Every parent reading this probably knows exactly what I'm referring to. For those lucky few who don't, in all likelihood, you're a father.
We live in an era, where society has so many expectations of women. However, once a woman has children, it seems as though every aspect of her life is suddenly "fair game" for the general public to remark on. Whatever happened to not minding other people's business?
Not even two minutes after you've made your Pinterest approved pregnancy announcement, you're bound to feel the weight of responsibility, and social pressure, resting squarely upon your shoulders.
Every possible choice that can be made as a mother, results in some incredible scrutiny! Whether you choose to have a natural birth or a cesarean, there's always someone ready to give you some "side eye" because they think you made a terrible choice.
Alas, this is where mummy guilt makes its graceful entrance. Most mothers that I have spoken to, tend to internalise all of these expectations, and hold themselves to an unrealistic set of standards. But what happens if things don't go according to plan? Well, then we have more things to feel guilty about.
You chose to bottle feed rather than breastfeed? You didn't make your own organic pureed vegetables with just the right balance of flavours? Your child still takes a pacifier? You chose that school for your child? Do you really have your child's best interests at heart?
No matter how hard we try, it's difficult not to focus on our shortcomings (real or imagined). According to a recent poll on BabyCenter, 94% of mothers have experienced mummy guilt. Here are a few tips to stop you beating yourself up.
The mysterious mythical parent.
Step one, understand that there is no such thing as a perfect mother (this rule doesn't apply to your mum, she's flawless). Perfect parents only exist in fairy tales and are more fantastical than unicorns.
Hang up your hammer.
It's time to stop judging yourself. Every mother has her strengths and weaknesses, and most instagram lives are fake. As parents, we all make mistakes, but those mistakes shouldn't define us. Rather than feeling guilty that your picky eater only wants instant noodles, and not the nutritious chicken and veggies that you cooked; focus on the fact that your kid is going to bed well fed.
Mirror mirror on the wall.
While there is no better feeling than taking some credit for the wonderful things your child achieves, not every mistake they make is a reflection of you. Try as we might, children are little sponges that absorb bad habits from others faster than you can say "time out"
que sera sera
Children get sick, heads get bruises, knees get scrapped and accidents happen. All of these things are a normal part of life, and a normal part of childhood. As a mother it is too easy to assume that these things are in some way our fault, or that we could have somehow avoided them with better parenting. The truth of the matter is very different, as Muslims we are taught that all that befalls us has been decreed by Allah (swt).
(It is Allah who creates you and what you do.) [As-Saffat 96]
Guilty, thy name is woman
Humans are multi-faceted beings, I for one, am a mother, wife, and daughter. But somehow, after having children, I feel like the biggest part of my identity is "mummy". One of the main reasons why mummy guilt is such a tangible thing, is because every misstep as a parent, feels like a personal failure. Which really shouldn't be the case. A healthy dose of "perspective" is just the right thing to help when you are busy berating yourself. What looks like a terrible failure today, might seem like nothing tomorrow. Chances are, playing with the hedgehog at the animal farm won't actually give your child salmonella.
Let the little things go
Sometimes motherhood feels like a series of little battles. It's sometimes a good idea to pick your battles. One of the leading causes of mummy guilt is yelling. Choosing not to sweat the little stuff, goes a long way in cutting back on mummy guilt. It doesn't matter if your kids have emptied the toy cupboard for the fifth time today, rather skip this battle and the guilt it comes with, there'll probably be another battle soon enough anyway.
At the end of the day, all that matters is that you love your kids, and they love you too.
Ayesha Parak-Makada currently owns a toddler playgroup in the Musgrave area, called Mums & Cubs.
Her book “Sticky fingers, a sensory play recipe book” is available in the Al Ansaar bookshop. For more information please contact 0837840725.