By Nikki Smith
Mama guilt, we ALL experience it!!
Guilt – Some mamas say they never live a day without it.
We worry. Did we give enough of our time today? Did I feed him well enough? She hardly slept today and yesterday, is she cutting her day sleeps or was it because I met my girlfriend for a coffee?
We feel overstretched by the demands of a busy household, the juggle of work and our kids. Spending time with friends and your partner. There are days where we might think to ourselves ‘is this it? Is this part of some divine plan to have me feeling like a nervous wreck!?’
Motherhood introduces us to so many varied mind states, such extremes of emotions that can feel so unfamiliar and at times disturbing. We will swing from one to the other. Revisiting old wounds, and hurts.
We also try to hide all of these feelings due to undulating pressure on ourselves and from our friends and family, society as a whole. Because we are supposed to feel ‘good’ about being in this place called mamahood.
We are so quick to judge each other too for feeling all of this and some. Then those mama guilt feelings come up again because we shouldn’t be feeling this way.
Most harshly though, we will judge ourselves.
Anxiety can creep in ever so slowly, along with feelings of despair and loneliness, boredom and restlessness. All of this along with feelings of more guilt for feeling this way and feeling anything but ‘blessed.’
As a parent there are so many ‘should do’s,’ ‘I should be more patient’ I should be more organised.’ Often this word tends to activate the disobey button in us & we do exactly what we ‘should not!’ For example, drinking a glass of wine on a Monday night when we have said to ourselves ‘Ah I really shouldn’t!’
When we are tired from all of the ‘should do’s’ that we ‘should’ be doing we tend to take it out on our little ones, and we will snap. Instead of thinking to yourself, ‘I really ‘should’ have more patience’ perhaps it would be a better alternative to look at the ‘why’ for your reaction.
What’s coming up for you to allow your never ending to do list to create stress and disharmony, therefore taking it out on your child/ren because you lack in energy??
Is this an opportunity for you to take that 10 minutes out for yourself and STOP the mama guilt and the ‘I should be doing this list?’
Because in the end, who is that really benefiting? Yes, your laundry’s done, your dishes are clean, your house is tidy, dinners cooked, and the cars been washed, but could at least one of those ‘should do’s’ be completed later or even tomorrow?
Could you have taken that opportunity for YOU and then felt better for doing that therefore more able to connect with your little people rather than get short with them?
“Parents aren’t perfect people. They’re people being perfected.” LR Knost.
We as parents need to start dropping the expectations we place on ourselves and open our hearts up as non– judgementally as possible to whatever is happening for us at that time.
Because in those moments of sacrifice, when we are always putting our children’s needs before our own. In those sleepless nights and the ‘trying to keep calm’ throughout a long tumultuous tantrum. It is when the housework is piling up, the never–ending list of your ‘Should do’s’ has begun, it is in these moments that we need to be kind to ourselves, we need to show ourselves some self–compassion because we are doing it, and we are amazing!
This brings me to Self–Compassion; We have already discussed the fact that we all will likely experience some form of mama guilt on the daily. You may notice though that you’re feeling angst and guilt about the same things day in and day out. Could it be that feeling guilty and letting that ‘feeling’ in isn’t working for you? Guilt creates so much frustration and self–loathing it is a repetitive attack upon yourself as a human being– not just as a parent.
To practice self–compassion is to ultimately encounter oneself– to look at you and see your own unique daily struggles. Know that they are OK. Take responsibility for your ‘reactions’ know that it is normal to ‘react’ to your child/ren rather than to ‘respond’ sometimes, apologise for your ‘reaction,’ try not to take it too personally.
This opens up a completely different discussion for me, but it needs to be elaborated upon, so let’s talk briefly about YOUR ‘reactions.’ In owning your OWN ‘reactions,’ for example yelling and/or smacking. Knowing that it is unnecessary to ‘react’ and so much more empowering to ‘respond’ (responding may look like you getting down to your little one’s level, or hugging them to then reconnect) to your little one’s behaviour, this is you OWNING your ‘reaction.’
A simple but effective way to OWN your reaction can be as simple as to apologise, to go down to your child’s level and apologise for the way that you reacted. This alone can be incredibly empowering for your child. BUT also empowering for you. This is ultimately about you taking responsibility for your own actions, AND you teaching your child to do the same.
It’s an important part of your unique parenting journey learning tools to better handle upset in intense situations, so that you are able to create less tension and a more harmonious home. By doing so it will also allow for a discussion to take place, and ALWAYS create the space for renewed connection, as well as an opportunity for positive role modelling.
Your actions & words as a parent, as an adult, create far more meaning than the ‘lectures’ and discussions that you will ever have.
We ALL feel somewhat guilty for how we have reacted to a situation with our toddler but by staying stuck in your guilt it is like saying “I am all mighty and powerful I make everything turn to chaos all by myself!”
Therefore, the mistake, the reaction and/or action that has taken place, is just a small part of your story. It doesn’t define you. Your mistakes are not the definition of who you are as a person. As a parent. Forgive yourself and let it go.
Your child has come to teach you and allow you to grow as a human being. Parenting will bring you to the core of your ego, always. Our children trigger us because they are ours. “I will be the best parent,” “ I will be the best mother,” every time we fall short of these expectations our children then trigger us – but what our children are really doing is showing us a mirror to our underdeveloped self.” Dr Shefali Tsbary.
As a mum, no matter where you are on your parenting journey the new reality with your precious child/ren can make you feel like you are ‘losing’ yourself. In fact, it is the complete opposite, being a parent gives us the opportunity to find more of ourselves. It can give us a chance to seek out the depth of who we are or who we were, so that we can reach that aspect of ourselves and become MORE of who we are now, more of who we want to become, today.
Nikki Smith, is the founder of The Earthway Approach and mother to 3 beautiful, sensitive, and boisterous little women. She has been a Registered Nurse for the past 12 years with a 4-year hiatus in between so that she could focus on being a mum. Nikki also has a Postgraduate in Maternal Child and Family Nursing and has been working and supporting families on the Gold Coast, Northern Rivers and now Central Coast of NSW Australia over the past 5 years. She is currently studying counseling and is the author of her newly released book ‘Honest Motherhood- Words of comfort and musings into motherhood.’ Nikki’s expertise is in early infancy and toddler behaviour, she is passionate about maternal and infant mental health and well-being as well as providing wholistic conscious parenting support with a whole family approach. You can find further inspiration, support and information on her upcoming workshops from her socials and website – https://www.instagram.com/the_earthway_approach/