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Drop the guilt trip of not being a good enough mum

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Aaargh mothers guilt! What to do about this constant companion that seems to grow alongside pregnancy and never leave home! Some people are warned about it and others just come to realise that it seems to be part and parcel of being a mum, particularly a working mum. Well the good news is that it is now being talked about enough for it to be recognised as something that is collectively inherent in the role of motherhood, rather than a personal truth about individual mums.Infact, many women are finding ways of saying no to the resulting inadequacies that come about when you listen too much to this particular shoulder demon.

Ask yourself honestly. Did you choose to have children so that you could berate yourself further about your shortcomings or did you choose to have them to increase the levels of joy in your life? If it’s the latter then it is time to reclaim your right to enjoy yourself and your family and say goodbye to endless guilt tripping and negative spiralling. The following tips will help you shift some patterns.

Be accepting

When combining motherhood and career some trade-off is inevitable. To some extent, sacrifices, compromises and trades offs will feature as parts of your life. What will help you to accept this is being crystal clear about why you have accepted them in the first place. Make yourself a list of reasons why you work, money, satisfaction, sanity, personal development and so on. These will give you a helpful reminder at times that you have to make the hard choice to miss a school play or to ask someone else to take the brunt of the organisation work for your five year olds party. See if you can authentically say that although you are not always as involved with all your children’s activities as other mums, you are convinced that overall, they are better off because either you bring a certain amount of money home or obtain satisfaction from a successful career.

Don’t beat yourself up

guilt trip mumNext tip is to watch the ‘should’s’ that you lay on yourself. These sentences that have ‘should’ in them are simply an expression of social expectations, family pressures and unspoken rules rather than personal truths. In the last decade, there has been much attention focussed on parents and this area of life has become steeped in pressure and judgement with endless ‘expert’ advice. Check in with yourself very honestly and ask if you really believe that your children need you to be present every time they play sport or come home from school. Separate out your beliefs based on experience, from the beliefs that you’ve taken in through pressure.

Take heed from Donald Winnicott; the great 19th Century child psychologist who coined the phrase ‘good enough mother‘. He worked with thousands of mothers and came to see that being a good mother was really through being a good enough one. This takes into account inner conflicts of different pulls between child and self, ambivalences of wanting to care and wanting space, feeling dedicated and feeling resentful, in other words a normal human being!

Don’t criticise

Refuse to criticise other mothers and refuse to listen to other mothers criticising. Focus on doing the best you can for you and yours and let go of comparing and competing. Instead,  remembering that there is no one right way. This also applies to communicating with your kids, if they try to guilt trip you into being more that feels possible, let them know that you love them and that you are still going to stick with your decisions.

Quality time

Finally make sure that you create some time where you are completely present with your children. These moments build your relationship – they can be simple, like reading together, playing a game or having a chat. As long as your kids experience you being there fully at times like these they will internalise good enough parenting from you.

 

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About Jenny Smith

About Jenny Smith

Jenny Smith is a freelance writer and facilitator specialising in mental health, well-being and ecotherapy. She writes for National Mind and The Working Parent and facilitates training in the Work that Reconnects and Ecotherapy. She is inspired by nature, gardening, love and non-duality teachings

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