The Guilt Trip (And What to Do About It)
Being guilty, or feeling guilty, is defined as committing some kind of wrongdoing; synonyms include ashamed, remorseful, and sorry.
I have never felt so much fucking guilt in my life as I do now that I am a mum. I have felt ashamed and sorry for so many things that I considered at one time or another as a "wrongdoing".
I feel guilty for initially supplementing my daughter, Neera's, feeding with formula.
I feel guilty for co-sleeping.
I feel guilty for not being able to have a drug-free labour and delivery.
I feel guilty for not getting us out of the house more often during my maternity leave.
I feel guilty for not having a regimented nap or sleep schedule.
I feel guilty for letting my child watch Little Baby Bum on Netflix when I have something I need to get done or just don't have anything left to give in the day.
I feel guilty for feeling guilty because all of these things that I feel guilty for have actually worked extraordinarily well for Neera.
I feel guilty for having to leave maternity leave early.
I feel guilty for working from home because I feel like it impedes on Neera’s time, space, and the attention I can offer her.
I feel guilty when I do the dishes and don’t spend time with Neera.
I feel guilty when I spend time with Neera and leave the house a mess.
I feel guilty when I decide to take some time for self-care because I am not spending that time with Neera.
I feel guilty when I spend time with Neera but am completely depleted from not taking care of myself.
Did I mention that I feel guilty for feeling guilty?
I have felt guilt, at one point or another, for every damn thing that I have done as a mum. It is a tough, messy cycle that is so easy to fall into, especially with so many contradictory suggestions for what we should or shouldn’t be doing floating through our social media feeds. Not to mention our friends, peers, and family who are sure to have an opinion. With so many opinions and so many suggestions, it is no wonder we struggle to feel confidence in our decisions and avoid the infamous “mum guilt”.
So what can we do to make it better? What can we do to ease the guilt and reassure ourselves when everything else is telling us otherwise?
Thankfully, I have an extremely supportive, thoughtful partner who is practiced at talking me off the ledge in sweet and gentle ways. In his conversations with me when I am overcome with needless guilt, he has taught me one simple thing to ask myself in times that I need reassurance or a boost of confidence.
“How is what I am doing positive for Neera?”
This little phrase has offered me so much in-the-moment clarity and has played an integral role in me building my confidence as a mum and learning to listen to my mum intuition and instincts. Now, in moments of self-doubt, I stop for a moment and ask myself how what I am doing is beneficial to Neera.
Let’s go back and rephrase everything I listed previously with this thought in mind:
Supplementing Neera with formula allowed her to grow and thrive until my body could produce enough milk on its own. It kept her belly full. Fed is best.
Neera feels safe and reassured by our co-sleeping. It has given her a secure attachment and has allowed us both to get as much rest as possible.
Using drugs for my labor and delivery helped me bring Neera into the world safely.
The time we have spent at home together has allowed me to recover in my postpartum and bond with Neera.
Not having a regimented sleep schedule has allowed us to learn to listen to Neera’s needs and follow her natural rhythm and sleep cues.
Neera has learned from watching Little Baby Bum. It has developed a love for music and dancing in her, as well as, speech development and awareness of shape, colors, and numbers.
My feelings of guilt are because I want what is best for Neera.
It is important for Neera to witness and understand emotions, including anxiety.
I left maternity leave early to support my family.
Working from home allows me to be with Neera all day and for her to learn from the children we spend our days with (I run a daycare from my home).
Doing the dishes keeps Neera’s space clean, safe, and healthy.
It is always positive to offer my time to Neera.
Caring for myself allows me to care for my daughter as my best self. It also models the importance of her eventually taking the time to take care of herself.
It is always positive to offer Neera my time. She is allowed to see me at my worst.
Okay. Now, how much better does that sound?!
How empowering is that?!
I highly recommend at least trying to use that phrase, especially in the moment.
Pause, stop what you are doing, and literally say the words out loud to yourself.
“How is this positive or beneficial to my child(ren)?”
If you are really struggling with guilt and are wanting to work through those feelings, it might be helpful to journal all the things you’ve felt guilty about and rewrite them as a positive reflection of your abilities as a mom, similar to what I’ve done in this post. I can't say that it will make your mum guilt go away indefinitely, but it might at least make you feel better and offer a more positive insight to the decisions you make as a parent. In my experience, it is super cathartic, makes me realize what I do as a mum for Neera is BEST, that I know BEST, and it also helps me in setting boundaries with others trying to tell me to do something outside of what I FEEL is best.
As moms, we already experience insufferable judgment from others. Be your own best friend and get off the guilt trip. You deserve it and so do your kiddos! Work that confidence. You got this.
You. Know. Best.