The first experience of mum guilt often happens before we have even had the baby.
You’re out with friends for a meal and you decide to order a glass of wine. Even if everyone, including the waiter, schools their faces into a perfectly blank expression of non-judgement, you still feel that stab of guilt.
We all know that the current advice is to abstain from the booze altogether. But, I’m going to put my hand up right now and admit that I didn’t abstain with either child. I didn’t go on all-night benders, but I allowed myself one glass every couple of weeks or so.
If we were out, I would allow myself one drink. The current science tells me that was wrong, that even one drink is enough to damage the baby. And so I did feel guilty, with every single sip. Granted this wasn’t enough to stop me indulging, I like to make my own decisions after all, but it was still a nagging feeling at the back of my mind.
The pitfalls of pregnancy continue, with guilt hitting over even minor things like running the vacuum cleaner round and eating a slightly runny egg.
I even felt guilty about telling work I would be going on maternity leave. People referred to it as my “year off” which added to the feelings of worry about leaving people in the lurch. If I had known then what I know now, I would have happily informed people that caring for a baby is not time off, it’s a whole lot of work with utterly shit hours to boot.
Even giving birth is fraught with guilt. Guilt over resorting to pain relief. Guilt over having to undergo a C-section.
Things kick up a gear once the baby has arrived. Now the guilt trips come thick and fast.
There are the people who tut when you inform them you’ve been co-sleeping to cope with the lengthy night feeds. Others will lecture you about giving the odd bottle of formula.
It works both ways, of course. Some people will give you the guilts for your determined pursuit of exclusive breastfeeding, even though it’s giving you sleepless nights and you’re unsure if the baby is getting enough milk.
At a time when you need practical support in getting this extremely tricky skill down, it can be hard to find and when people start pushing you to take an easier route and give up, it’s hard not to feel guilty for your own dogged insistence at carrying on with boob over bottle.
The guilt can strike you at times when you least expect. Like when you’re out for the day with friends and everyone else has brought a perfectly balanced packed lunch for their weaning baby and you have cheese sandwiches and a pack of Pom Bears.
If you have a particularly daring little tot who puts themselves in precarious situations on a daily basis, then those bumps and bruises they constantly pick up are another cause for guilt. And you find yourself telling everyone how they got them, even if they didn’t ask, just to assure people you are not a child abuser, your kid is just a total danger addict.
There are those moments you add up the number of hours the television has been on today so that you could get a few things done around the house and realise with horror you’ve had Peppa on longer than you’ve actually played with your child.
And I could write an entire book about the guilt us mamas experience about returning to work. Guilt that we put on ourselves, and guilt that others place on our shoulders.
You may hear comments like:
Are you really comfortable with your child being raised by strangers?
Won’t you miss your baby?
Do you have to go back to work full-time?
Unfortunately mum guilt hits in all walks of life, at various stages of your baby’s life and no matter what choices you are making as a parent.
In my opinion feeling guilty about something you think is making you a bad parent, actually makes you an amazing parent.
Whenever mum guilt strikes, try to remind yourself to the following:
You are doing your best, and that is more than good enough.
You make the choices that work best for you, which means they are also the best decisions for your baby.
Everyone has an opinion when it comes to child-rearing, but it doesn’t mean they are right. Stick to your guns and don’t feel bad for choosing what you deem to be best for your kids.
Give yourself a break! Parenthood is hard enough, without us beating ourselves up.
So feed however you want to feed, buy the Pom Bears, share a bed with your kid and order that glass of wine. You’re doing a great job!