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Mother guilt:

To feel guilty is a trademark of motherhood, I am sure. To be a mum and not to have suffered feelings of guilt would be something short of a miracle!
By Dr Melanie Strang
Date: December 18 2011
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To feel guilty is a trademark of motherhood, I am sure. To be a mum and not to have suffered feelings of guilt would be something short of a miracle!

Guilt is defined as “a feeling of responsibility or remorse for some offense, crime, wrong, etc., whether real or imagined.” In the case of mums the feeling of guilt is almost always an imagined offense. That is, we mums are so hard on ourselves that we tend to blame and criticise ourselves for anything slightly less than the high and unattainable standards we set for ourselves. This sort of guilt (when we haven’t actually done anything wrong) is termed unhealthy guilt.

Unhealthy guilt is often anger in disguise. It is worth asking yourself “what am I angry about?” during times when you are plagued with guilt.

Let me give you an example of this: a mum feels really guilty when she drops her two year old off at childcare one day a week. The other six days she stays home with her child; she is a loving and attentive mum, yet she feels incredible guilt for going to work and having a few hours to herself. She has done nothing wrong so why does she feel so guilty?

After much counselling she realise she is angry that her own mother worked full time for as long as she could remember and was never there for her when she came home from school- she was looked after mainly by nannies. This mum is angry at her own mother’s lack of presence in her past which led to her feeling guilty in the present. Once the mum in this anecdote became aware of her anger, the guilt melted away and she was able to drop her child at childcare without being plagued with the feeling she was doing something wrong.

Guilt is often related to expectations from our family of origin.  Rigid and unrealistic expectations such as expecting ourselves to have immaculate homes whilst looking after young babies, or pressure from extended families to be present at times when our bubs are napping can turn on the guilt tap, no end.

It’s really a matter of being aware of where the guilt comes from and being a bit easier on ourselves, reminding ourselves that “good enough” is a lot easier to live with than perfection.

www.wellmumwellbaby.net.au

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Lizzie says: 2011 12 18
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I’m no a mum (yet) but have observed in the wider community that this emotion is gender-linked.  Surely a better culture of shared family responsibilty would help ease this ‘mother guilt’.

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