but you can choose not to see it. Think of this as a challenge – delete the Facebook app on your phone for 7 days and see whether it makes a change in your life. Not only will you not be busily comparing yourself to the perfect curated lives of others, you will have more time to spend with your family rather than scrolling through your feed.
This is not the whole truth of course. It is just the image that most people show on social media. It is so much easier to share the good things. There aren’t many people who are happy to show you the not so pretty side of life. Pictures of the kitchen floor after the toddler has a tantrum and throws their dinner plate, videos of siblings fighting with each other over who gets to play on the iPad next, or perhaps a photo of your own face with no makeup after you’ve been up all night with a sick child.
3. Ask for Help
The truth is, none of us can “do it all”. We can’t work hard at our professional career and still have enough time to take and pick up our kids from school and after school activities, prepare awesome lunch box meals, be Class Representative, have date night with our partners, make Book Week costumes, make time to spend with friends, let alone have some time for ourselves. But just because we can’t physically do it all, doesn’t mean those things shouldn’t get done.
There is no truer saying than “It takes a village to raise a child”. Take a moment to reflect on all the things that you do on a weekly basis. I find a useful tool is to think about what I would like to do “More of” and “Less of”, what I would like to get “Rid of” (cleaning falls in that basket for me!) and what I would like to “Toss in”.
Some things might not be changeable e.g. number of days at work, so this gives you a frame for how much time you have left for everything else. Things that are low on the priority list might be first to go. Or you may decide that it’s important for your kids to go to after school activities – but perhaps their grandparents can take them. Not only does it free up your time, it gives the kids some time to develop relationships with key people in their lives.
It never goes away.
The truth is, mummy guilt never goes away. We are all constantly bombarded with images of the perfect mum, and we are our own worst enemies. It doesn’t help that other women are often our biggest critics. Unfortunately, as each of us try to assuage our own guilt, it can often lead to criticising others who do things differently. Working mums v non-working mums, mums who send their kids to school v home school mums.
We need to make change. We need to be kinder to ourselves and other mums. The 3 tips above are just the tip of the iceberg.
If you are a professional career woman juggling work and family and would like the support of a community of women to share the experience, come and join us in The Juggle Community.