Everyone tells you that the moment you become a parent the world as you once knew it will become shaken to the core.
But until someone hands you your firstborn it’s hard to really understand just how much loving and looking after a small person changes everything. It’s a bit like rattling a kaleidoscope and then lifting it to your eye and gazing at a completely different picture.
Once you’ve had a baby you come to realise many things: Just how little sleep it’s possible to survive on, just how much love it’s possible to have for your child and just how high the creator of Night Garden must have been when they came up with Makka Pakka and the Haahoos.
In smaller measure the world also tilts on its axis when you throw a second little one into the mix. Now you’re a professional juggler who will never pee alone again, unless it’s the weekend.
But there’s one facet of parenthood that only women get. The dreaded Mum Guilt.
Not only are men immune from this terrible disease, they don’t understand it and will tell you in exasperated tone that it is totally pointless – which to be fair it is.
Absolutely no good can ever come from worrying yourself stupid about whether or not you: cook enough from scratch for your children, let them watch too much TV, read to them enough, should ban yourself from using your iPhone when spending time with them, should have seen that tantrum coming and steered away from it, are a ‘bad parent’ for being too tired to have another row over teeth cleaning etc. etc.
Feel free to add your own ‘guilt trigger’ into the mix here. They are after all, as we mums know, too numerous to mention.
On one particularly low Tuesday I even found myself self-flagellating over the fact that my mum had pointed out I perhaps should cook hubby more potatoes.
(‘Just because you don’t like them doesn’t mean he should be deprived. After all his family is Irish…’)
Fortunately on this occasion I came quickly to my senses and informed her that he was very welcome to cook his own tubers. Foul things.
My point is that even though us mums know that stewing over something small is rarely going to turn out well we just can’t escape it. It’s impossible to be rational about Mum Guilt.
A major cause of MG seems to be work – whether you do, whether you don’t, whether you love your career, whether you’re happier staying at home…
Another is breastfeeding – whether you’ve done it for long enough, for too long, whether it secretly repulsed you…
Yet another is comparison – measuring yourself up against other mums and constantly feeling you come up short, that you should be doing what they are for your kids, that you should have bought that toy or gadget for your kids…
Gah! It’s exhausting – all that self-doubt and questioning whizzing around in your brain. Even more so if you find it hard to admit to your friends and so find yourself falling apart behind the closed front door.
There’s no cure for Mum Guilt and it’s likely none will ever be found. The best thing you can do is try to push it out of your head and replace with a cuppa and chocolate biscuit or super-sized glass of wine – without feeling bad about the calories.
And if all else fails remember this – you’re NOT alone!