A few years ago, I was away on business for 2 weeks when one of my son’s got into trouble at school for taking a picture of a female teacher when she was writing on the board. He had just been given his first ever smart phone that had a camera and he was taking pictures of everything from the dogs to the sofa and, as it turns out, his teacher. He didn’t understand about privacy laws, he was only a thirteen for God’s sake!
When my husband phoned me tell me about this, I was in a different time zone and therefore in meetings and they couldn’t get hold of me. When he finally got hold of me, my son had already gone to bed. This broke my heart. My husband said he did his best to calm him down and let him know he wasn’t going to hell in a hand basket for this one act. My husband also said to me: ‘You always know the best thing to say in these situations.’ You can imagine how I felt. Thousands of miles away when my son needed me and I wasn’t accessible, not even on the phone! I felt my primary job was that of a mother, so what business did I have not being available when I was needed? My guilt was overwhelming. I wanted to jump on the next flight home and prostrate myself at my family’s feet and beg for forgiveness for failing in my motherly duties.
Analyses of two international surveys involving 100000 men and women across 29 countries show that daughters of working mothers outperform their peers at work, and sons of working mothers spend more time caring for family members. This is a win/win.
So why do mothers persist with the guilt?
- You have a meeting that you can’t shift so your husband takes your child to the doctor’s appointment and you beat yourself up.
- You are not there when they take their first steps so you deserve to be put down!
- Somebody else knows something about your child that you don’t, so you can’t possibly be doing a good enough job.
Whatever happened to “It takes a village?” Why does all the harsh criticism and judgement fall on the mother? Why are fathers not held to the same standard?
The truth is, women subscribe to this guilt and that perpetuates the judgement meted out to us; and by the way, our harshest critics are other women.
How do we get over the guilt?
Accepting that sometimes we will drop the ball and it is okay
Life is not perfect. No matter how hard you plan, sometimes you will drop a ball. Let’s not gold plate the dropped ball by adding in guilt. You are going to forget that is a non-uniform day and your child will be the only one with their uniform. When that happened to me, I acknowledged I had messed up to my son, we had a laugh about it and I also used it as opportunity to educate him on the importance of not being afraid to be different.
Work out your own standard of parenting rather than subscribing to someone’s impossible standard
The standard around at mine is to buy non-iron school shirts. I love the idea of lightly starched and crisply ironed shirts, but in the absence of a butler, non-iron school shirts will do just fine. This is my standard. My son might not win the best dressed prize at school, but my sanity is intact. I am not up in the middle of the night ironing shirts when my beauty sleep is more important to me being emotionally available for my child.
Do your best and know that all what your children need is a parent who is doing their best.
You are holding down a job, your best is going to be better than most. Your children don’t need perfection. Life is not perfect. What they need is for you to model the parent who takes whatever life throws at them and does their best with it. This is what sets them up for a successful future. They do not need a parent riddled with guilt because they could not be there for every school function. Believe it or not, they soon forget whichever school function it was, but they remember how it felt to be living with a guilt ridden and anxious mother.
Do yourself a favour, ditch the mum guilt; do your best as a parent by focusing on what is important to you and your children’s lives and set those as your standards.
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