“Being a mum is the best job ever!”
“Breast feeding is the best way to bond with your baby and breast milk is best.”
“I can’t imagine life without my kids in it!”
There are many more of these out there. Everyday phrases spoken by mothers, innocently used but actually quite damaging. Yes, being a mum is great. I mean sure, you love your kids and you want them to do well in everything they do. You wash their clothes, feed them healthy food (mostly) and discipline them. You give them hugs when they feel sad or scared and you clean their knees when they fall off their bike for the hundredth time. You help them tidy away their toys, watch in wonder as they play and laugh when they laugh. All sounds wonderful doesn’t it?
This is the great side of being a mum. Once you start to scratch below the surface, you find there is a whole other world. A secret world that mums try to hide, not only from their children and partners but also from other mums. A world where you stare at the clock, counting down the minutes until the kids go to bed and you can start to feel like yourself again. A world where if you hear ‘no!’, ‘in a minute!’ or ‘I hate you!’ screeched at you one more time, you’re liable to throw all of your precious darlings’ toys out of the window. If you step on another piece of Lego, you may just snap.
You have made it past the obstacles of homework and hair washing to their bedtime. They are tucked up in bed and the house is quiet, all but the sound of wine glugging into the glass and breath slowly exiting you as you start to relax. This is when it begins. The secret guilt that you think only you know about and all other mums don’t feel, because they never think the awful thought that you just did.
‘Why the hell did I ever have kids?’
Oops, it’s out there now. Surely the world will now end. Either that or some busybody will turn up to cart off your kids and tell you how bad a mother you really are. You check Facebook and see post after post of photos of children getting messy doing arts and crafts in their homes, smiling and enjoying time with their mothers. Posts about how great children are and how much better life is with them in it. Of course there are no posts about how little Jimmy makes his mummy want to run away and join the circus or how that new mummy is wondering what the hell she’s doing and is struggling to find the energy just to shower.
Facebook is one of the main contributors to this feeling of guilt but it really shouldn’t be. So what if somebody else had a great day and you didn’t? Of course they aren’t going to post their worst, selfish thoughts online for the world to see and judge, but they do have them. Of course they do, they are human. People would much rather see fun and positive posts on Facebook than hear all of your woes. Photos of happy, smiling children have been in photo albums for years. Who takes a photo of their child having a meltdown or drawing all over the walls? The recent backlash against The Motherhood Challenge on Facebook this week is ridiculous if you ask me. Which you didn’t.
But does this mean we should keep it all hidden, this secret world that we feel so ashamed of? What is it that makes mothers feel so ashamed for having a bad day, a day where the little monsters make you want to rip your own ears off and you didn’t get any of that housework done that you meant to (another thing to feel guilty about). Surely if women spoke about this more, to friends, parents and partners, this feeling of guilt would start to dissipate? Because then we would know that every mum has days like this, some more than others, and that it really is the toughest job in the world.
So I’ll be first. I’ll take one for the team. My name is Sarah and I feel mother guilt. All the time. Guilt that I didn’t spend enough time playing with my kids today. Guilt that I fed them fishfingers for tea because it was quick and easy and guilt that I tidied away their toys myself because I couldn’t face yet another meltdown. I poured myself a large glass of wine and stared at the pile of clean washing yet to be put away and then I sank into an armchair and didn’t get back up until it was time to go to bed. A defeated crumpled up mess feeling worthy of a visit from Nurse Ratched.
The modern day mum is under constant pressure to have it all figured out. To have the perfect work life balance and a perfectly clean and tidy house to go with the perfectly behaved children. Pressure to be a stay at home mum. Pressure to be a working mum. Pressure to breastfeed. Pressure to make more time for friends, especially the childless ones who can’t understand why you just don’t feel up to a night out on the tiles on Friday. All of this pressure builds and it feeds the guilt.
One of the biggest pressures is to not let our children see our weaker moments, but as Pulitzer Prize winning poet and author Alice Walker once said, ‘Yes, Mother. I can see you are flawed. You have not hidden it. This is your greatest gift to me.’
Life as a mum isn’t perfect but then whose life is? (Ignore that nagging voice in your head saying Kate Middleton…) Mums, we owe it to ourselves to start being honest with each other and stop patronising each other with a sugar coated gloss on our own tales of life. Kids are hard work. Adorable but exhausting. It doesn’t matter if you work in an office or your full-time job is looking after your kids and cleaning the house. It doesn’t matter if you breast feed or use formula, after all that is what it was invented for, right? It’s time to stop negatively comparing yourself to others mums, if you can’t then stay off Facebook!
Never feel guilty for needing a break and make sure you get one. Just don’t ask me to babysit.
If you are struggling with tiredness due to your child not sleeping through the night, try the Gro Company Gro-Clock Sleep Trainer. Link below.