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Mum Guilt

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I’m the first to acknowledge that I’ve spent the majority of my life as a perfectionist. An insatiable demand placed over myself, by myself. A desire to be the best, with little room left for my humanness. I never believed I was enough. I could write a whole post on how I have begun to let go of perfectionism in the last few years as a parent and how freeing I’ve found it, but that’s for another day.

This post is for us Mum’s who often don’t feel good enough.

When did ‘good enough’ stop becoming good enough?

As children we welcomed a ‘tick’ on our school work. Little validations in scrawled marks telling us that we met the standard. Good enough used to be good. It used to be enough.

‘Good enough’ has been steam rolled by perfectionism and comparison. Good enough is now substandard. Pah! Who’d want to be good enough when you could be GREAT? We see snapshots of other people’s mothering, and we merge them together into one supposedly attainable ideal of what it is to be a ‘great mum’.

Perhaps it’s the increase in social media. Tiny little Instagram squares feeding this belief that others are mothering better than we are. They are coping better, parenting better. They shout less, cook more, look nicer, never argue in front of the kids, gaze at their phone less, and NEVER ever want to run away and hide in the kitchen with wine.

How come when we compare ourselves to others, we tend to come off worse?

Winnicot was a Psychoanalyst and parenting expert in the 1950’s. He studied thousands of mothers and knew the emotional, physical and mental energy required to raise these small people. He summarised that the way to be a good mother, is to be a ‘good enough’ mother.

Good – acceptable, positive, satisfactory, valuable, worthy, agreeable, admirable

Enough – abundant, ample, sufficient, suitable, acceptable, competent, decent, sufficing

Mother – source, origin, creator

Good enough takes into account our humanness, with all of our failures and our limits. Imperfection becomes positive.

It’s healthy for children to be failed in tolerable ways in the context of relationship with a loving parent. We are teaching them how to survive in an imperfect world that will fail and disappoint. Parenting is a long-haul job, it’s a daily grind. We mother through sickness, highs and lows, sleep deprivation, PMT. We need to have more grace for ourselves.

Guilt fills the void between the mother we think we should be, and the mother we are.

I should be more patient
I shouldn’t be letting my little one watch so much TV
I should be doing more,
giving more,
loving more,
I should be more.
I am not enough

The very fact that we feel this guilt says that we are probably doing a fab job. But perhaps we need to change the language we use.

‘Should’s are aggressively critical, pointing the finger, breeding guilt and stifling action. This language slowly chips away at self-acceptance and worth.

Perhaps the ‘should’s are alerting you to areas for change and tweaks. Turn it into a “hey, let’s grab a book”, an encouragement for action, rather than an an action stifling criticism.

When you offer your children consistent love as a base, no matter what the day holds, or whether sleep deprivation induced impatience leaves you snappy and highly strung (my hand is up here!), or the TV does the babysitting whilst you tear around the house tidying yesterday’s chaos…. you are good enough.

So, beautiful Mum’s. You are enough. You are so enough. It’s unbelievable how enough you are.

x

Two very different love stories

I wrote this on New Years Eve as the calendar switched to 2017. Reading it again now, as life feels far fuller of hope and enjoyment, it breaks my heart that I felt so low and desperate. I wanted to publish it incase it might be helpful for anyone – feel free to share. I want to break the taboo of ‘instant newborn love’ and encourage mothers for whom the love doesn’t flood so freely so quickly. It’s okay. You’re doing an amazing job. One foot in front of the other. This happy pic was taken on C’s first birthday. A time of joy and celebration that I made it through. 

The assumption is often that Mothers experience an instant flood of love for their newborns. An unbreakable, incomparable, maternal bond. Is this always true?  Is this a healthy assumption? Or does it just add pressure and negate the fact that it’s not always about the immediacy of falling in love with your baby, but it can be something that grows and enriches. After I’d had little O, I couldn’t have fathomed it being any other way than an overwhelming sense of adoration. But my second experience was very different.

Baby O

I caught you in my hands and swept you up through the water, hugging you into my chest. Your first cry escaped from your little, gaping, blue mouth. Your scrawny body, your folded limbs and wrinkled skin flooded with a soft pink hue as you took your first, hungry breaths. You rose and fell with the sobs that escaped my exhausted lips. I did it.

I fell into my hospital bed after cold, anaemic toast and sugary, tepid tea. Such an unappealing meal never tasted so divine. Despite being awake for 2 solid days, I ushered sleep away that night. All I wanted to do was to stare in pure wonderment at your sleeping face, bathed in the blue glow of my hospital room. I lay gazing, to the soundtrack of soft footsteps and distant digital beeps. I was high on a ferocious love in which my heart groaned with a sudden, stretching increase in capacity. It would swell every time my eyes met your face, or each time you came to mind. You’d not done a single thing, but you’d won me wholeheartedly.

I loved you immediately, hopelessly, vulnerably. And just when I didn’t believe I could possible love any more, I fell more in love as I discovered you.

Baby C

You entered the world in that very same pool, a mere 20 months later. Instead of winter darkness veiling the windows, summer sunshine danced in slivers through the slatted blinds. Your quiet birth gave way to chaos as people crowded the room, urgently attempting to remove a stubborn placenta. They were successful, and we carried you out, small and so new, a mere 5 hours later. Moments down the road, we arrived home to the welcome of family. We sipped champagne whilst your brother cooed over your blinking little face.

I didn’t devour a night alone with you or gaze upon your face in soft blue light. There were no lazy lie-ins. We didn’t spend your Daddy’s paternity leave recovering from long nights with box-set binges whilst you lay nestled between us on crumpled white sheets.

The first three weeks at home passed, fuelled by adrenaline, and a crash course in learning how to manage two young children. I had extra hands of support, before all help left, back to work and normal life. The usual toe curling, breastfeeding pain of the early days didn’t stop. And your frustration and pain became increasingly evident. Health Visitors, lactation consultants, midwives and GP’s were kind, and well meaning, but none could explain or understand the cause or effect of your constant cries. It took months to label your distress.

I wanted so desperately to love you more, to feel compelled to nuzzle your face and neck. I felt a fierce, lioness protectiveness. You were my young. On one hand I had your chatty, affectionate brother, and on the other, a baby who did little more than scream or claw at my chest. There was little reverie, only survival. I didn’t know you, and it seemed that you didn’t like me.

Your first six months sauntered by. A mixture of troubleshooting, frantic google searches, confusion and second guessing.

And then, one day, the sun broke through the clouds. A rainbow of rich and potent colour threw a prism against a grey and stubborn sky.  Change, world-changing change had been just a breath away and I didn’t know it.

Suddenly, your smiles brightened your face more freely. Your back arching screams ceased You gobbled up hungrily every morsel I put in front of you. I delighted in cooking for you, finding such joy that my efforts pleased you. You started to look at me with a look of love, as if you were finding your comfort in my presence. I started to know you, to enjoy you, to see flickers of character in your generous giggles, and the way you gazed at your brother. I began to learn that you adored your baths, that lots of kisses made you grin a big, old man, toothless grin, and you delight in being naked!

Your brother shocked me with an increased capacity for love, whereas you taught me the incredible lesson of perseverance and alerted me to a strength I never knew I possessed. My love for you has grown, as deep as it has wide. You are my labour of love. We have won each other, and found our way deep into each others hearts.

But, my darling, you were worth every single moment.
And I cant, for love nor money, stop kissing your gorgeous little face.

If you want to contact me for a telephone PND/Anxiety/Depression coaching session, please find more info here. 

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