Today's guest post is written by Dr Melanie Strang of Well Mum Well Baby - www.wellmumwellbaby.net.au
To feel guilty is a trademark of motherhood, I am sure. To be a mum and not to have suffered feelings of guilt would be something short of a miracle!
Guilt is defined as “a feeling of responsibility or remorse for some offence, crime, wrong, etc., whether real or imagined.” In the case of mums the feeling of guilt is almost always an imagined offence. That is, we mums are so hard on ourselves that we tend to blame and criticise ourselves for anything slightly less than the high and unattainable standards we set for ourselves. This sort of guilt (when we haven’t actually done anything wrong) is termed unhealthy guilt.
Unhealthy guilt is often another feeling in disguise. It is worth asking yourself “what am I angry/sad/upset/regretful about?” during times when you are plagued with guilt.
Let me give you an example of this: A mum feels really guilty when she drops her 2 year old off at childcare one day a week. The other 6 days she stays home with her child; she is a loving and attentive mum, yet she feels incredible guilt for going to work and having a few hours to herself. She has done nothing wrong so why does she feel so guilty?
After much counselling she realise she is angry that her own mother worked full time for as long as she could remember and was never there for her when she came home from school- she was looked after mainly by nannies. This mum is angry at her own mother’s lack of presence in her past which led to her feeling guilty in the present. Once the mum in this anecdote became aware of her anger, the guilt melted away and she was able to drop her child at childcare without being plagued with the feeling she was doing something wrong.
Guilt is often related to expectations from our family of origin. Rigid and unrealistic expectations such as expecting ourselves to have immaculate homes whilst looking after young babies or pressure from extended families to be present at times when our bubs are napping can turn on the guilt tap, no end.
It’s really a matter of being aware of where the guilt comes from and being a bit easier on ourselves, reminding ourselves that “good enough” is a lot easier to live with than perfection.
Dr Strang is the author of Mother Love: Embracing the ups and downs of being a new parent. It can be purchased from http://www.wellmumwellbaby.net.au/the-book.php