How to banish motherhood guilt
‘Placenta out, guilt in’, the saying goes – but it doesn’t have to be that way.
If you’re like many women, you will often feel like there aren’t enough hours in the day.
Between work, children and other commitments (let alone finding time for your health and wellbeing), time – and your sanity – can be stretched.
Add to that the perceived pressure to be a “perfect mother”, and a vicious cycle of guilt and stress can ensue.
A 2016 study found even women who don’t strive to be “perfect” parents are at increased risk of stress and anxiety in the face of society’s high expectations of mothering.
Psychologist Sabina Read says mothers often experience what’s known as the “placenta out, guilt in” exchange.
Guilt and motherhood often go hand in hand, but there are ways to nip that nagging feeling in the bud.
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How to beat motherhood guilt
Sabina says rather than trying to keep guilt at bay, it is more useful to understand the reasons behind it.
“All emotions serve a purpose,” she says.
“In the instance of guilt, that purpose is threefold: to strengthen relationships; to influence one another; and to re-calibrate emotional stress.”
Feeling guilty drives us to change our behaviour, so that the other person knows we care.
“This adjustment helps address the difference in power that often exists between two people, particularly between a child and parent,” Sabina says.
“Guilt lets the other person know you have a sense of empathy for what they are going through.”
- Related story: What to do when your ‘mummy mojo’ has been hijacked
It’s OK to be good enough
Sabina says if guilt is really pulling you down, it may pay to change your attitude.
“Consider replacing your high expectations with a more compassionate mantra of good-enough parenting rather than perfect parenting,” she says.
- Related: Top tips for time-poor women
A working mum’s advice
Sydney working mum Laura Ruston says there are ways to try to combat the feeling you’re never doing enough.
Laura, 33, is the founder of Out & About Baby, an online directory for parents.
She says she keeps up with the demands of running a business and being mum to two-year-old son Harvey with an incredible support network and by cutting herself some slack.
She works hard to fight off the feelings of guilt associated with motherhood.
“It’s a work in progress every day. Every day brings new challenges as a business owner and a mum,” she says.
“With kids, everything changes so quickly, and it is impossible to predict. You have to be flexible and not try and place too many expectations on yourself.
“I can’t dedicate equal amounts of time to both motherhood and work, and I’m always in a state of flux – sometimes I need to hustle more in business and other times I need quiet times with Harvey.
“I always come back to ‘this too shall pass’.”
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Written by Sally Heppleston