Mum guilt is the feeling that you aren’t doing enough as a parent. It can also feel like your decisions will mess your kids. It can be short or long-term. Mum (or dad) guilt can feel like a weight on your shoulders that you need to fix immediately. It can spring from comparing yourself to other parents.
The thing about mum guilt is that it is common. It mostly happens among working parents who may feel sad or stressed about not spending enough time with their kids. Parenting isn’t always about provision. It’s an all-around experience where you must consider the quality and logistics of caring for your child.
Causes of mum guilt
Seeing parents engage in so many activities with their children can make you feel you’re not doing enough. This is especially true if your kids spend more screen time keeping them occupied. However, this can be because you feel you’re not living up to your parenting styles.
Studies show that parents experience external pressure to be good fathers or mothers. Parents are “supposed to” be giving and present. Being a parent “should be” the most important part of your identity. Parents with children who are overweight also feel pressure from society and medical professionals. Some doctors can make them feel judged during appointments.
Because of a busy work schedule, some parents may need extra help with child care. Mum guilt can occur because you must leave your kids at daycare or rely on a nanny. Other parents may feel guilty because they want to go to work and feel they shouldn’t feel joyful about their careers. Parents feel like they shouldn’t have choices that don’t centre around their children.
When you aren’t doing a perfect job, it can feel like you’re failing as a parent. This is because you’re placing unrealistic expectations on yourself. When you have a little one relying on you, it’s difficult to maintain rigid control of everything. The frustration resulting from feeling like you can’t control your kids can increase mum guilt.
5. Changing your lifestyle
As a parent, you may need to change your lifestyle to become healthier. Some mums may also want to lose the weight they gained during pregnancy. However, a survey found that parents who want to focus on becoming healthier experience guilt. Physical exercise for adults isn’t an activity that can be shared with children. Prioritising healthy food, which may differ from your kids’ meals, and trying to get enough sleep can feel selfish.
6. Using formula
Some mums prefer or have to use formula rather than breastfeeding. This can be because of illness or preference. Many parents feel guilty about using formula because they feel like it’s a failure on their part not to breastfeed. Parents who exclusively breastfeed feel guilty because they cannot meet other obligations because they have to nurse.
How can you deal with mum guilt?
While mum guilt may be common, it’s not normal. When it is too much, it can affect your mental health. Indulging in negative self-talk and other serious symptoms like chronically scrolling parenting accounts or trying to do everything without help means you must change.
Having low self-esteem, negative coping methods like disordered eating or overconsuming alcohol, anxiety, and insomnia are signs that you need mental health assistance. The negativity stemming from mom guilt will occur, but it doesn’t mean you have to accept it. Here are a few ways you can course correct.
1. Stop focusing on being a “good parent”
Being a “good parent” is an arbitrary goal where the latest parenting trends can make you feel like you’re always falling behind. Focusing on your family’s needs and values should help you get some perspective. Choosing your parenting style based on authentic values can help you make decisions confidently. The mom guilt will reduce when you know you’re making the best choices for your family.
Taking some time for self-care can help alleviate mum guilt. Parenting is one of the toughest jobs in the world, and taking some time off can help rejuvenate you as a parent. It also helps prevent parenting burnout. If you have a busy schedule where you can’t take a weekend away from your family, you can spare some hours each day after work. Sit at a café or in a park and relax. In addition, you can indulge in yoga and meditation in your weekly routine.
3. Seek mental health assistance
Reaching out to a professional therapist can help you navigate mom guilt better. A professional can also help you unlock your intuition and trust your instincts better. Sometimes mum guilt can be useful in showing you whether you’re headed in the wrong direction with your family.
4. Reduce your screen time
Unfollow parenting accounts that make you feel bad about yourself can help you stop comparing. Focus on your family’s joy; this way, you don’t have to keep worrying and changing things to suit an online idea of what it means to be a perfect parent.
5. Surround yourself with positivity
A support system is important for any parent to thrive. Other parents who are understanding, supportive and helpful can help you manage mum guilt. If you have parent friends who also make you feel guilty, get some space from them by muting them on social media and only meeting them where unavoidable. Asking for help from other parents can also help out with mum guilt. Parenting support groups can help you take breaks, organise playdates so you can get time off, and get solutions from more experienced parents.
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