Mum Guilt: What is It and How to Let It Go

What is Mum Guilt and Where Does It Come From?

Mum guilt is the feeling of guilt women experience relating to the children – new mothers are particularly susceptible to mum guilt. As mums, we continuously worry about making mistakes and feel we need to always get things ‘right’ We feel guilty for not doing things we think we should be doing or about the standard at which we’re ‘performing’ as mums. These expectations often come from personal insecurities to opinions from family members to social media jealousy to pressures from friends or work and society as whole.

 

Mum guilt is often cyclical. When we feel that we’re not enough because we’re struggling to do everything, we feel guilty because we think we’re not doing enough so we keep piling things on and increasing our expectations of ourselves. By doing more we’re telling ourselves that what we’re doing isn’t enough and that we need to do more and to perform better to feel good enough. Every time we fail at doing more, we feel guilty and pile more on to try and validate ourselves. This need to be validated, to earn our way as a mother, feeds the mum guilt.

 

 

There are lots of things that can trigger mum guilt: raising your voice at your kids, not being able to buy the latest and greatest toys, not being able to breastfeed as long as you desired or at all, having to go back to work after giving birth, wanting to have time away from your children, needing to ask for help.

 

When dealing with mum guilt, it’s difficult to be honest with those around us, to have open conversations about how we feel, and to ask for help. Reaching out for support makes us feel like we have failed and that we aren’t good enough and that we should be able to do it on our own. This can exacerbate the feelings of mum guilt and keep us trapped in the cycle. But, when we feed into our belief of needing to do more, we aren’t even meeting our basic needs (according to Maslow’s hierarchy of needs) so how can we meet the needs of others, let alone a small child who needs us wholly?

7 Tips for Dealing with Mum Guilt

You don’t have to feel this way! Trust me, although it’s hard to recognise that mum guilt isn’t a permanent struggle, there are things you can do to overcome the feeling of mum guilt and in turn show up as a more settled, happier mum to your children.

 1. Start with Self-Compassion 

“Compassion is the antidote to shame” (Anna Mathur)

 

When you’re struggling, more than ever, being more compassionate with yourself and letting go of perfectionism is important. Self compassionate people recognise when they are suffering and are kind to themselves during these times which helps to manage anxiety, depression, mum guilt. Self-compassion is a hard skill to master. Try these to get you started

  • Nourish your body by eating healthy food
  • Get outside, get some have fresh air and get your body moving
  • Practise forgiveness and stop punishing yourself for the ways you feel inadequate 
  • Make a list of all the things you have achieved and done well
  • Express gratitude
  • Be mindful and focus on the present moments

2. Limit Your Time on Social Media

Or stay off the app altogether. Social media can be a great place to ask for advice and to gain comfort from knowing other mums are going through the same difficulties and challenges as you are. But, it can also be a soul destroying place to spend time, especially if you’re already dealing with mum guilt. We all know social media is filled with the highlights from other people’s lives and, when we’re feeling low, it can be hard to rationalise the images of perfection we’re overloaded with and to accept they aren’t real life. Limiting your time on social media, the way you use it (eg only posting questions in useful, non judgemental Facebook groups rather than mindlessly scrolling infamous mum accounts), or coming off it all together, can help you general mindset.

3. Ask For Help

“It takes a village to raise a child” (African proverb) [link to finding your village post when it’s live]

 

We were never meant to be doing everything ourselves, to be struggling through motherhood feeling overwhelmed and inadequate. We were meant to raise our children surrounded by family and friends supporting us, sharing the load, holding us up when we need it, and holding our hand when we need comfort. 

 

It’s easy to allow mum guilt to stop us from asking for help and to slip further into the cycle of feeling guilty for needing help. However, asking for help enables us to surround ourselves with that village, to develop more meaningful relationships with those around us as they see us in our vulnerable state, and makes it less likely that we’ll feel isolated and lonely.

4. Let Go Of Certain Things

Mum guilt often stems from taking too much on and trying to keep too many plates spinning without letting them fall. Reassessing your tasks, expectations, To Do lists, and all those plates you’re piling up, will enable you to free up some time allowing you in turn to stop, breathe and show yourself some compassion. Start off by looking at the things you can control, finding where you can alleviate the pressure to stop yourself from running over capacity and choosing things to let go of.

5. Take Care of Yourself, Too 

We all know that as soon as we become mums, looking after ourselves slips down the priority list because we’re so focussed on ‘being a mum’ But, taking care of yourself is not only vital for your wellbeing but also beneficial for your child because they need a mum who isn’t burnt out and exhausted. Adopting a regular self care routine has been scientifically proven to reduce many of the symptoms of mum guilt including anxiety, depression, stress, frustration and anger.  Simple daily steps that can help with self care include: drinking enough water, getting outside, sleeping when you can, and taking a few moments to yourself. 

6. Question What Motherhood Looks Like For You

It’s easy to slip into relying on other people’s versions of motherhood to guide us and to let their expectations inform our own. By stopping and questioning what motherhood looks like for you, stripping back all the external influences, and considering what you’re expecting of yourself, you allow yourself to determine whether the motherhood you’re striving for, and feeling guilty for not achieving, is a motherhood you want to be living. Allow yourself to lean into your intuition and to pay attention to what your internal dialogue is telling you in place of the societal and media noise.

7. Celebrate Triumphs And Successes

Dealing with mum guilt makes us focus on what we see as failures and things we’re not doing well enough. In order to counteract this, look for the evidence that contradicts these beliefs and celebrate all the triumphs and successes you have, both as a mum and as a women. Managing to drink a hot cup of tea while baby sleeps? Relax and enjoy it. Talked your toddler down from a screaming tantrum in Sainsburys? Make a note of the words you used that she responded to. Showered and put on clean PJs? Embrace the smell of laundry detergent!

How To Manage Mum Guilt

No matter what you put in place to deal with mum guilt, it’s going to sneak in and take hold at some point. Understanding how you can manage it when you’re in the throes of mum guilt will make the bouts more manageable. It’s also important to remember these feelings are common, there’s nothing wrong with them cropping up and that none of the emotional rollercoaster is your fault

 

  1. Feelings: Recognise that you’re dealing with mum guilt; acknowledge the guilt and the feelings it brings up as well as the unmet need that’s behind those feelings. Think about where in your body you’re feeling it (tight chest, butterflies in your tummy, headache).
  2. Action: Determine what action you took that’s triggered the feeling of mum guilt.
  3. Understanding: Show yourself understanding & compassion, ask yourself what your friends and family would say and do.
  4. Love: Remember the love hormone, oxytocin that was so important throughout pregnancy and birth? It’s role is just as crucial now. Spend time doing things that increase levels of oxytocin and remind yourself you are loved.
  5. Tweak: Take action to do things differently, make tweaks so that next time the situation arises it will play out a little differently.

You’re Doing Great–Don’t Let Mum Guilt Tell You Otherwise

Feeling is not failing. You’re allowed to experience mum guilt, to find motherhood challenging and to feel out of your depth. That doesn’t mean you’re failing. You are the best person to be a mother to your child, and together you will learn how to grow into your roles and the ups and downs that come with the journey.

If you think you’d like help dealing with mum guilt or support in your journey to motherhood, I’d love to chat about how I can support you. You can book a free call here.

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