Over the last few weeks my blog has taken me to some fun places and made me some new blogging connections. One of the faces who appeared at two Kent blogging events within the same week, in Whitstable and Chatham was the ever so lovely Jo from Guilty Mother. Jo asked the panels at both the Clemmie Hooper Mums The Word Mamas Meets Up, and the Call The Midwife Tour at Chatham Dockyard about ‘Mum Guilt’, which was the original inspiration for her blog.
Jo’s questions, and the discussion by both panels really got me thinking about Mum Guilt – how it affects all of us in different ways, and how it plays a part on my role as a Mum.
Being at home vs being at work
I have no doubt that for many working Mums there is an element of guilt in not being at home more – I know that because I was too, once a working Mum, and probably still would be if I hadn’t been made redundant. That element of Mum guilt was eliminated the day I decided to take a career break, but it certainly wasn’t the end of work based Mum guilt.
Over the last few years I’ve started and grown a blog into a business, which has undoubtedly meant the girls have at times watched me with my laptop on my lap during movie times, tweeting from my phone whilst cooking tea and catching up on invoices whilst they splash around in the bath.
In all honesty I rarely blog whilst the girls are here – it’s now come a time when I can cram my working day into the five pre-school mornings and the odd evening, next to Dad Muddling Through on the sofa. (Should I mention I feel guilty about that too?).
I guess I am no longer an at work Mum, or a Stay at home Mum, I am somewhere in the no mans land inbetween – and I feel guilty about that. Has throwing myself into flexible work that I love been a distraction from the girls growing up around me? I really hope I’ll never look back and see it that way, but who knows. I have always justified the happy medium to allow my passions and productivity to thrive whilst being around for my children, and to be able to take childcare options through choice as opposed to necessity.
I’ve also pondered how the girls perceive me – a stay at home predominantly taking on the lion’s share of the domestic chores, school and nursery logistics, and a very discrete career that might be hard for them to understand when their friends ask what does your Mummy do? As I feel so passionate about the girls succeeding in whatever they wish, like I did in my career in Science after years of hard work and studying for my degree and post-graduate qualifications, only to give it up when I became their Mum. What message is that for the strong independent young women I hope to raise?
And then, there is the blog altogether. Tigs can now read and will often peep over my shoulder to read what I’m reading, typing, doing. How will she feel when she reads my words on a screen one day? Will she be proud, or mortified that her childhood has been laid bare in such a candid and raw way. I can only hope that my efforts to protect their identity will provide a buffer should they be less than pleased.
Maybe she’ll be overjoyed – her Mum ahead of the game as she prances around the house with her tablet making ‘You Choob videos’.
In the meantime I have tried to be open; they believe Mummys job is chief toy tester and for that they are extremely happy for now to see what the postman brings next.
Being a bit of a rubbish Mum
Aside from the juggle that so many of us face between work and children, the other element of my major Mum guilt lies in the worry that I could have done better. Often hitting between the hours of 7.30 and 9.30pm when their angelic sleeping faces make me wonder if that day was really all bad after all?
I feel bad that my daughter hardly eats anything despite my endless tries. I feel bad when I express frustration outwardly after another accident, for the 365th day in a row. I feel bad when I’ve lost control of calm and been that shouty Mum I don’t want to be. I feel bad when I complain to Dad Muddling Through that I’m exhausted and overwhelmed in earshot of my two beautiful girls who I would go to the ends of the earth for.
I feel bad when I know we should have gone out to the park, or done a jigsaw, but we opted for an afternoon of CBeebies instead. I feel bad when we blow out swimming because, honestly, we just couldn’t be arsed today. I feel really bad when I let them eat the sweets they helped themselves to before tea, because I just don’t have any more fight left in me to do the right thing.
I feel bad when I stress about the list of jobs to do at the allotment, which takes the fun away from something we all love and makes it into a negative. But allotment guilt? That’s a WHOLE other post.
I feel bad when I rush through that bedtime book because in truth, I’m done for the day and am in serious need for some adult company. I feel bad when I complain about needing a night out, or a date night, when compared to some other parents, we really don’t do badly in our social life at all.
And I feel bad when I complain about my near-perfect existence as though it is some kind of hardship to be a Mum to the best two little girls I could have ever wished for. Because honestly, really, I wouldn’t change a single thing.
Making it better
When I was a small girl, my Mum made me Eggy Bread for tea and I thought it was the best dinner ever. We didn’t have swimming lessons, or gymnastics, or a stressy bedtime, or reams of endless toys and clothes. I was picked up from school by friends parents, family and for most of my memories, my Mum. Mum, who was the domestic goddess, who juggled childminding, work, teenagers and toddlers, in her shadow I grew up with an unstoppable work ethic and determination to be whatever I wanted to be. I can’t even really remember the specifics of our routines, other than singing loudly with Mum to our favourite 80’s mix tapes on the school run. My existence was happy and filled with love. Even after my parents split, twice the effort and happiness was provided and we certainly never questioned our parents commitment to give us everything we needed, which actually, wasn’t all that much.
Can we ever really eliminate Mum guilt altogether? Is that realistic? Being a mother doesn’t need to mean being perfect, perhaps Mum Guilt is just an inevitable factor in wanting the best for your children – even when they probably already have precisely that, regardless of your set up. The trick perhaps is to acknowledge it, move it along in your mind, and not let it consume you.
So many of our days and times as a family are filled with nature, outdoors, laughter and music. I guess saying sorry now and again, trying to be present and happy in the moment is all it takes. Sometimes bits do need to be juggled – and our kids are robust enough to cope without our attention 24/7. Plus, I stand by the fact that it’s okay to sometimes say, I’m not okay. I’m tired, I need help, I could do with a break. After all, I want my children to be able to express their feelings as they grow up, openly and honestly. But for the rest of the time, belting out some 80’s classics around the kitchen is a start to making today a good day.
How does Mum Guilt affect you? I’d love to hear from you in the comments below.