• Kayla Mastroianni

How to manage 'mum guilt'

'Mum guilt' can be defined as experiencing feelings of doubt, anxiousness and uncertainty related to how women are performing as caregivers to their children.

It is a phenomenon experienced by mothers all around the world and is a result of feeling as though they are not meeting their own or other people's expectations.

In an era of social media, with a seemingly constant stream of Insta-perfect mothering moments, it can feel impossible to live up to these standards.

So what can we do as a community and society to help relieve the strain on mothers, especially now?

For new, working or single mums, there are many things that play into these feelings of guilt and can affect mothers in a number of ways.

And when we add Coronavirus, lock-down and homeschooling into the mix, pandemic into the mix, these feelings can become overwhelming.

During the Corona Pandemic, our way of living has shifted.

Many families have needed to establish new routines and expectations on themselves and each other.

This can cause a lot of stress for all parents, but in particular, for at home and working mothers who often have high expectations placed upon them - both societal and self-imposed.

mum and daughter

Parents feel guilty about a lot of things - letting their children watch too much TV, not being able to get their kids to eat enough vegetables, or not showing them enough attention when they are home.

On the other end of the spectrum, parents may feel guilty for not giving children enough freedom to 'just be kids'.

At work, many mothers feel guilty that they are not with their children during the day, and at the same time often question their commitment to duties in the office.

Stay at home mothers may feel guilt about not contributing financially to the household.

Single mothers often feel all of those emotions rolled into one. It's an emotional balancing act.

And when combined with the restrictions and expectations of a COVID-19 lock-down, those emotions are only amplified.

We know many home-schooling parents feel like they aren’t educating their children "properly" or enabling their children to learn as effectively as they would at school.

That's one of the reasons we created the Our School Online service in the first place. So how can we combat these feelings of guilt?

  1. Practise self-compassion. Being kinder to yourself and allowing yourself to make mistakes - and learn - can be extremely hard, but allows you to forgive yourself when things don’t happen the way you want them to.

  2. Set realistic expectations and goals. It's very likely that your child may not immediately understand a concept, and that is okay! That isn't their, your or anyone else’s fault. Instead of beating yourself up for "teaching it wrong", try to stay calm and explain the concept in a different way.

  3. Monitor what you say to yourself! If you get caught in the trap of negative self-talk it can lead you down a path to poor mental health. This will only affect you negatively and continue the vicious cycle of mum guilt. Try to empathise and sympathise with yourself and include phrases such as “It’s okay that I’m feeling like this”, “I’m doing the best I can” and see your mood shift.

  4. Apologise when you need to but try to understand when it is not warranted. If you let your stress get the best of you and you yell at your child or do something you probably should have avoided, don’t be afraid to apologise to your child in an open and healthy way. Admitting fault where necessary can help model good behaviour for your children. But avoid apologising for things such as dinner taking a little longer than usual or starting class five minutes late. We all have to readjust our expectations - of ourselves and each other - right now.

Mum and Dad preparing dinner

But most importantly - you are a human being. As a person with others depending on you, it's important that you give your body the things you need so that it can perform at an optimal level.

This might mean taking 10 minutes to do your face mask, making sure you eat the right foods, or ensuring you're getting ample rest.

These are basic human necessities that if deprived of, can make you feel like you aren't performing at your best and will impact everything and everyone around you.

If you feel that you're not coping with day-to-day stresses, don’t be afraid to reach out to your local GP, therapist or even a friend for some help or advice on how to better manage your day.

Mum guilt is extremely common and there are so many resources that can help.

The guilt we feel as parent and mothers can sometimes be debilitating, but it is important to remember that these thoughts are generally self-inflicted and often untrue.

By practising proper self-care and adjusting the expectations you place on yourself, home-schooling and day-to-day life in isolation can feel that little bit more manageable.

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