Mum Guilt: there’s no such thing as perfect

Mum Guilt. It is the worst!

There is so much pressure on mums to do everything. To do it perfectly. And to do it yesterday. 

Gone are the days where women are expected to exist in the kitchen. I wholeheartedly celebrate that as one of the modern world’s biggest achievements.

Today, women are not just homemakers and mothers. They are world leaders, athletes, professionals, entrepreneurs, problem-solvers, big thinkers, business owners, humanitarians. 

BUT these educated, passionate women are sadly just as underappreciated, underestimated and undervalued by society as they were in the 1950’s! 

Despite the many accomplishments of the modern day woman – and there are many – women are still expected to be everything to everyone. Yes, we are professional career women. But we are also mothers and wives. That means we are the cook, the cleaner, the laundry service, the waste disposal, the personal assistant, the private tutor, the chauffeur, the hairdresser, the bank, the accountant. 

We are still pulling Halloween costumes out of thin air at the eleventh hour. 

We are still up late making cupcakes for the cake sale at school that we were only told about two hours ago. 

We are up even later finishing the school project left abandoned by its owner at bedtime that is due first thing in the morning. 

Heck, we are the project managers of our lives! Let’s face it, if it isn’t itemised in the ever-present to-do list swirling around in our minds, it ain’t getting done!

To top it all off, now we’re home educators as well (or were at the time of writing).

And STILL we feel guilty. Guilty that we aren’t doing enough. That WE aren’t enough. Instead of celebrating our many wonderful accomplishments on a daily basis, we focus and fret over the things we aren’t doing. We place pressure on ourselves to do more, do it better, do it faster.

Women are extraordinary! No one else could do what we do, ladies. So where does this ridiculous pressure to be perfect even come from?!

Yes, from society. But also from each other.

It is so easy, with the help of social media, to compare ourselves to others and worry that we aren’t doing enough for our kids. Lockdown, I found, really amplified this problem. The guilt I felt when looking at all of the lovely and creative things my friends’ babies were doing every day that mine wasn’t doing was A LOT. Most of these were filtered by the way! I’m sure many of these mums had rejected dozens of imperfect photos before posting one perfect one. The number of women who posted on social media worrying about the same things as me was massive. 

Why do we do that to each other? Why do we only share “perfection”? It isn’t realistic and it isn’t honest. We should be celebrating each other not competing with one another.

Ultimately, we suffer at the hands of this “mum guilt” and then our families suffer indirectly. As I said in a previous blog, you can’t be the best parent you can be if you aren’t practising self-care. As mothers, we don’t prioritise ourselves, our needs, our relationships. 

When we do, we feel guilty! 

We feel guilty for being at work. We feel guilty for not being at work. We feel guilty thinking about the kids while we’re at work. We feel guilty about thinking about work when we’re with the kids. We feel guilty needing some downtime by ourselves. We feel guilty for wishing we could go somewhere nice without the kids. We feel guilty for actually going somewhere nice without the kids. We feel guilty for leaving them with a babysitter to go out on a date night or to the cinema or out for dinner. But then we feel guilty when we should have opted to leave the kids behind to have some quality time with our husband or partner and then didn’t. 

When will it end?!

I say today. Right now.

One of the real joys of working as a Sleep Nanny is supporting the mummies. As a mum myself, I have such strong empathy, compassion and admiration for any woman who is just trying her hardest every day for her family. Uncomplaining (for the most part. I mean, we’re only human!). Supportive. Nurturing. Self-sacrificing. I get such pleasure from talking to the mums I work with about self-care and hearing their relief when they realise they’ve just been given permission – actual permission – to put themselves first a little bit more.

I am going to get down off my soap box at this point and I say that I am the worst of us all! I have just preached about recognising your worth and putting yourself first but I am just as guilty of not doing this. In fact, I am probably worse because when Amelia struggles to nap (which still does happen fairly often), I feel such imposter syndrome! Oh, no! How can I speak to parents about how to get their child to sleep when mine is upstairs not sleeping?! I put such pressure on myself to not just get it right…but to get it perfect.

But children aren’t machines. Infants and toddlers grow at a dizzying pace. Sleep is naturally going to be impacted by developmental leaps, teething, growth spurts, jabs and common childhood illnesses. Just because I am a Sleep Nanny, doesn’t mean I should be adding another layer of pressure to myself. And I shouldn’t put that kind of pressure on Amelia, either. So I really am trying to stop all that and to just “be”. Just enjoy Amelia and praise myself for being enough. The fact that we care so passionately shows what amazing mums we all are. Let’s give ourselves a break. 

Mums, you are amazing. Put down that ironing and go and have a bath. That’s an order!

Becky Sleep Nanny x

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