I don’t do guilt. It’s a gift I have, like juggling and being able to fit 14 unbroken cheezels in my mouth at once (seriously, it still burns my brother that I kicked his arse in The Great Cheezel Challenge of 1984). Do you suffer from the whole working mother guilt thing? (I can’t call it “mummy guilt” because it just sounds so fucking patronising and makes me want to cough like I have a fur ball.)
Here’s the way I see guilt that’s helped me develop my super power: it’s a feeling that gives us an opportunity to revisit decisions we’ve made and check that they’re right for us.
If you feel bad about working long hours and getting your kids to make you a three course meal every week night, guilt allows you to look at that scenario and decide whether you are going to change it.
Will you pare back to three days so you can boil a pot of spaghetti occasionally? Will you work shorter days and go watch them play rugby/chess/pickleball in the afternoon? Will you hire a babysitter who can give them one-on-one attention at home when you’re super busy?
If the answer to each of those questions is ‘no’, then the guilt serves absolutely no purpose. Ditch it. And this applies whether you would prefer to spend your days at home doing paddle pop stick craft projects, or you actually love your job and can’t think of anything worse than being a stay at home mum.*
Your guilt is serving no purpose except to make you feel bad. Why let it?
The only remaining use for your guilt is to leverage sympathy from others via a horrid trap we can fall into, that we like to call martyr syndrome.
YOU “Oh, I wish I could spend more time with my kids. I hate the idea of them being brought up by strangers.”
ENABLING FRIEND “Oh, you shouldn’t! You’re doing the best you can.”
YOU “I want to do more.”
ENABLING FRIEND: “You’re a great mum, stop beating yourself up.”
YOU *Glow with shallow vindication*
This may give you a temporary boost, but if you’re looking externally for confirmation that you’re a good parent, it will always be fleeting and shallow, and you’ll be forever needing others to tell you that you’re not terrible.
There are loads of messages in the media about what constitutes a good parent (many of which are trying to sell us something to alleviate said guilt), but let me tell you what I think. I think if you love your kids, you are doing what you think is right, and your kids are happy most of the time, you’re probably an awesome parent.
Who cares if that mum from school bakes cupcakes from scratch or volunteers to run all the reading groups while convening the tuckshop and running the tombola stand at the school fete? I think we could all do well from focusing on the great things we do with and for our kids, rather than those things that other parents are doing that we’re not.
I’m teaching my kids that career is important equally for men and women, that if they pursue their goals with fervour they can achieve anything, that parents are people too, and that sarcasm is an effective communication tool.
What great things are you teaching your kids?
* I know stay at home mums don’t all make paddle pop stick craft all day. But they can if they want to – that’s the point.
Yay for hosting the Rewind! And great post. I wallow in guilt. And I don’t really talk about it. Perhaps I should be seeking that vindication?! Letting myself off the hook… NOW. x
Do you think our parents asked themselves and each other whether they were doing a decent parenting job? Do you think they felt any guilt? I doubt it.
My mother worked (she was a teacher) and only took 3 months off when my brother and I were born. In the 70s I was one of the few people in my class at school whose mum worked. I did actually miss her not being at school events, but it wasn’t in a resentful way, it was because i was proud of her and I wanted my friends to see her.
There certainly wasn’t as much media telling our parents how to parent, or that they’re probably doing it wrong – that’s a great point! And we were rolling around, untethered, in the back seat of the car and riding our bikes without helmets. 🙂
I felt guilty when I worked, now feel guilty that I don’t. We really aren’t doing ourselves any favours with it, are we?
14 unbroken cheezels? Way impressed!
Why, thank you! There will be no cheezel photos. 🙂
Yahoo – how is it up there as an illustrious weekend rewind guess host?!! I’m afraid I must confess that I did mother guilt very well. In fact, I used to do every kind of guilt very well. I’m a recovering guiltaholic! Forgive me … please! Now that I am older and wiser though, I plan to share my new wisdom with others so that they don’t tread the guiltaholic path that I have trodden! 🙂
Hahahaha, the first step is admitting it Min! They are dizzying heights – the Weekend Rewind. You should join! xx
Oh I am the queen of useless guilt. I lose sleep over it at night. But you know what? By the time the morning comes I either have a plan of attack to fix something or I’ve realised that the guilt was silly.
Although, I rarely feel guilty having time out these days. I walk out of that house like a bad ass movie character walks away from an explosion haha. Hello, my child has carers who love him. I need care for myself! Sometimes I feel guilty for not feeling guilty…so I guess that’s what I mean when I say I’m the queen of guilt!!!!
Hahahaha, sounds like you’re nailing it!
I work three days a week and my toddler goes to childcare for two of those days. I think my husband feels worse about it than I do! I think it’s good for her to get out of the house and socialise and learn and play in a different environment, especially as an only child. Great post.
Thanks, totally agree with you re socialisation!
I am pretty good with guilt but sometimes I can feel guilty for not feeling more guilty. Plus my mother likes to highlight things that I should feel guilty about… thanks Mum.
Hahahahahaha, you can get everything right but there’s always someone to throw a spanner in the works!
Oh I hate people that fish for the ‘you’re awesome’ comments. FFS – make your choice and stick with it and be happy with it for yourself. If you’re not happy, change it. Bit harsh? Nah – no guilt about saying it. 🙂
Oh yeah, what she said!
For whatever reason, I too have never done the working mum guilt thing. (I do other guilt, but not that one!) I love that Ant and I both work. I love that the kids see the two of us almost the same amount. I feel that we all get the best of each other because we’re not spending all day, every day together. I love that there are so many other adults who are able to care for my kids as well as I would. The mix we have works so well for my family and I am ever grateful we have it.
Again, we are super similar Kelly! You’ve articulated it beautifully. xx
Guilt is like KFC to me… I know it is so bad for me and I know it adds nothing to my wellbeing.. but it doesnt stop me from indulging in it helplessly like I have no control. Social media has a lot to answer for as it is another way to compare ourselves an notice what we should or shouldnt be doing. I think our parents probably felt less guilt than because it didnt exist for them. Thanks for joining is with us this week you guys xx
Thanks for having us, gorgeousness! Now I’m craving KFC, damn you! xx