There’s a funny old saying that has always struck a chord with me: some say that when they pull the placenta out, they shove guilt in. When I write that down, my mind’s eye instantly conjures up an unwanted visual!
I started writing the Guilty Mother blog in January 2016 as a way to shake off the ‘mum guilt’ in the most positive way I could. By no means did I think that the guilt I felt (or feel) would go away, unfortunately, but I do find that writing and talking about it with other likeminded mums really helps.
Five years on and my family has grown since I started the blog – I now have an 11 year old, nine year old and a one year old! Baby Nico was born just before lockdown, so his world is pretty much our home and the people in it, experiencing very little interaction with other people or babies over the last 12 months.
As I write this, the burden of home schooling is behind us and the children are back at school. This has been a challenging year in so many ways and parental guilt hasn’t helped, has it? Like parents up and down the country, I’ve worried whether I’m doing enough to support my children’s education, are they exercising as much as they should, do they need more fresh air, how many snacks have they had today? And all that with a baby on my hip and a successful business to run!
But I know I’m not alone. A recent survey by MyNametags found that 25% of parents feel as though they’re not helping with their children’s education and that the biggest source of guilt is, you guessed it, screen time! 33% of parents don’t think they spend enough quality time with their children whilst 32% feel guilty because they don’t play with them enough.
And then there’s our own screen time! Not being able to see our friends for a coffee or a buggy stroll round the park has meant that we’ve spent more time on our smartphones and tablets keeping in touch and checking in with those more vulnerable. We might also be working on laptops in front of our children more. (Back in 2017, I met with fellow parenting blogger John Adams who had made some interesting observations on parental screen time which still rings true today, I think. Check it out here.) It’s been hard though hasn’t it? There’s been a lot to juggle and let’s not forget mum self-care and looking after our own mental health!
Unsurprisingly, there are plenty of celebrities out there who have experienced feelings of mum guilt. Christine McGuinness, wife of Top Gear presenter Paddy McGuiness and mother of three children with autism has recently said, ‘I suppose I’m just feeling a bit of mum guilt, like I’m not doing enough.’ I hear you Christine and I can tell you that I’m sure you are doing plenty.
Here are some other celebrities who have juggled and felt the mum guilt too.
‘It’s a huge juggling act when you’re a working mother and looking after your family. Millions and millions of women around the world are doing this every day, but it’s not easy and, yes, you feel guilty every time you walk out of the door to go to work.’
‘I suffered terribly from “working mother guilt.” I remember being desperate to get home. The only time I ever asked to have off work was when my daughter Rosie was two and playing Mary in the nativity. My radio bosses said I couldn’t go but I took it off anyway and have never regretted it.’
‘Some days, I think that everything is balanced and great. Then I feel a sense of guilt, worry and panic. But, fundamentally, I know I’ve got to go to work. It’s such a big part of my identity. I don’t know how not to do it.’
‘I was a working mum when there weren’t many working mums. It wasn’t easy, but I’m very glad I did. When my children were young, I did feel very guilty, though. So, I reckon I was not the best mum. I enjoy my children far more now than when they were young.’
Guilt is a mismatch between our expectations and reality but if there’s one thing that gives me comfort, it’s knowing that many women around the world feel guilt in the same way. I used to feel guilty for wanting an hour free to pop to the gym or have some alone time. In fact, I’ve now realised that my own health and wellbeing is important to the health and wellbeing of my children, so it’s really not selfish and I shouldn’t feel guilty about it.
So, on days when you feel a bit rubbish or mum guilt starts to slip in, just remember that Guilty Mother is here to remind you that it’s OK. If you haven’t already, create a great support network around you as it’s worth its weight in gold; have supportive and positive people around you that you can call on when you need lifting up.
These days, I feel as though I am managing guilt in a more positive way and I feel I’m thriving a bit more as an individual too. I mean, if Mary Berry feels it, then that gives me some comfort!
Thank you, Jo!