Updated: Mar 21
I love a good game! I remember playing musical chairs at a family gathering. Adults and kids played together and when the music stopped, the adults let the children have the seat.
But no, not me. I wanted to win!
It was down to just me and my 5 year old son. When the music stopped I bumped him off the chair with my hip and sat down, beaming triumphantly! But, nobody else seemed to be celebrating with me.
He was on the floor crying when his aunt helped him up, and he said, “Mummy, you are mean”.
My heart sank! I felt so guilty in that moment. It doesn’t help that years later, there are still recordings to remind me of the incident and bring up fresh guilt!
Mum guilt is real (so is dad guilt, by the way!) We are our own worst critics, constantly judging ourselves harshly over the slightest things, comparing ourselves to other parents and wondering if we will ever get it right.
A lot of our guilt comes from what we fear or hear our family and friends say about our parenting. It also comes from the conflict between working hard for our children and being there for them.
Other times we worry that we have unknowingly hurt our children in ways that could impact them for life!
(Continue reading: how I overcome mum guilt)
Recently I attended a talk on body confidence in teens with a friend of mine. After the talk I could see how affected she was, she proceeded to tell me how guilty she felt.
“I feel like such a bad mum”, she said, “I’m afraid I have caused irreparable damage to my daughter!”
My response seemed to shock her, “It doesn’t sound to me like you are a bad mum”, I said. “It sounds to me like you are a bad judge!”
Feeling guilty isn’t the issue, staying stuck in it is!
When you are stuck in guilt, you are constantly focused on your mistakes, never really celebrating your wins as you ought to.
You focus on the rupture you may have unwittingly caused, but ignore the power of repair!
This makes you an unfair judge of whether you are a good or bad parent.
Parent guilt can leave us feeling stuck and stops us from taking action to improve. We move from guilt to denial and start avoiding the issue, distracting and convincing ourselves that there’s nothing we can do - all in a bid to numb the guilty feeling.
Then comes the shame which inevitably robs us of the joy of learning new habits that can help us get unstuck and repair the rupture.
We stop being open to possibilities to improve our parenting and our relationship with our children.
But, whilst you spend your time feeling guilty, your child is feeding off your energy and is confused by your signals because to them,
You are the best parent! Yes, you can be better, we all can, but you are still the best!
I get it, it is hard to face up to how we might be contributing to the very behaviours we don’t want to see in our children, but here’s my solution…
An answer I started applying to my parenting years ago and has been such a game changer for me…
I stopped judging myself as Good or Bad.
I’m not a good mum and neither am I a bad mum. I don't ignore the guilty feeling, but I don't sit in it either!
Instead I remind myself regularly that
I am a mum on my life journey of learning and unlearning with my children.
I am a mum who is open to making mistakes, growing and repairing whatever ruptures I will cause on the way.
I am mum and I am what my child needs!
Then I say this:
I am 100% sure that
I won’t get it 100% right
100% of the time
(repeat 2 more times)
Enjoy a Guilt Free Mothers’ Day!