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PLAYING: How to Overcome ‘Mum Guilt’

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How to Overcome ‘Mum Guilt’

Tired of battling mum guilt? Dealing with mum guilt is something many women experience as the expectations and responsibilities of motherhood are immense. 

7 mins to read May 15, 2024

Being a parent can be overwhelming, and it's common to experience moments of negative thoughts and guilt. There can be lots of triggers, such as not meeting your own expectations, making parenting mistakes, prioritising personal needs, or feeling like you are not doing enough for your child.

There’s no such thing as the perfect mum, remember you are doing your best and it's important to be kind to yourself. Sure, you’ll make plans while pregnant and daydream about what having a baby will be like, but the reality is you can’t be prepared for everything. Every new mum struggles, so don’t feel guilty about not living up to your own expectations. If you have any questions or concerns you are not coping, seek advice from your healthcare professional.


What is ‘mum guilt’?

'Mum guilt' refers to the feeling of guilt or self-doubt experienced by mothers, often triggered by thoughts or actions related to parenting. Mum guilt can stem from societal pressures, comparisons to other parents, or an internal desire to be the perfect mother. It is important to recognise that mum guilt is a normal emotion, but it's essential for mothers to practice self-compassion and understand that they are doing their best for their child's well-being.


What can trigger ‘mum guilt’?

Although mum guilt can come from any specific event or moment in motherhood, certain life changes can trigger ‘mum guilt’, such as:

  1. Work-life balance: Juggling your work and home life is tough for new mums, so it’s common to feel guilty. If looking at daycare options, trust your mum intuition and choose the right one for both you and your baby. Share household chores with your partner, ask for help from family and friends, or consider outsourcing. When you get home, try and enjoy cuddles and bath time rather than running around trying to be superwoman.
  2. Physical exhaustion: Overtiredness can sometimes lead to frustration or yelling. Acknowledge your feelings and take steps to prioritise self-care and rest, so you can approach parenting with a calmer mindset.
  3. Emotional exhaustion: Feeling guilty about not fully enjoying motherhood.
  4. Powerlessness during illness: It's natural to feel powerless when your child is unwell. Focus on providing comfort, love, and seeking appropriate medical care. Remember that illnesses are often beyond your control, and you are doing everything you can to support your child.
  5. Communicate with your partner: Openly discuss your feelings and concerns with your partner. Sharing the parenting challenges and finding solutions together can alleviate guilt and strengthen your support system.
  6. Societal expectations: Feeling unable to meet societal expectations of being a "perfect" mother. Social media triggers can worsen ‘mum guilt’ as it can spur on unhealthy comparisons. A common comparison is body size and image and getting that post-baby body in shape – Instead of being influenced by social media un-realities, check out our Post-Baby Body Checklist.
  7. Feeding decisions: Making decisions about how to feed your baby, including when to seek support and when to introduce solid food.
  8. Enforcing discipline: Setting boundaries can be difficult and can lead to feeling guilty about potentially upsetting your child.


How to overcome feelings of ‘mum guilt’

When it comes to ‘mum guilt’ there’s no easy, fool-proof process on how to stop mum guilt. Remember that no parent is perfect. Be kind to yourself, forgive your mistakes, and learn from them. Trust that you are doing your best and that your love and care are invaluable to your child's well-being. Aim to take some time for yourself regularly. Exercise, spend time with friends and set aside some time for just you and your partner. If you’re feeling rested and less stressed, that makes for a happier, more energised you.

Key tips that can help avoid feelings of ‘mum guilt’:

  • Be aware of your triggers - Take note of situations, thoughts, or actions that tend to trigger feelings of guilt. By recognising these triggers, you can be more proactive in addressing them and reframing your perspective.
  • Cleanse your social media - Consider fine-tuning your social media feed to include positive and supportive accounts that promote realistic portrayals of motherhood. Unfollow accounts that contribute to comparison or feelings of inadequacy.
  • Schedule self-care - Prioritise self-care and schedule regular time for activities that recharge and rejuvenate you. Whether it's taking a bath, reading a book, or going for a walk, carving out dedicated self-care time can help you feel more balanced and fulfilled.
  • Book in time to chat to loved ones - Connect with friends, family, or other parents who can provide understanding, empathy, and support. Regularly scheduling time to chat or meet with loved ones can help alleviate feelings of isolation and provide a space for sharing experiences and seeking advice.
  • Seek support when needed - Remember that it's okay to ask for help. Reach out to your partner, family, or friends for assistance with childcare or household tasks. Consider joining support groups or seeking professional help from therapists or counsellors who specialise in maternal well-being.


Why there is no such thing as ‘good mums’ and ‘bad mums’

In a world where it’s easier than ever to compare ourselves, it’s important to practice self-compassion and to remember that ‘mum guilt’ and what it is to be a ‘good mum’ vs a ‘bad mum’ is subjective. Whilst it can be hard to not feel like you’re doing enough for your children, partner, or job, it’s important to practice self-forgiveness and delegate in the home and office where needed.


Frequently asked questions about ‘mum guilt’

How do I get over my mum guilt?

To overcome mum guilt, it's important to practice self-compassion and shift your mindset. Remind yourself that you are doing your best as a parent. Challenge negative thoughts and replace them with positive affirmations. Seek support from other parents who can relate to your experiences. Prioritise self-care and make time for activities that bring you joy. Set realistic expectations and remember that perfection is unattainable. Focus on the love and care you provide for your child, and trust in your abilities as a parent.


What does mum guilt feel like?

Mum guilt is a complex and personal experience, varying in intensity and triggers for each individual. Characterised by feelings of self-doubt, inadequacy, and remorse related to parenting decisions or actions. It often manifests as a nagging sense of guilt or regret, accompanied by thoughts of not doing enough or not being the "perfect" mother. You often create a constant internal dialogue of self-criticism, accompanied by a desire to meet unrealistic expectations and a fear of judgment from others. It’s important to seek medical advice if these feelings lead to overwhelming sadness, anxiety, or frustration that you can’t control.


Why is mum guilt so hard?

Managing mum guilt can be challenging due to several factors: High expectations to strive for perfection (from yourself and society) leading to feelings of inadequacy when those expectations cannot be met. Emotional attachment (the deep love and emotional investment in one's child can intensify the feelings of guilt). Comparison and judgment (the ability to compare oneself to other seemingly "perfect" mothers can fuel mum guilt).


How common is mum guilt?

Mum guilt is a common experience among most mothers. It is a feeling that can be felt at various stages of motherhood and can be influenced by societal expectations, personal standards, and individual circumstances. Anyone’s experience with mum guilt can vary in intensity and frequency. Seeking support from other parents, practicing self-compassion, and focusing on the positive aspects of parenting can help manage and alleviate mum guilt.


What is the difference between mum guilt and mum shame?

Mum guilt and mum shame are very much related but have slight differences in regard to where the expectation/pressure/judgement is coming from.  Mum guilt is more of an internal feeling of guilt or self-doubt experienced in motherhood. It is a self-imposed feeling they’re not doing enough or making mistakes in parenthood. Mum shame links more to external judgement or criticism directed towards mothers from others, including family, friends, and society. It’s a feeling of being shamed or made to feel inadequate as a mother due to perceived parenting choices or behaviours. Either way, seek support from your healthcare professional to help cope with these feelings.