Since becoming a Mother, not only did you have to transition into a whole new role but it also now seems to be Open Season for anyone and everyone to tell you how you should be doing your job, how you should be parenting and what will happen if you get it wrong forever more! Talk about a load of guilt to contend with as well as the surging hormones, sleepless nights, very long days (you know, caring and keeping alive a little human!) and an often unrecognisable body. Not to mention the hair! Well, I’m here to tell you…
You’re doing good Mama!
This is YOUR journey, YOUR life and YOUR children.
All the advice!!
What worked for Aunt Mabel or your best friend’s sister-in-law’s cousin isn’t necessarily going to be a good fit for you, your baby and your family, which is one of the reasons there are so many parenting styles. Mama’s generally instinctively know what is best for their children. My children need a few extra snuggles in the middle of the night. Some suggest I should leave them in their rooms to cry until they get used to it. But then I wouldn’t be giving them what I feel they need, they would feel let down by one of the people they are supposed to be able to trust more than anything else in the world AND I’d miss out on all the snuggles.
Sure, I’d be able to have a night out and feel ok about letting them sleep over with family knowing they would sleep all night. But I’m in my late 30’s, do I really want to go getting my stiletto’s on, and going round bars feeling OLD with all the 17-year-olds? Been there, done that, and I would much prefer to stay home with a giant bar of chocolate now ☺️
Yes, I’d get more sleep too, but I spent YEARS having long lie-ins before they were born. And I’ll be able to have lots of sleep again when they’re older. Right now, I’m sacrificing my sleep to give them what they need. (Read more about my views on sleep here) So…
Give yourself a break Mama, and go easy on yourself!
There is so much pressure piled on Mama’s now, judgement is readily available in every supermarket aisle. You SHOULD breastfeed, you SHOULDN’T co-sleep, breastfeeding past 6 months is just WRONG, you HAVE to go back to work as soon as your baby is 3 months, 6 months, 9 months old! Even the pressure to keep working until the day you go into labour! Why is it that at no other time women are put under such pressure from supposed ‘friends and family’ until it comes time to have their own children?
I am a nurturing mother, I give LOTS of snuggles, I’m hands on, I play with them, listen and talk all day. Wake when they need me in the night, attend to their needs and basically put my children first.
But I also like to step back and just let them be sometimes. To let my toddlers figure things out and work out problems for themselves. Even though they are only 1 and 2, I feel they are learning valuable life skills such as problem solving, common sense and self-awareness. Not everyone shares this viewpoint, some are quite vocal about it, but that’s ok. They are my children, and I will Mother them how I choose.
But what if I’m wrong? I know most of the advice we are given is genuinely sent with love and care, so why does it make me feel guilty that I’m doing something wrong?
Dr. Brené Brown (New York Times Bestseller list x3) explains that guilt is a focus on behaviour (rather than on self, which is shame), so when we feel guilty, although we don’t feel that we are a bad person, we do feel that what we did is bad. The ‘advice’ we are receiving from well intentioned friends and family is making us feel bad about our actions – guilt.
If you start to feel that you are a bad person due to this ‘advice’ then that emotion is shame. She explains that having large amounts of shame is very highly correlated with depression, aggression, bullying and even suicide among other outcomes, (and is something that, if you were feeling, you should seek some professional help for). Nobody should be made to feel that they are a bad person because of their parenting style!
Guilt however inversely correlates with those things. So if you feel guilty as a mama (or any other areas of your life) embrace it! Be grateful that you feel the guilt, that allows you to know that you do care not only about how you are parenting but also how others perceive you. But remember, feeling guilty still doesn’t mean that you need to take their advice.
I have recently wondered if we can make the guilt we feel work in our favour? Does it make us question the things we do and become better parents by judging ourselves based on others opinions? Or does it only make us feel like we are doing a bad job anyway and do even less?
Doing It All
Women are supposed to do it all, the housework, having a great career, earning money, raising great children and staying fit, healthy and young looking etc, all while wearing a smile and not complaining or asking for help. Without looking weak or vulnerable. But vulnerability is NOT weakness. According to Dr Brené Brown:
Vulnerability is emotional risk, uncertainty and is the most accurate measurement of courage.
So if you are feeling overwhelmed, please open up and ask for help. Not from those that are only there to tell you that you’re doing it wrong, they’re unlikely to be able to help you. But from your tribe! You know, the ones that have been in your shoes, that show up for you and stick by you no matter what.
Although saying that, there is another viewpoint that telling your critics might actually help. Maybe by showing your vulnerability to them, they will realise that what you are doing, you are doing for the very best of intentions, they will hopefully see things from your point of view, cease being judgemental and offer real help (you know, like the laundry or watching your children while you catch up on sleep for an hour, or even giving you some time to pamper yourself or get a massage!)
The Struggle is Real
I believe that Theodore Roosevelt’s speech below reminds us that we are winning if we are trying. We are the one’s in the ‘arena’ (and some days it really does feel like an arena too). We are trying each day to be the best parent we can be, juggling all of our tasks and hoping that we manage to get the most important completed well. Some days we feel like we’ve done a great job. Other days we feel like we have failed miserably. But as long as we are aware, and keep striving for more good days, we are proving ourselves to be great parents.
Criticism v’s Genuine Advice
Brené takes this quote a step further as she says that unless the giver of the ‘advice’ is also in the arena, right now, experiencing the things that you are, then you have every right to say that you are not interested in hearing their criticism. Constructive feedback and advice are always welcome, but telling you that what you’re doing is wrong and how you should be doing it, especially when they have never been in your position, is something you just don’t need.
Let it go!
Let them say what they have to say if you can, and let them move on. Don’t absorb it, don’t feel bad about it, just let it wash over you and float away. Then carry on doing things how you want to do them, how you know they should be done for yourself, your family and your own children.
If you can, tell them that it’s your turn to make the decisions for your child and that you’ll do it your way (as politely as you can muster). I’m not saying you shouldn’t care about what they are saying to you, but just try not to take it onboard as genuine guilt ridden feelings that you’re doing it all wrong, because 9.8/10 – You’re NOT! And then make yourself an awesome hot chocolate, put your feet up, snuggle your babies and be grateful that you have the strength to stand up for your beliefs and do things your way.
Because imagine the alternative! Parenting your children the way everyone else suggests, knowing in your heart it’s not the right way for you or your babies. Imagine living with the regret of not having stood up for yourself and your children and done things your own way. Believing with your soul that had you done it your way, things would be different now, and knowing that it’s too late to change it. That level of guilt to me is unthinkable. At least if I do it my way, I can have no regrets.
Thank you for taking the time to read, and if you’d like to leave a comment, please do, even if you feel a little vulnerable.