Enough with the guilt already
Is guilt an inevitable part of mothering, does it comes with the baby? Maybe so according to a recent survey, where mothers going back to work were found to be twice as likely as fathers to feel guilty; 80%of women worried about leaving their child in the care of others, while just 39% of men felt the same way.
It’s definitely something that I can relate to. I am constantly feeling the pull between my children’s needs, wanting to be more with my partner, earning a living, nourishing myself, wanting to provide the material stuff; while it’s a challenge to balance the different demands, I consistently feel I am not being a good enough mum.
Looking around me, I don’t think I am alone. There’s often the nagging sense ‘could do better’ like a school report from a lazy teacher. Mums somehow feel that whatever we do is not quite good enough. So we might judge ourselves as,
- Being too pushy
- Not being pushy enough
- Not giving our kids the right kind of birthday party/presents
- Not spending enough time with our children
Meanwhile advertising relentlessly pushes the illusion of the ‘perfect family’ into our TV screens and the ghost of the prefect mum nips at our heels.
Back in the real world, a lot of mothering is invisible. With the tidying, washing, ordering, remembering favourite plates and lucky pants (green for Fridays in case you were wondering), the relationship building, eye gazing, understanding and solidity, mothers create the rhythm of the household that binds the family in relative harmony. We tend not to value this work ourselves, and as it tends not to be seen as the amazing relational glue it is. Consequently other people don’t value it either.
This mother’s day I am resolving to ditch the guilt, or more realistically, to notice when I am judging my self. And replace the guilt with ‘good enough’.
Paediatrician and psychoanalyst Donald Winnicott came up with the term ‘good enough mother’ 50 years ago. His theory was that a good enough mother could be relaxed enough to fail, because when the child sees her Mum fail and recover, she can begin to see the reality of our imperfect, limited world. So in the same way that our kids fall over and scrape their knees, cry and recover, being a good mother is also to fail, fall and recover.
Next time I forget the money for the cake bake or get grumpy when I’m trying to squeeze in a work email at 4.30pm, I hope I don’t feel guilty, I hope that I remember I am providing a good model for my children. I am a ‘good enough’ mum.
Please leave a comment below and let me know your own thoughts on Mother’s Day.