Motherhood: Living Guilt-free
Published on: April 07, 2019The majority of mothers feel ‘mum guilt’ at one point or another. Galina gives some tips and tricks on how to manage guilt and feelings of insufficiency. By Galina Kalinina
“I do not give enough time to my kids.” “I feel guilty for going back to work.” “I do not take enough care of myself.” “I feel guilty for going on a date night with my husband.”These are just a few examples of how guilt and the fear of not being enough sound like in the heads of millions of mums every day. I experienced my first mum guilt three years ago when my son Timothy was born via an emergency C-section. When my mum came to visit, the first thing she said was that babies born through C-section are different. I could not understand what she meant, but I did not try to clarify it either. It was right then that I had a feeling of failing at my very first task on the mum-to-be journey.
… mums are surrounded by many guilt triggers …Over the next two years, I accepted that mum guilt is inevitable, and I started to live with it until I had this light-bulb realization that “I did not have kids in order to spend the rest of my life feeling insufficient.” What if I were to tell you that it is possible to become a guilt-free mum? That you can set yourself free, and feel happy, strong, confident, powerful, and independent. Wouldn’t you like that? Getting over the feeling of not being good enough is a process. The most effective way of going through it is to work with a life coach who will be your partner, and can support you in making your guilt-free life a reality. That is exactly what I did a year ago. I hired a life coach, and suddenly there were lots of spaces inside me that allowed me to clarify how I can feel good about myself as a mum. That became a breakthrough moment in my life, and I realized I wanted to learn how to coach and help other mums to feel how they are enough.
3 buckets of mummy-guilt triggersI’ve also learned that mums are surrounded by many guilt triggers and most of them will fall into one of these three buckets: comparison, personal values, and other people’s’ beliefs.
ComparisonYour ‘mum comparison radar’ gets activated every time you see or hear things on the playground, at school, or on social media. My radar was very sensitive when it came to languages. We speak three languages at home – English, Dutch, and Russian. My son likes my language the least, and I cannot blame him! After all, Russian is one of the most difficult languages in the world. Two years ago, I became a member of a Facebook bilingual kids’ group. The more I was reading the posts of other mums, the more I compared myself – and the more I felt that I had failed as a mum by not preserving the Russian language in my family. I felt devastated, panicked, and ended up doing things that only worsened my feelings of unhappiness and guilt.
Personal valuesYour personal values are also an important factor in how much guilt you feel as a mum. For example, if you grew up in a family that values order and cleanliness, you will find yourself in conflict with yourself once you have a child. Finger-painting on the wall, food on the floor, toys everywhere, and a disrupted routine makes you feel like you are not good enough at managing your household.
There is a common belief that if we ask for help, we fail to do something on our own and that is a bad thing.
Other people’s beliefsThe beliefs of your family and friends can also trigger guilt. Unconsciously, they stimulate expectations that we set for ourselves. My mum believes that the best feeding schedule for a newborn is strictly seven times a day with three-hour gaps, and no feeding between 12 am and 6 am. I thought I was expected to follow the same. No matter what I did, I could not get Timothy into this routine; he was a hungry boy that needed to eat every two hours. It took me having my daughter, Polina, to realize that nobody but the child knows the best feeding schedule for them.
Techniques & tools to start a guilt-free lifeNonetheless, my journey into a guilt-free life started with these practical techniques and tools:
1. Write down a list…of all the things that make you feel guilty or not good enough. Put everything on that list, no matter how big or small.
2. Manage the triggers.Identify what and who acts as your guilt triggers. Ask yourself what you want to do with those triggers. For example, if it is your family’s beliefs, be honest and share with them how you feel and how their beliefs affect you. Discuss how you want things to be different, and make a change together.
3. Analyze your ‘shoulds’ and replace them with ‘wants’.Most of the things we feel guilty about are coming from a ‘should’ place. Take your guilt list and ask yourself some questions ‘Do I want that? Should I really feel guilty about it?’ You will be surprised to discover that your guilt items are not reasons to feel guilty at all. For example: The ‘should’ might sound like this: I should not allow too much TV time for my kids. You can replace this with something you really want, that will make you feel great as a mum: “I want to watch TV together with my kids for 20 minutes per day. We can then reflect and talk about it at bedtime. It is a great way for us to spend time together when I get home from work”.
4. Write down what being a good mum looks like for you.You do not need to be perfect to be a good mum. To manage ‘supermom syndrome’, write down YOUR vision of being a good mum (only yours and nobody else’s vision). I would like to stress that you need to WRITE IT DOWN. Do not just think about it in your head or discuss it with others.
5. Complete the following statements:
- This is what I need to be and to do in order to feel good as a mother….
- In order to satisfy myself as a mother, I must…
- My realistic expectations for myself as a good mother are….
6. Five acknowledgments per day.This is a simple yet powerful tool. As the ‘mother of coaching’ Dr. Cherie Carter Scott says, “Five acknowledgments per day keep your beat-ups away”. Buy a small notepad, and write down five acknowledgments per day of what made you feel great as a mum. These can sound like this: “I am happy that I took my son to school and we sang a song on the way,” or “I was kind to myself, and did not beat myself up when I heard that my friend’s son is already potty trained”.
Don’t be afraid to reach outBesides these tools don’t be afraid to reach out. Asking for support is another ‘popular’ item on mums’ guilt lists. There is a common belief that if we ask for help, we fail to do something on our own and that is a bad thing. Very often, those closest to us have no idea we experience a fear of not being enough. Share your feelings of guilt with those you trust. Get vulnerable and experience immediate transformation in how you feel about yourself. Apply these tools, get support, and start your journey to a guilt-free life, one where you always feel good enough as a mum! Photos by Kevin Liang and Aditya Romansa on Unsplash.
About the AuthorGalina is a wife, mother of two, professional swimmer, and a certified ACC ICF professional coach. She has a great passion for empowering and supporting women – especially mums. Her coaching specialty is building relationships with the self or with others: self-confidence, family, partner, life balance, discovering dreams and a purpose in life.
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