I had an interesting conversation (virtual, obviously!) with a fellow mother this week. The more I am blogging, the more I am finding that people I know, used to know, have worked with over the years etc are reaching out to say that they relate to what I am writing about. This is a bit of a catch 22 for me, because obviously I am glad that people are relating to my posts. But it also makes me quite sad that there are mums out there feeling like shit and not really talking to anyone about it, or worse thinking that they are the only one feeling that way.
I have written before about needing a break from being a mum sometimes. In fact, this is something which seems to crop up in lots of my writing (Freudian?!) but after the conversation I had this week it occurred to me that I haven’t even touched on the countless ways in which taking a break can be the most difficult thing to do as a parent.
The life of a parent is perpetually busy and time-starved, so sometimes just finding an hour in a busy week is a challenge that we can’t rise to. Our working lives are changing, and the reality for lots of families now is one parent working during the day while the other works in the evening. And if you have young children, are suffering from lack of sleep, or you’re just plain knackered from mumming the shit out of the day, the last thing you want to be doing in the evening is forcing yourself to have ‘me-time’. Me-time is going to bed.
Let’s be honest about this shall we? When I think of the people I know, my direct friendship circle, people I vaguely see on social media and so on, I know for a fact that a BIG portion of those are single parent families. So the time restraints I think I have – double it! I am seriously in awe of anyone, mum or dad, doing this parenting thing on their own. No-one there to take the reigns for ten minutes when you’re losing your cool and need to hide. No-one there to shut the bedroom door on a Saturday morning and tell the kids mum’s off limits for half an hour. No brief reprieve for the final hour of the day when another adult gets home and captures the kids attention. And the idea of popping out for a kid-less coffee? Forget it.
I want to start of by saying that I know lots of dads who suffer with Dad Guilt, but Mum Guilt is a different beast, let me tell you! Mum Guilt is there to whisper in your ear any time you even contemplate doing something without your little bundles of (not always) joy. Think you might pop out to the shops on a Saturday and leave the kids with their Dad for an hour? Mum Guilt will be there to whisper;
“But the weekend is family time, you know. Now you’re taking family time away.”
Think you might finally get around to arranging that night out with your poor neglected friends? Mum Guilt will be there;
“But what if the kids wake up and want you? What if they’re sobbing their little hearts out to their Dad because they just want a mummy cuddle?”
And that coffee un-chaperoned by children? Go for it, but what will Mum Guilt have to say, I wonder;
“Here you are, sitting around doing nothing, watching the world go by. All the while your little bundles are at home missing you like hell, and all you can think is how nice this is? Shame on you. Come on, that coffee’s basically done, drink up and get yourself home.”
Voices in Our Heads
I have always though of myself as mostly on the sane side of parenthood, mostly immune from the inevitable hormonal insanity that comes with becoming a mother. The more I think about it, though, the more I realise that I have this voice in my head, telling me what to do and what not to do all of the time. And I listen to it!
It doesn’t matter that the father of my children is a perfectly capable (and dare I say, quite good) parent in his own right, the voice in my head will always believe otherwise every time I leave the children with him;
“What if he doesn’t follow the baby’s routine? What if he doesn’t follow that routine to the letter? What carnage will that create?”
None is the answer to that question, so shut up Mum Guilt.
“Well ok, but if he forgets that Amelia likes to have her nose stroked at nap-time otherwise she won’t sleep, and Wills’ likes to have two spoons at lunch time, one to hold and one to eat from? What then?”
Amelia can speak, she will ask for what she wants! And we both know if Wills wants the spoon he will take the damn spoon, so shut up Mum Guilt.
“Alright, fine. How about this – bet he isn’t doing any educational activities with the kids. In fact, I bet the TV is on and they’re still in their pyjamas! And I bet he let them have a biscuit before lunch. What do you reckon to that then?”
It’s only for a couple of hours, it won’t kill them. And it’s the weekend, it’s cool… A treat is ok… Argh! Alright, I’m going home, you win Mum Guilt.
Screw you Mum Guilt.
The More You Ignore Her, The Quieter She Becomes
What I have learned, though, is that it is so important (mainly for my sanity) to make a massive effort to ignore Mum Guilt for a while every now and then – ignore her whispers just for a bit. Because that time is good for me, right for me, and her whispers are totally irrational. The kids are fine, and no matter what Mum Guilt tells me while I’m sipping my coffee, inevitably when I get home it’s perfectly clear that none of them could have cared less that I hadn’t been there for the last two hours! And I have found over time that the more I have forced myself to shut her out, the quieter her voice has become. Or maybe I’m just getting better at ignoring it!
Does Mum Guilt talk to you like this? And do you ever shut her out? I’d love to hear from you.