Mummy Guilt – The elephant in the room.

Mummy Guilt – The elephant in the room.

I have finally got around to collating all the photos of my little man’s first year to put together in a photographic book, just like I did for his older sister’s first birthday.  For my firstborn’s book, I spent hours editing and choosing high quality pictures we had taken with a proper camera on our various days out, of our NCT group and of our amazing first year bonding and having fun.  I did all this whilst she napped and I had free time on my hands. I produced it at her first birthday party to everyone’s delight. However, my little man is just over three years old now and this has been on my to do list since before he turned one! There have been no hours spent editing, no putting them together just so, instead, I used a brilliant local book designer, who did it all for me.  Easy, yes, but this and the process of looking through the badly focused, quick iPhone snaps of his first year got me thinking about my daily struggle with that elephant in the room – MUMMY GUILT! My mummy guilt started when I first went back to work when our first born was 10 months old.  She would cry every day when I dropped her off at the childminders and that stab in my heart would mar the rest of my day at work.  I got in to a routine of just getting on with it and the guilt just sat there, slowly eating away at me. When I gave birth to baby number 2, I also delivered a huge guilt trip with him.  First born was not amused by baby number 2 as he took Mummy away for 5 nights in hospital and then he only ended up getting to sleep in Mummy and Daddy’s bed didn’t he?! (which he still does most nights but that’s a whole different blog!!). vic-1 You see, with my second baby, I was so much more knowledgeable on all things baby.  I also decided to do things the way I wanted and not the way I was being fed by the media or what others were telling me I should do!  But the guilt still crept in.  Juggling a toddler and baby and trying to give each of them the fair time they deserved with mama was tough for me and anxiety often crept in too. I wondered if I had ruined my amazing relationship with my first born because I had had a second child.  Now, however, I know that those thoughts were ridiculous and there is always enough mama to go around, but with hormones flying around, it was all so overwhelming and the guilt all-consuming, not to mention exhausting. Over the next few years with two kids, guilt greeted me like an old enemy at every turn, literally knocking me for six. I sent the older child to playgroup so I could spend some time with the new baby – cue older child still crying when I left her.  If one child fell over and hurt themselves, they would get mama cuddles and comfort and that meant the other one then feigning an injury and fake crying to get the attention too.  If I bought one a new pair of shoes because they needed them, the tears and tantrums from the other because they haven’t been bought something new! I despaired.  It was like having twins.  Typical child behaviour many may take in their stride, but for an anxious mama, a tough break.  It was constant and exasperating and I absolutely hated feeling so guilty and anxious, I didn’t know how to cope with the persistent feelings of guilt and the age-old mummy questions racing around in my head, ‘Am I good enough?’ ‘Am I giving my children the time they need with me?’. I then took the decision not to return to work after my second maternity period finished for financial reasons and once again felt guilty that I had gone back after our firstborn but not after the second born.  Why was I feeling like this?  It was the best decision I ever made and an important one too, as it was the last year our big girl had before starting school, but I still felt bad about it. We had a great year filled with fun, frolics and laughter with guilt still taking part but not overwhelmingly, because I tried not to let it.  Then the start of school came and with it, the tears, the tiredness and the tantrums.  The feisty fives took hold of the first born whilst the troublesome twos were getting to grips with the beast that is our second born and all sorts of guilt crept in about the tiniest thing. Am I bribing my kids too much? Do I let them have too much screen time? Are they fighting with each other because of something I’ve done? Should I have given them an apple instead of that bar of chocolate?  Am I a bad mother for wanting that glass of wine so badly I rushed them to bed? (come on, we’ve all done it!!!), the list is endless. vic-22 We all have preconceptions of what kind of parent we are going to be before we have kids and when we don’t live up to that, we think we’ve failed.  It’s not true and I felt like a tormented soul for too long and was not desperately happy about it, but over time I have come to realise that Mummy guilt is just something that will always be there.  My own Mum tells me that she still occasionally gets Mummy guilt even though her babies are 42 and 37, so it’s something I must get used to and not let it consume me. So I have a new mantra.  It’s helping with life’s little anxieties but also my major mummy guilt: I DO enough. I HAVE enough. I AM enough. Everything IS going to be ok. I LET GO of worries that drain my energy. (I have children who don’t sleep, I don’t need anything else draining my energy!) I ACCEPT myself, even when I make mistakes. Do you know what? hipping chanting aside, telling myself these things daily has helped me feel more positive generally in life.  The Mummy guilt will always be my elephant in the room, but I am currently beating it into submission with positive thinking and positive actions. Long may it continue! A Guest Blog from Victoria Seyforth About Victoria vic-4 Victoria is a Cheltenham born mother of two who runs Baby Prints Cheltenham, a local business taking casts of babies and children’s hands and feet and works part-time for her husband’s business too, so she is clearly mad.  She is a very big fan of Prosecco, Sauvignon Blanc and cake and harbours a deep hatred for running!  You can learn more about her or keep up to date with the exciting work she does on Facebook at www.facebook.com/babyprintscheltenham .

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