Motherhood and guilt often go hand in hand. Many mums feel guilty if they work outside the home and others feel guilty if they don’t. We can feel guilty when we leave our children with a grandparent or a friend for an hour – how many of us find ourselves soon afterwards standing in a toy shop, choosing a present to ease the guilt? I think guilt is attached to a mother’s umbilical cord!
I’m sure lots of new fathers have fears both similar to some that mums have and different. Perhaps they fear they won’t do the right thing or be a good enough dad. They may feel that mums are more adept than they could be at changing nappies and bathing. Fathers may feel they shouldn’t get involved too much with the baby and sometimes may feel they are not allowed to. Perhaps they find it difficult to bond with the baby. All these issues can make them feel guilty, too.
From the start, I felt guilty that I wasn’t going to be a good enough mother, not as good as the mother in the bed next to me at the hospital. But even now that my children are grown, each day is still a learning curve. Unlike an electrical appliance, children don’t come with rules and instructions attached. Each one is different and will have different patterns of behaviour.
As a toddler, Katie, my eldest, had a terrible cross patch early each evening. It was before Rob would get home from work. It seemed my daughter was trying to rule the roost and I felt guilty that I didn’t have it all under control. Lloyd’s demands as a toddler were really different. It’s so true that no two children are the same.
You want everyone to like your kids, and I wanted people to see them as the perfect children. It was a real pressure I put on myself. When I visited friends I was on tenterhooks all the time. I felt guilty if they misbehaved or had a tantrum – but, believe me, all children do.
You can feel that you are a complete failure as a mum, but it’s important to know that you are not a failure – and you are definitely not alone in how you feel. We all have these feelings and struggle to live up to the standards we set ourselves – but no-one tells us that. Sometimes we don’t know how to deal with the situations we find ourselves in and think we’re getting it all wrong, but it’s simply a learning curve – as it is for everyone else.
When we’re guilty and fearful we often find it difficult to talk to other people because we think we’re the only ones who feel like this; it’s just us. We think we should be able to manage, like everyone else seems to. But we need to realise that we are normal, that all parents share these feelings. It may be a good idea to talk with someone who is older, who has been through it, and can help. Mother and toddlers groups can be a good place to talk and learn from one another.
If you have a partner, it’s good to sit down together as a couple and talk about these things so you can both say how you feel.The fear that we are bad parents comes with a lot of guilt attached, and it’s good to talk about it, to realise we are normal parents struggling with normal issues… and to let that guilt go.
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