So what is this “Mum Guilt” train and why are we all so keen to jump aboard it? This is the question I asked myself back when I sold my Recruitment Agency shares and started out as a Wellness Coach. As I began to create my own working hours on my own terms I realised how demanding the former years had been. I spent my first years as a mother juggling business ownership with motherhood.
When I was with my children I felt like I was letting down my employees. When I was working I felt like I was neglecting my kids. The balance was pretty much impossible to find, especially when I threw in everyone else’s opinion about my life and my choices. As a working mother a state of guilt of some kind became my general state of being.
I woke up one day though and realised that I was choosing to feel guilty. I was choosing to allow other people’s opinions of me to inform my opinions about myself and that I was exhausted! I think we choose to feel guilty because we think it shows the world that we care. If we “feel bad” about not being with our kids we must be a good mother. If we “feel bad” about not working all the time, we must be a great employer/ employee. It’s nonsense and it’s so liberating to realise! I understood that I was choosing my thoughts and the language I used to describe my life and myself. For example, instead of saying “I feel awful about leaving my child in daycare, a better mother would find a better way.” How about choosing to say “My children are safe and loved where they are. I am so grateful to be able to contribute to the world in an inspired way and I give my full attention to them when they are with me.” Think about the words you use to describe yourself to yourself and take the reins. You choose your inner language, it’s up to you what you say.
Conquering our own inner critic is the start and an important foundation for overcoming “Mum Guilt”. After that you’ll be ready to take on the outer demons like “That Mum” at the playground, your mother-in-law and all the other mumsters out there! Those women (and sometimes men) who make us feel bad about ourselves often have some need within themselves to justify their own choices. Once you build a strong guilt free foundation you will find it a great deal easier to smile at the mumsters and dance away. Try to remember you are just a mirror for them. You are showing them what they don’t like within themselves. Perhaps you symbolise the freedom that they always wanted but never gave themselves?
I suggest creating distance between yourself and the “Mum Guilt” typed thoughts. Start to recognise them as “those Mum Guilt thoughts” as they come up more and more frequently. I see my own “Mum Guilt” thoughts and label them with a big flashing pink neon light. Vegas “cheap and nasty” style. It makes me smile and helps me remember to keep on driving onwards and upwards, leaving those types of thoughts behind in the dust. It’s not true you see. I am certainly doing my best and I know I love my kids more than life itself. Sure there is always room for improvement, but isn’t that life? I have changed my language from “I suck at this mum thing and am constantly dropping the balls” to “Dang I am a good juggler and I give my kids my 100% focus when they need me.” I am open to loving advice from others and I can smell criticism a mile away.
When you sense that someone is pinning their “stuff” on you, try to realise that that person is on the ‘Mom Guilt Train’ and feel for them. It’s not your ride but they are still stuck there. Help if you can, or walk away. Try to surround yourself with positive, upbeat people who make you feel great about yourself and happy to be alive. Celebrate being a mum in whatever way that expresses itself uniquely for you. Try to allow others to do the same, no matter where they are in their own journey.
This ride would be a lot softer if we had each other’s backs and didn’t feel the need to defend our desires and decisions regarding our children and ourselves. It would also be a lot softer if we took it a bit easier on ourselves too. A dear friend of mine sent this wonderful link to me and I wanted to share it with all of you.
With love, Nix.
Nix Stephens is a Wellness Coach who supports women in achieving their wellness goals and designing lives that they love. You can find out more about Nix and the work she does at www.nixstephens.com.