42. Mum Guilt
Talk by Laura
March 23, 2022
Well, hello and welcome to unsung stories. Summer series. My name is Laura and I am the host of this show, and I am so glad that you are joining us today so on this show, I love to give space to talk about the hard things that people don't really talk about in other places. And I thought that this might be a helpful show for everyone to chat through mum guilt to talk about the stuff that just comes out of us, that we don't really hear spoken about so I thought I'd. Briefly introduce myself. My name's Laura. I have a husband Leon, and together we have four kids, two boys, two girls ages, one and a half through to seven. And my days are doing mom stuff really. I'm a Christian and we go to a local church. So we're often at church during the week or with friends and really just, I mean, doing mum life, school, run that sort of thing.
But I started this podcast. It's called unsung stories, obviously and I usually will interview regular ordinary women and we chat through motherhood as Christians. And getting to chat to all of these women. I guess I get this privilege of having insight and I guess, observations into what real ordinary women are going through in motherhood. And I thought I would compile these observations, the main ones being mum guilt. Mom anger and that ideal mom or ideal woman that we aspire to be.
And that's what I'm planning on talking about today. So I know that you know that this is a Christian show. I know that a Christian friend probably sent it to you, but I have written this talk for everyone. No matter what faith or no faith, you align yourself to, no matter what you're thinking, this is just One mom to another mom talking about the hard stuff that we're going through in life. So I'm just going to jump into our talk and hope that it is helpful and encouraging and offer some solidarity for you.
As I get to chat to women all the time about their journey of motherhood, and it often ends up on how they've been challenged or grown over time. It's a real privilege, and it's also given me great insight into motherhood and what we ordinary women experience in this stage of life. On my show. I love giving space to talk about the things that you don't really hear spoken about publicly, usually, because it means someone's telling how they're not measuring up or struggling with something.
And as I've been thinking these things through, I've noticed there's some few common things that underlie the hard stuff we wrestle with our desire for control and pain, the pain of unmet expectations. Feeling inadequate overwhelm anxiety. There's something about motherhood that seems to bring out our fears and failures and rock the boat of who we thought we are or could be.
But before I go more into these observations though, I just wanna pause and acknowledge two different people who might be listening to this show. Men though, I'm talking about motherhood, the underlying fears and hurts are really part of parenthood. You may still relate, or if anything, give insight into what the mothers in your might be going through.
And to those who are listening and just wanna sink into the floor because you are desperate to be a parent. If I have learned anything from chatting to all these women and through my own experience is that the grief of infertility and miscarriage and recurrent loss is crushing and traumatic. And my friend, I, and actually we who are all listening, We grieve with you because it's not meant to be like this. So you're welcome to turn this off. If you need to protect yourself, but I do wanna let you know that I have prepared this with you in mind as well, because though it plays out differently. I think that the root of what we're both struggling with is reconciling the pain of our plans, eventu the way we wanted them to.
Um, My fear in this talk today is that I will do wrong by you or cause added grief. So I commit to hearing your story and honoring your walk if you'd like to share. So please reach out, but grief and pain. Hey, I would not have thought that to be a huge part of my, the hood when I dreamed of being one. I recorded an episode with my friend, Sarah on mum guilt, and I reckon I don't even have to do too much explaining about wo mum guilt actually is right. It's nearly Aite of passage these days, and it's a special kind of guilt.
It's not the normal guilt of I've done something wrong and regret it. It's this pervasive feeling of not doing enough, not being good enough, doing things the wrong way. And feeling like we are royally stuffing up our kids in the long run. So Sarah and I were talking about how we went into parenting full of high expectations.
We had our Pinterest board of outfits and sleep schedules and knew all about introducing solids and Hey, even read blog posts about teenagers and felt like we knew how we wanted to parrot them. We had all these great expectations and a grand plan to execute them.
But the mum, yo it's there right from the beginning that planned water birth becomes oh, failure to progress. Emergency cesarean. The breastfed toddler is now or fed baby. My Montessori play-based child is now an iPad watching bluey binge. It really doesn't take long for us to learn the brutal truth that motherhood often feels like failure after failure after failure after failure and not just failures, we couldn't meet the expectations that we put on ourselves. The picture we built of the mother, we would be, but also the expectations put on us by other people. The world around us is filled with bloated expectations for moms. And even though logically, you know, you know, that no one can live up to the contradicting standards, it's nearly impossible not to internalize them.
And I mean, these standards, they're not all bad on their own, but there's this assumption eat the standards that we can control our circumstances. And yet we want the best life for our kids. So we keep hustling to try and be better, do better. We knew knew what we need to do to be the perfect wife or mom, but we can't meet these high expectations.
And we feel like a failure. And so the mum guilt creeps in and over time when those failures to meet expectations become bigger and more apparent. Oh, it just becomes so emotionally draining. So I was feeling stuck and had no idea how to combat the mum guilt, but I did find it helpful to talk to a real woman, uh, women who were brave enough to share how they parented and didn't live up to the standards she felt she needed to be. And I just felt so much better talking to a real woman. and I wanted to replicate it.
So I guess that's how the podcast was born. One mum feeling the pain of not measuring up to the woman. I wanted to be looking to other mums to get a realistic standard of motherhood. And do we all have that, that unrealistic expectation of motherhood? Is that where the guilt stems from not measuring up to a standard, we put on ourselves.
Or do we feel inadequate because we're searching for validation? Do we have something to prove, to be better than other moms? Are we trying to change the narrative to what we grew up with I'm not gonna be the mom I had when I was a kid. I'm gonna be the mom. I wished I had when I was a kid.
Where is this standard of woman coming from? And, and why are we talking about it? There's this woman I follow on Instagram. She's a gentle attachment based sleep consultant and actually has some really great advice. And sometimes she runs this segment called I'm still a good mum, but and the first time I saw this, I entered into the little box.
I'm still a good mum, but I haven't given my two. We were on breakfast for four days because I thought my husband had well didn't. I feel silly when I saw all the other parents' responses. I'm still a good mum, but I forgot their dummy when we went to the shops and I'm still a good mum, but I let them watch an hour of TV because I'm so nauseous, this pregnancy, what, how did we get to this point?
Week after week, I'd see a responses where women saw giving their kids McDonald's or, or getting mad or serving toast for dinner as epic motherhood failures. How. How have we gotten to the point that women are feeling so much guilt and shame over things that are not what makes you a good mom and how do we cope?
When we have actual, real epic motherhood failures? When we are perpetually angry and screaming, our kids, we're not supportive when they need us to be. When our kids have anxiety and their psychologist tells us it's because they're too scared to disappoint us when we are over critical or set a poor example.
When we over discipline or don't discipline at all, or when we shame them, I was listening to a parenting seminar a while ago. And one of the parenting expert said, as parents we're looking and searching for the right answers, Lots of the conventional wisdom is about giving strategies and tactics. But today the narrative is not about looking for the right answer, but being the right answer, being our child's best bet.
And I mean, it sounds really nice, I'm pretty good in theory, but listen, again, it's not looking for the right answer, but being the right answer, being our child's best bet. And I want to be that, but I am a limited and a flawed human. How am I supposed to cope when I cannot be my kids' right. Answer all the time, I will not always be my child's best bet.
I will fail them. And without my friends comes a real and deep and lasting pain. No one is going to live up to that standard. When my third child was born, I had three and three and a half years. At that point, I'd had a rough pregnancy emotional year. My husband was working long hours and it was just this tiring time of adjustment for me, but I was going to keep persevering to my goals.
I worked so hard at creating beautiful play experiences for my kids and engaging with them. In limited screen time, I cooked healthy meals and I was really into essential oils and creating in a chemical free home. I enjoyed gardening and was trying to grow our own organic food. I try really hard to be a gentle mom.
We had great emotion, charts and strategies to help with toddler meltdowns, and I'd have this sweet sing song, voice, and a ton of great parenting. One liners to pull out when I needed them. And as hard as life was, I was doing pretty good at ticking off the boxes of being a good mom, but alongside all that good I was doing.
Oh, I had this undercurrent of anger, bitterness, rage, resentment, boredom, frustration, envy. My kids would just be kids and I would lose it. Simple childlike behavior, like knocking over my coffee would result in a tantrum from me. Repeated instructions to get in the car with no one listening or climbing into the boot, saw me ranting and raving and forcing my kids into their seats.
Toddler fights over the TV show would have me spewing ugly words about ungratefulness and selfishness. And in these moments, I knew I was being unkind and unjust to my kids, but it would just spew out of me. I was taking my anger and frustration out on them. But in the moment I didn't care. I could pull out a list of reasons why they deserve to be told off, but at the root of all of those reasons was my own self-centeredness and my own desire for control.
We don't really talk about control or anger in our culture. And I think, I think everyone would agree that motherhood is a hard slog and can bring out the worst in us. But the answer to our problem is to do better. Be better. We are told that we are in charge of our destiny. We can manifest who and what we wanna be.
That if we work harder and smarter to do better, be better, we'll finally gain control of our circumstances and all of our problems and worries and fears will disappear. The answer to the mum, losing it. Like I was, would be, well, you need to get up before the kids and have your coffee. Then a meal plan would really help.
So you're focused and not stressed. Your kids are probably bored because you're not rotating toys or offering enough sensory experiences. And you're probably tired because your diet's full of sugar. And if you exercise more, you'd have more energy to do what you needed to to do. You wouldn't be stressed out if you were meditating, why don't you try tapping and manifest more wealth and make financial strain easier?
For sure there's value in these suggestions of being organizing and adjusting things in your lifestyle, even prioritizing your health so you can perform well, these things are wise, but there's a lie that undercurrent thinking do this, you'll have control, do that. And you'll be a better mother. We work so hard and strive to do whatever it takes to put away the anger and the stress.
We dig deep to muster up patience and peace. If we could just get a little bit more control over our home, we won't be so temperamental. We try new meal, pep strategies, and we put inspirational Pinterest code as our screensaver and try that new discipline technique we read on that blog post, but as time goes on, all of these fail us.
We run out of patients and the peace that we are striving for. Where's our. And we fall back into the cycle of guilt and frustration. Don't we spend our emotions, our time and energy chasing the things that give us control over our lives. That if we could just find that magic formula, motherhood would be easier and would finally be patient and kind, and be that parent that we were striving to be we'd finally be the woman we wish we were, but no matter how hard we try.
We can't seem to tame that thing inside of us that is screaming out for control and success. So what do we do with that is the answer to just be better to learn, to live with the guilt of our failure. We have to ask, what will we do with the is need for control and not being able to have it. What will we do with our guilt?
And here's the tricky thing. We should feel guilty sometimes because we are guilty. There is mom guilt that is false guilt, and there is mom guilt that is healthy because it's showing us the areas in our life that we actually need to a work on and change. it's the true guilt of I've done something wrong and I'm feeling bad about it, like me losing it with my kids, but then there's that other guilt that we feel that condemns us too harshly.
And I guess that guilt is going to come down to the lens that, which we look through life and the benchmark that we're performing to. And I think comes down to two choices, two ways to live. So I did mention that I'm a Christian and that this is a Christian show. Um, and to put this as honestly, and as gently as I can,
I, I dunno how you get through parenting and the guilt and the pain of this life without the hope that the Bible offers. Christianity began based on the fact that we want control. We wanna be in charge and not God. And the first part of the Bible, it's just a bunch of books that tell story after story of people who tried to be good enough to keep all the rules, to keep this perfect standard, but couldn't, and it was actually part of God's plan to send Jesus, to keep the rules for us.
And he offers himself as a sacrifice so that we can be seen as perfect. And it is so sweet because it acknowledges that we don't have to be perfect. We can trust the promises of the Bible that God is working in and through our weak mothering, that he's the best for our children. Not us. He won't fail them when we will.
He won't shame them or be angry or impatient or unloving, unjust unmerciful. He offers grace unmarried favor to us and our kids. There is so much joy and freedom when we can parent with this perspective. So to live this life, without that hope, I think. I think you're left being the answer, having to try harder and be better because at the end of the day, all you have to rely on is yourself and your own effort.
And I mean, that's not necessarily a bad thing. We are strong in independent women. There's things that do to help ease that burden of what we've been talking about. Therapy and understanding your hurts and fears and sadness are great tools for working through your anger issues that are affecting your kids, asking questions about yourself and learning why you act the way you do value, what you value parent, the way your parent, um, the circle of security is a great book for teaching you how to be a good enough parent and all the research that backs up just being okay.
Do what our culture tells you limit, who you are influenced by online. Take care of yourself. You can't fill from an empty cup, put smart schedules and routines in place. Keep up to date with the latest parenting research, understand your triggers so that you can avoid them or know how to self-regulate through them.
Find your tribe of like-minded friends, who aren't going to shame you for your choices and evaluate the guilt that you might feel. Think through whether this is a feeling because you've actually messed up somewhere and need to change and fix it, or whether it's guilt that you can let go, because it's just measuring up to a standard of comparison or fear or an unrealistic expectation.
But I wanna ask you, what's wearing you out today at the impossible standards, the baggage of trying your best and not being good enough. I would love to empower you by giving you all the formulas and answers to take away your guilt and expectations and tell you exactly how you can become the mum you want to be.
But there is no formula, only a free gift of grace. And I mean, I know, you know, these parts coming in, being a Christian show, but I would encourage you to check out the Bible. Please reach out and there's, you know, different courses that churches run. I I'm sure I could help you find a local church that would, help explain these things.
But if anything, don't buy into the lie that anxiety and give a part and parcel to motherhood, they are terrible motivators. If there's a real deep turmoil in your experience of motherhood, you are deserving of help to work through that. It's actually possible to mother from a place of peace in some form of confidence and it's not wrong to, but be confident that you are doing the best you can for your kids.