This post was originally written for Taramon BD back in July 2019.
Mom Guilt is my best friend. The moment the Clearblue test flashed 2-3 weeks pregnant, she descended on my shoulders like an alter ego, taking over the reins to my hitherto perfectly rational brain. At first, she manifested as simple Google searches (will running to catch the bus hurt my baby?). Next, she started chipping away at my self-confidence (should I even be allowed to be in charge of a tiny human?). Fast forward a year, she has rejigged my DNA, turning me into this perpetually harassed ghost of my former self. I reek of guilt from a mile away.
As millennial moms, we are expected to balance a spectacular feat of Spinning Plates on a daily basis. We are stretched thin trying to nurture our children, excel in our careers, manage our household, do the bare minimum of socialising and keep tabs on family and friends. Yet at the end of the day, Mom Guilt has us convinced that we aren’t enough.
Some of you reading this work full-time and probably feel guilty because you send your kids to daycare. And some of you reading this are feeling guilty because you have said goodbyes to hard earned careers to take care of your families. Pinned down by an endless avalanche of emails and/or dishes, you wonder whether this motherhood gig is even survive-able. Good news is, it kinda is – most days, anyway. First and foremost, we need to check that omnipresent, all-consuming, often paralysing Mom Guilt (Code word: Dracarys!). Bring out the whole armada of coping mechanisms and arm ourselves up to our untrimmed eyebrows. I am not going to re-invent the wheel with my guilt management tips – treat them as mere reminders we need to sneak into each other’s lives like iOS updates. Let’s do this!
Create time and space for yourself. Time management is THE golden rule of managing motherhood and, by association, Mom Guilt. A calendar/planner that sets the week out for you, from doctor appointments to client meetings to grocery lists, is absolutely crucial. Prepare and plan as much as possible – I am talking meal preps, setting out work/nursery clothes in advance, and prioritising bed time. It sounds rather basic, but getting the necessities in order will help you stay functional, particularly when the unexpected (vomit, diarrhoea, nappy rash) hits town. Set achievable daily tasks that you can realistically complete. The days will flow better and you will be able to move from one job to the next without feeling pulled in all directions.
Compartmentalise and conquer. Worrying about work when you are cuddling with your baby? Worrying about baby when you are drowning at work? Letting your roles bleed into each other will result in more chaos. Focus on the role at hand and give it your best – I like to term it as ‘compartmentalise and conquer’. Stop wasting precious time worrying about what you could be doing and do what you should be doing. And make the most of it.
Accept that something will always have to give. We expect women to work like they don’t have children and raise children as if they don’t work. We are honed to aspire for a life where we can ‘have it all’. In reality, parenting requires lots of compromise, sacrifice, and daily rearrangement of priorities. Even if we can have it all, we most certainly cant have it all at once.
Ask for help. Get childcare if you can. Whether it means sending your baby to nursery or asking a friend to look after your kids for a few hours, but its absolutely crucial that you actively seek out and take any help you can get.
Learn to say no. I think this comes naturally to most moms once taking care of another human takes centre stage. But having lived decades as people pleasing fools, this habit might be harder to kick for some more than others. Saying no can feel difficult at first but the more you do it, the easier it gets. Once you realise the value of your time, you will be less inclined to spend it on undeserving people.
Don’t let Pinterest Parenting mess with your head. If you see a mom on Instagram rocking her postpartum body, salon-level blowdries, angelic children and an impeccable house, know that this is not her 24/7. Comparing yourself to another mom because she looks more put together than you in that carefully picked square, does more harm than good. Just because she isn’t posting the utter chaos that is her reality 90% of the time, does not mean her life isn’t messier than the most hopeless Brexit negotiations.
Talk About It, Normalize It.Nurture a community of support. As a mom blogger, I spend a lot of time writing about mom guilt, about not having my shit together and winging motherhood almost everyday. It helps so much to know that I am not the only one. This is one place where technology has truly served the mom tribe: providing a virtual village for mothers to connect through their stories, strengths and struggles. More and more women are shunning the mirage of perfection to build a real, relatable world online. Join in!
Cultivate self-love. Your needs matter too. When life feels like an endless cycle of giving more than you have, it can embitter you. So set aside some time to disconnect from everything and do something for yourself. Make yourself happy. If a hot shower is your thing, do it. If going for a little walk in the park is your form of self-care, do it. Just start somewhere. Moms often forget that taking the time out to enjoy their own company makes them happier beings, and result in happier kids. I say this from experience.
Mom guilt, while manageable, isn’t entirely banishable – it’s here to stay. It’s a natural urge that comes from a good place – simply put, it means you care. In fact, it can actually be a good thing. It helps us navigate this crazy world of parenthood by keeping our priorities in focus. As they say, there is no way to be a perfect mother, but a million ways to be a great one. As long as our kids are loved, fed, sheltered and clothed, we are doing an amazing job. Here’s to tweaking the mom guilt Vs self care ratio in our favour. Amen.