Consumed with Mum Guilt?

With my daughter going off to her first day at childcare tomorrow, I thought it was timely to talk about mum guilt. It starts early!

Whether it’s like a tiny, annoying pebble in your shoe, or a giant boulder you’re carrying uphill the coping mechanism is the same. Dealing with mum guilt can be likened to coping with a whingey toddler repeating the same word over and over 50 million times, hanging off your leg while you do your best to keep it together.

The trick with mum guilt is not to get rid of it, ignore it, embrace it, accept it or any other absolutes that aren’t sustainable. The trick is to learn to acknowledge it, allow its presence in the moment without judging or labelling it. Sometimes a whiney toddler just wants acknowledgement that they are seen and heard. Don’t we all, really? Sometimes if we are upset, hungry, tired and so on we don’t always need someone to fix it, comment, or analyze but just give us some acknowledgement that we have been seen. What you choose to do with your emotions in that next moment is up to you. With caveats.

I say this because no one who is sleep deprived and burnt out is ever going to be great at making rational, calm choices all the time, or even most of the time. When you can, give yourself a moment to decide if you need to give your negative thoughts attention at this time? Or would it be less soul destroying to acknowledge that the negative thought is there, and practice going back to doing what you’re doing. For example, saying to yourself “I’m feeling frazzled. It’s ok. I can go back to cutting this sandwich without this moment being about me being a crappy mum”.

Sometimes you will snap. Maybe yell expletives. It might work for a second. You feel a bit of tension relief, and 30 milliseconds of quiet. But then the crying starts again and you feel guilty, realizing it hasn’t worked anyway. You talk to yourself in absolutes resolving that you’ll “never” yell again and “always” be calm from now on. When this happens, return your attention back to acknowledging without judgement. This is basic Mindfulness training.

The practice of just observing life and what’s happening without racing to analyze the emotions. This is often how Psychologists help people tackle extreme examples of constant negative thoughts. Take OCD for example. Do you think it’s remotely useful to tell someone who literally has hundreds of thousands of thoughts about awful things to just stop thinking about it? And yet, it’s often the first response we all have. Instead, we want to do the opposite. Let the thoughts in, and let your brain adjust to the noise.
With repeated practice of acknowledging negative thoughts and then leaving them be the brain learns to treat these thoughts as neutral information instead of important life-threatening information that needs our immediate attention. It’s a process, and a long one at that. It requires sifting through years of unsorted thoughts, and starting what seems like the never ending task of attending to all those pesky files (your unchallenged negative thoughts).

Psychologists are great at filing thoughts, so if you need help, don’t see it as defeat. See it as engaging the skills of someone to help you task manage. Someone who can help you sift through files and decide what needs to be dealt with now, what can wait, what’s overdue.

Are you:

I would love to help you have the calm, and empowered birth that you deserve. I run Hypnobirthing Australia sessions every month in the beautiful Macedon Ranges.
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A frazzled parent
As a Clinical and Perinatal Psychologist I also work with women and their families to debrief from traumatic births, cope with anxiety and depression, and manage the general guilt fest that is mothering 🙂

I can offer psychology and mentoring sessions via Skype anywhere in the world (excluding the USA and Canada), so you don’t even have to get out of your PJs or leave the house!

A birth, perinatal or mental health professional
Need some debriefing or further mentoring? I can offer support and help you skill-up if you’re feeling overwhelmed or burned out

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