Mummy Guilt

Why is it so hard for mums to give ourselves permission to take time off? We put everyone else ahead of ourselves and when we do stop and do something for ourselves we feel guilty for it. As I sit on the plane on my way interstate for a friend’s birthday, the second time I have gone away in the five years since I’ve had my son, I feel guilty. Guilty that it’s the weekend and I’m not home to spend it with my son and husband. Sure I know he is in great hands and that it will be great for them to have a boy’s weekend and I know he will be fine, but it’s that part of being a mum that we automatically get mummy guilt. My husband told me not to be silly, that I am allowed time to myself and to do other things on my own but yet there’s a pit in my stomach and an ache in my heart.

As I sat at school pick up today and discussed this very topic with a friend we both shared that overwhelming sense of guilt we feel pretty much all the time. Like we are never doing enough for everyone, the fact our kids want more of us and more time with us, the fact our workplaces want us to work full-time, that we don’t get enough time with our husbands and families. It feels like we can never make everyone happy and no matter which way we turn we are always letting someone down. That constant guilt and stress is exhausting.

Pretty much every mum feels like that but throw in chronic illness for good measure and how do we cope? I mean it’s hard enough doing everything and being spread thin and then add in sickness and BAM there’s nothing left to give. Nothing left for ourselves except guilt and stress.

I recently returned to work after having my 6th surgery in 12 months, the last required 6 weeks bed rest and a slow return to work. I had a conversation with my boss yesterday and shared the constant guilt I feel that I am never doing enough for everyone so I spread myself so thin to give 100% to everyone, which is fine for a day or two until I crash and burn, at which point I can give nothing. So I must be better at self-moderating and aim for what is realistic, that might be 80% all the time until I am better, and 80% all the time is better than the ups and downs that inevitably follow from pushing too hard.

But how do we do this? How do we self-moderate? Well for me it’s one simple technique. Let me share it with you…

If a friend were doing the same thing, going through the same situation and they asked you for advice what would you tell them? Hear that? That advice you gave them saying it’s ok to make yourself a priority and take time for yourself? To look after yourself and make sure you don’t push too hard? Yep, I hear it, and then I think to myself if my friends were to tell me that right now then I should listen and I should give myself that same advice.

Do you know how I know this works? Because a good friend of mine who suffers from the same conditions reminds me of this constantly. When I am beating myself up she says to me, now what would you tell me if I was saying the same thing right now? That’s my prompt to check myself.

Now I won’t say I have learnt to do this every time and never fail, but I do it enough that it’s becoming a habit and when I forget and push too much I change the inner voice I hear to be reassuring and nurturing and say to myself, that’s ok, you know what you need to do and we can try again tomorrow.

And isn’t that a great example to set for our kids? That you know what? Mummy fails sometimes and doesn’t always get things right but the important thing is trying again tomorrow. That as long as each day we try to be a better version of ourselves then that is enough, and we are enough. So give yourself a giant pat on the back because you’re doing it, you’re giving it your all, you’re trying, and you’re not giving up. Well done mum, you’re doing great!

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