Reasons to be guilty: 1, 2…..bloody millions!

Before I was pregnant, someone raised the idea of ‘mummy guilt’ in a kind of ‘you just wait’ type way. I have to admit, I was blissfully ignorant of the concept.

Now, I wish I still was, but in fact I seem to spend my whole, entire life feeling guilty about something or another.

My mummy guilt actually started before I was a mummy. I found out we were expecting (I am never sure if its incredibly irritating to say ‘we were pregnant’ or if it shows unity? Mr Teapot certainly got off lightly if we shared responsibility. From now on I’ll go with ‘I’). I found out I was pregnant on a Thursday. We had returned from our belated honeymoon the week before, been at a wedding on the Friday & went to a 30th birthday party on the Saturday. Both of these occasions involved an awful lot of alcohol (at the latter, we were drinking home made cocktails at 4 in the morning).

When I wee’d on the stick & two lines came up, my thoughts were as follows:
1) Wow, wow, wow, wow, wow! Shit; this changes everything.
2) I’ve pickled the child.

Now, I didn’t go on to have the best of pregnancies & in the far reaches of my brain, I couldn’t help but wonder if the two were in some way
connected.

At 36 weeks, we had a scan that showed Little Teapot hadn’t grown as much as hoped & so the consultant said they wanted to get him out at 37 weeks. He was also breech & they decided it would be too risky to try to turn him around, so I was booked in for a caesarian. Queue mummy guilt on a huge level that I hadn’t been able to grow him properly & now wouldn’t be able to experience a ‘proper’ birth. I also couldn’t pick him up for a while after the section, so I couldn’t do the simplest task of soothing him, without someone being there to help, which was torture if I had to listen to him cry until someone appeared. Once Little Teapot was here, I only got milk one side & Little Teapot lost too much of his weight, so we started to mix feed. Another reason to feel guilty: I couldn’t grow him inside of me & now I bloody well couldn’t outside of me either. Mr Teapot was brilliant throughout & – thankfully – we’d worked his paternity & annual leave so that he had a month off with us in total & I can honestly say that on the day we realised he would have gone back to work, had he only had the ‘standard 2 weeks, I think I would have cried from when he left to the moment he walked back in. I almost did after a month….

As Little Teapot grew, the guilt quietened for a while (or maybe I just didn’t notice it, as I was so knackered?!) as I marvelled at this little creature & how he changed every day, greedily watching him as he slept as I couldn’t get enough of him. This led to my next feeling of mummy guilt:

I never managed to ‘sleep while baby sleeps’ during maternity leave, as everyone tells you to, because I’d look around our little bomb-site & realise I needed to at least make sure it was hygenic to live in, if nothing else.

In the back of my mind, I had a vision of Mr Teapot arriving home from work to a gleaming house, a delicious dinner on the table, a washed, dressed & blow-dried wife (who had miraculously slimmed-down to a couple of stone lighter than her pre-pregnancy weight by doing the Insanity workout [or it’s 2 year-ago equivalent] while the baby napped) & a contented little baby cooing gorgeously for his daddy. The reality was that he quite often had the baby shoved in his face by this crazy-haired woman, still in her pyjamas before he’d put his bag down & then either ended up with something toast-based for tea, or something burnt, which I’d put in hours before, & forgotten to check on, as I’d been sicked on, poo’d over or similar. I actually had a bit of a melt down around this point & went to the GP, who said I was suffering from what he called ‘Super Woman Syndrome’ & I needed to slow down & accept that I couldn’t be all things to all people or I would combust (I don’t know if that’s medically possible, but you can see what he meant…).

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As we approached weaning, I felt guilty that I had no bloody clue what I was supposed to be doing – surely now I was mum, I should innately know these things?!

I won’t even go in to how horrendously horrible it felt to leave him at nursery, aged just 9 months – he was still a baby & here I was ‘swanning back to work’ & leaving him with barely-out-of-their-teens strangers. How would they know what he likes & doesn’t like (despite the 4 sides of A4, I filled in detailing exactly that – I must’ve been a bloody nightmare for them!). I literally felt like I had left one of my arms in that building with all the smiley photos on the wall (I am now sure they are more for the desolate mummies than the children).

I’m sure by now you’ve got the idea & I won’t bore you with every incidence of mummy guilt from Little Teapot’s birth until the present day, as there aren’t enough hours in the day, but it doesn’t seem to be getting any easier to shove the mummy guilt aside – the focus just shifts. An example, here are some of the things I have had mummy guilt over in the last few weeks:

That I am at work:
We had a questionnaire sent through for Lilttle Teapot’s 2 & a half year check, which sent me into a spin, as I didn’t know if he could or couldn’t do some of the things on there, as I didn’t feel like I see him enough to be qualified to answer. (I ended up double-checking my answers with my parents, who have him 2 days a week & the child-minder). My mother-in-law genuinely thinks that I went back to work full-time out of choice, as I am such a career girl. The truth is, I’d give anything to be at home all day with Little Teapot & struggle not to feel envious of friends who can afford this luxury.
Little Teapot will pick up a remote control, iPod, mobile phone or similar & say ‘Hello Mummy’ in to it, as this is quite often how we say goodnight if I am away with work. This breaks my heart.

Despite me & Mr Teapot both working full time, I feel guilty that we cannot offer Little Teapot any sort of financial security, or the lives we grew up with. I grew up in a big house, with plenty of outside space in a lovely rural village & so did Mr Teapot. We live in a 3 bed semi with a 10ft square garden in a place my dad affectionately (I think) calls ‘The Ghetto’. There is no option of us moving towards the areas with better schools, as we have masses of credit card debt & loans from before he was born, much less him being privately educated, as I was from 15-18. I feel guilty about our financial choices – made years ago – maybe meaning that we can’t send him to university when the time comes. We are unable to consider giving him a brother or sister, purely because we could not afford 2 lots of childcare costs. This frustrates me, as I don’t feel like other members of society have to make this choice, but that’s a discussion for another day…

I don’t know how to get him to eat:
He seems to eat everything given to him at the child-minders, but when we feed the same to him, he’s having none of it!
His favourite meal is fish fingers. I really hoped it would be something more nutritious & vegetable-based, but sadly not. In fact, he was offered fish recently, as we had fish & chips (without batter) & said ‘That’s not fish, I want that fish’ – pointing to the fish with the batter still on. Fail.

I find him exhausting:
Now, don’t get me wrong, I love every minute I spend with him, but he is so demanding of time & needs constant entertaining & I often find going back to work is a rest, not to mention being able to have a wee without an audience & being able to actually reason with colleagues without them bursting in to tears! (Then, of course, I feel double guilt for even thinking such a thing!).

I don’t know how to get him to behave:
Whilst on holiday we have been out to eat a few times & I become hyper-aware that the other people dining in a restaurant have not come to hear Little Teapot doing his spontaneous rendition of Old MacDonald, at the top of his voice every ten minutes (which started off very cute, but is now getting less so…) & I also feel guilt that we are out, past bedtime & expecting him to behave. He is tired, so then gets fractious.

That I am the type of parent who blames tiredness for bad behaviour. Even worse, I have been known to utter the phrase ‘over-tired’ & then feel an overwhelming urge to slap myself.

That I have turned in to the mother I thought I’d never be & hand him the iPhone to distract him & keep him entertained in the situations described above.

Little Teapot has started hitting me occasionally & I can’t help but wonder if it’s because I abandon him every day to go to work & often overnight. Even when I am not working away, I can go for days without seeing him for more than a few minutes, if I get up before he’s awake & get home after bedtime. I hate this.

Our cleanliness (or perceived lack of it):
As I mentioned, I am realising I cannot be all things to all people & one area that suffers is the tidiness of our house. It’s not un-livably unclean, but it can – on occasion – be messy. This is a lose:lose situation, as if I spend my precious weekend cleaning I feel guilty that it’s time I should have spent with Little Teapot & if I don’t, I look around the house & realise it looks such a mess, I don’t know where to start! Our wedding present to each other was a cleaner & how I bloody miss her now we can’t afford her!

I do worry that perhaps I haven’t enjoyed Little Teapot’s life so far as much as I should have, as I’ve been constant worrying, second-guessing myself & feeling guilty for things I have or haven’t done.

We recently had a session on time management & stress at work & one thing I realised is that, as a perfectionist, I set impossibly high standards for myself & I feel like I have failed when I fall short. I am trying – a little at a time – to tell myself that my best is all I can hope for. Things don’t have to be perfect, as long as I have done my best – and do you know, I have done the best I can to be a mummy to Little Teapot & I actually think he’s pretty perfect (although I am massively biased, obvs), so maybe I should start enjoying this time, as I fear it will pass all too quickly.

I actually haven’t discussed this with anyone, as all of the other mummies I know seem to ‘just get on with things’, but I wonder if they feel like this behind closed doors, or if I am truly alone?

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29 thoughts on “Reasons to be guilty: 1, 2…..bloody millions!

  1. Great post. I think there are lots of Mummys out there that feel exactly as you do even if they don’t let on!!

  2. Another great blog that hits the honesty nail right on the head. Your honesty is refreshing.

    I know your final request / question is really aimed at other mummies but if its any consolation a lot of this rings true to me too, and also I suspect other working fathers (certainly my peer group)

    • Thank you Secret Father. Not that I’d want anyone else to feel like this, but it’s actually reassuring to know that others do too & I must say, I don’t think I thought there was ‘Daddy guilt’ so that’s got me thinking.

  3. I love this! We are kindred spirits. I feel the same, even now having had 2. Doing your best is the best you can do. The thing to do is to remember is not to compare yourself to anyone else. They feel the same way…they just won’t say it out loud!

  4. Wow someone who blogs about being a parent and is honest. Your exactly right every day I make a decision involving my son I wonder if its right. The same things pop into my head when I keep him out late, leave him or carry on with house work instead of playing pirates.

  5. You are right. It will pass way too quickly. Try to stop beating yourself up. Nobody is perfect. Perfect is unrealistic and will teach your little boy that nothing is ever good enough. You’ve thought hard about what you feel guilty about. Now try to think of what if anything you realistically want to change.
    The only thing that strikes me from what you outline as a priority, is your relationship with your little one. Do you have some holiday time that you can spend together, doing normal things together e.g. at home, in the park? Try to get to know him again. Let him really get to know you. Do things that you both enjoy, do things that make you laugh together.
    Don’t let guilt turn you into a doormat. Show him how much you love and respect him even when you are not there. Reassure him of that even if he hits you, but also tell him that he must not do that because it isn’t kind to mummy.

    Enjoy your messy family home while it lasts. There will be dozens of years with a tidy, but empty house in the future.

    Do something constructive that makes you feel good about being the good mum that I’m sure you are. Recognise the good things and make a few little changes where you can and where it matters. Then give yourself a huge well done and stop looking backwards.

    Good luck Mrs Teapot!

    • Sorry, forgot to actually answer the question – GOD YES! I do feel like this behind closed doors, and I’m trying really hard to keep the doors open a bit too. I’ve struggled recently because my toddler’s getting really wilful and I’m pregnant (and therefore exhausted) and holding down two jobs. I thought I was going to lose the plot so I wrote a bit post about how I was feeling in the hopes that other women might tell me they understood and that it was how it worked, but that it would be okay. Unfortunately they didn’t! So here I am telling you that you’re definitely not alone, even if people don’t always say it.

  6. Nowhere near alone. This post almost reduced me to tears; I kept agreeing with everything. People either think I’m a crazy career woman (I’m not, but if I have to work because of my stupidly accumulated debts, then I’m going to do it properly). Ahhh, I’m just so relieved to not be the only one πŸ™‚

  7. My phone is malfunctioning, so my sentiments may be echoed by myself; but I couldn’t relate more to this post if I tried. I am the working mama who people think has gone career crazy; no, I went credit card crazy before my little man was born and now he is paying the price. Epic mama guilt. Thank you for writing this post!

  8. You are certainly not alone! I am a SAHM to two and sometimes I feel guilty about not working bc we can’t afford anything but if I did work all the money would go to daycare anyway. All the things you feel we all feel and if people tell you differently they are liars. Honestly cut yourself a break mama. You are doing a great job and just sounds like you need to relax and enjoy some of it more often. Xx.

  9. I nodded my head at so much of this. It’s frustrating that so many women have superwomen syndrome because we don’t talk to each other about how bloody hard it is! As a perfectionist I’m trying reeeeally hard to let things go and not let certain aspects of my life (my unhoovered stairs, my clogged inbox) bother me. But that’s nigh on impossible πŸ˜‰

    Keep up the honesty. I love it x

  10. Oh my lord,don’t get me started on the guilt. I’ve find it helps if you just accept the constant guilt soundtrack the same way as you accept, say, the weather. When you realise that you’ll feel guilty WHATEVER you do, it gets a bit easier I think. :))

  11. I don’t know where to start, it is like you have emptied my brain and put it on paper and then made it really funny and enjoyable to read as well. I think probably best thing is to give you a big hug – virtually. I love your GP, btw: ‘you are suffering from Superwoman syndrome’. But yes, we all feel like this. We go shopping around for things to feel guilty about. And if it’s any consolation, I work from home and so I am with my children 24-7, and I still panicked at my son’s 2 year check because I had no idea whether he “knew he was a boy” and other crazy things they asked me.

  12. Oh wow,my favourite hated subject…mummy guilt!High 5 sister,Im with you all the way!I HATE mummy guilt and IN suffer with it terribly,horrible stuff aint it.

  13. You certainly are not alone! even us mums at home the same insecurities! mine tend to be, why do i not take him to toddler groups 9 times a week and guilt over the fact i cant cook so he food choice tend to be the same 10 on repeat! xx

  14. You are definitely not alone! Those other mum’s that are just ‘getting on with it’ are probably feeling all the same ups and downs you are. I have been feeling mother’s guilt for the past 4 1/2 years and it certainly doesn’t seem to be going anywhere! You do what you have to do and what makes you and Little Teapot happy. No on is perfect. xx

  15. You are definitely not alone πŸ™‚ I’m with you, right from pickling the child…! I’ve done the working thing, and now I’m doing the stay at home thing, and the one thing that remains the same is the guilt that I’m not doing it as well as I should. We do the best we can – and that’s all we can do. The fact that you worry means you’re doing it right πŸ™‚ #PoCoLo

  16. really interesting post, you are most certainly not alone! even though i spend most of my time with my daughter i still feel guilty when i leave her with a carer for a few hours, so i don’t think you can win on that one. i also feel the financial security-guilt – like you i grew up in a big home with a garden, dog, pool, etc and was privately-education and instead we live in quite a small 2-bed flat in London and won’t be able to afford private school. or maybe we will if we only have one child! still, i think it’s a mummy thing, because i’m pretty certain my daughter loves her life and i’m sure your son does do πŸ™‚

  17. I think an awful lot of mums feel like this in some way or another! You are certainly not alone. I think the difference is you are honest about it!! It sounds to me like you are a very good mummy who does her very best for her little one! Don’t be too hard on yourself (that’s something I’m trying to learn!!) xxxx
    #PoCoLo

  18. What a truly wonderful post, a really lovely read and you’re definitely not alone. We’ve all been there! I spent a year working full-time in London after maternity leave and the guilt was horrendous. I set up my own business 3 months ago so I could see more of my toddler πŸ™‚

    • Thank you Charly. I dream of being able to set up a business that fits around Little T (actually, I dream about winning the lottery, but the former is a teensy bit more realistic…) but I imagine that’s still incredibly hard work & requires discipline that I’m not sure I have. I also don’t have the inspiration to know what I would do yet, but maybe it’ll come to me?

  19. Yes yes yes! I blame work and education. All our lives, we’ve been taking exams, being appraised at work etc etc. As a mum, the only feedback is often a child that hits us (mine do too and I’m a SAHM, so I’m sure it’s nothing to do with you going to work…). It’s difficult to know that we’re doing the right things, but it does seem as though you’re on the right tracks, especially because you’re being so thoughtful about this. Try and give yourself a break if you can – although, if you’re like me and don’t quite know what this means, don’t do what I do and beat yourself up about that too!

    • Ah Nell, that sounds so familiar. I feel like I’m constantly on such high alert that I’ve forgotten how to switch off. I often think the biggest ‘treat’ of going away with work is that I can have a glass of wine/cuppa in the bath & read a magazine……then – you guessed it – feel guilty for actually looking forward to this!

  20. You are in much bigger a club than you realise- it’s just sometimes lots of these ‘perfect or nearly-so moms’ are not very transparent. There are so many things you’ve mentioned that resonate with me (the whole early birth, Caesarean, not being able to feed etc). As for the house thingy- there are so many good reasons not to have a perfect house- (and they’re not scientific!!). Keep being real- I reckon good mothers understand their weaknesses and try & work on them (or at least one at a time!!).

    • Thank you Keren. I am indeed working on them one at a time – starting with trying to be a little less worried! I will try to look at the dust in my house & think of the good it will do for Little T’s immune system!

  21. I went to a talk by Davina McCall a couple of years ago – she said that she always felt guilty as a Mum then my Mum said that you know you are doing a good job as a parent because you feel guilty! She should know, she had 7! Thank you for linking up to PoCoLo and for all your support xx

    • Oh my goodness, Victoria – one of 7?! I bet that made for interesting family time!! I think that’s probably true about feeling guilty meaning I’m doing a good job, but I am in danger of it sometimes overwhelming me!

  22. My Little Guy is younger than yours, just eight months, but I think if you spoke to your “real life” Mummy friends you’d find a lot of them feel the same. I had a bit of a breakdown a couple of weeks ago in front of my antenatal group and was surprised when so many of them said they felt/did/do the same. Even the two, what I consider to be the most capable ones.

    I really believe that a lot of us suffer behind closed doors and just put a capable face on it. I was gobsmacked by the fact that the vast majority of our group seemed to think I had it a great grip on things and frequently wished they were doing as well as I was!

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