There is a saying that “Maternal guilt comes with the placenta” and it is so true! From the moment of conception you will find something to be guilty about – that glass of wine you had before you knew you were pregnant, your birth (especially if it doesn’t go according to plan), how or what you feed your baby, when you first leave your baby to go out, how much time you spend playing with your baby…. The list goes on and on.
I believe that woman suffer more guilt than men and am not sure why. It may be linked to society’s expectations of us as mothers and women or linked to our own expectations of our selves. Coming from the career place or academic life, women are used to high standards and goal setting. When becoming a mom, that goal driven mentality gets transferred to motherhood. When it comes to the unpredictability of babies, setting the bar very high and having unrealistic expectations is not helpful at all.
According to paediatrician and psychoanalyst Dr Winnicott, we are actually better as moms when don’t meet our baby’s every need instantly and when we show our kids that we can have a bad day, or make a mistake. By failing occasionally, we give our children realistic expectations of the world and we teach them that their efforts in life are beautiful even when they are not perfect.
It is obvious to most that maternal guilt serves absolutely no positive purpose; in fact it can create a very negative spiral. So with that in mind, it is time to ditch the guilt:
- Surround yourself with friends and family who reinforce, not undermine your parenting choices.
- Choose a single, helpful voice of advice so that you wont be faced with conflicting opinions on childrearing.
- Lower your expectations of yourself and your baby – that way you will be pleasantly surprised by your experience of motherhood.
- Don’t over schedule yourself and your little one. When pressurised and over committed, you will find that you become more stressed and succumb to maternal guilt more readily.
- When you feel like you are not good enough and reaching your goal, remember that being Good Enough is exactly what your baby needs most from you.