How I discovered that ‘Mum Guilt’ is a waste of time

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By Ellen Fussell


I need to start with the disclaimer, that while this blog post appears entirely focused on Mums, it is only written from that perspective because that is who I am.  I have no doubt that the same concepts extend to many Dads.  Although Dads are possibly quicker to learn the lessons of which I speak, or just naturally stress less about some of these details.

Regardless, I have recently learnt that Mum Guilt is a completely useless and energy-sapping concept that many of us give way too much air time.  Mum Guilt starts as your unborn child grows in your womb.  Maybe it’s some type of scientifically explainable concept like the fight or flight response. Maybe it exists so that as a parent you will go to extreme lengths to protect and do the best for your offspring.  You feel guilty about the few glasses of wine you drank before you knew you were pregnant, you feel guilty about those few pieces of soft cheese you couldn’t resist or even feel guilty when you accidentally trip and fall with your baby on board.

Then comes that beautiful moment when your new bundle enters the world, and the Mum Guilt ramps up exponentially.  Breastfeeding versus bottle feeding decisions, using a dummy, missing an ear infection, sleeping through a screaming baby, dropping a phone on your baby’s head (yep it happens), accidentally double dosing your child with baby Panadol (yep that happens too), plonking your child in front of the TV for hours on end when it’s just too hard to achieve anything else.  The list could go on.

And your kids get older and the ways in which Mum Guilt manifests itself just mature.  Couldn’t get to the special assembly at school, missed the athletics carnival, didn’t get through enough home readers, forgot about a mufti day, went for a run instead of making breakfast for the kids, had McDonald’s for dinner twice in two weeks, wore an un-ironed uniform.

The list is endless.   In fact I think on any given day I could easily list 10 things I could feel Mum Guilt about.

But you know what, all these mini-failures, all these things that cause us to feel Mum Guilt – I don’t think they actually cause our kids any lasting damage.  I’m not saying that they don’t get upset when you can’t get to the special assembly, or they are not mortified when they turn up to school in their uniform on a mufti day.  But what they are getting out of all these moments are priceless lessons in what it means to be human.  How tricky it is to run a household, be a good parent, hold down a job and most importantly be happy in yourself!

And how do I know this?  Why am I so certain that all my Mum Guilt has been unproductive and a waste of energy I could have been positively directing to other areas of my life?  Because the other night, when I tucked my son into bed and kissed him goodnight, he said to me: “Mum, you are the best Mum in the whole world”.  And that is all the evidence I need.

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