May 13, 2019

Mum Guilt and How to Get Over It - Part 1

Happy Belated Mothers Day!

I typically would put up a Mothers Day post, but missed out on it this year - I'm really trying to find the best ways to manage my time. I had a wonderful weekend with my family and I'll share photos of Cocoa and I in our Mummy and Me outfits soon enough. In the meantime though, I want to talk about a topic that's been on my mind for a little while: MUM GUILT.

I never thought about mum guilt before I got pregnant and had Cocoa. No wait, that's not true. I had a minor guilt trip for a few minutes one day when almost everything on the news was bad, and I wondered whether it was a good thing to bring a child into such a flawed world. That's not exactly mum guilt though. According to ActiveKids.com, Mum Guilt is defined as, "the feeling of guilt, doubt, anxiousness or uncertainty experienced by mothers when they worry they're failing or falling short of expectations in some way."

I don't think there is any mother on this earth who has not had Mum Guilt in one way or another, or at several points in motherhood. Sometimes it can be debilitating and make you feel shameful and unworthy, and like a failure. But the truth is, in my experience, a lot of it is unfounded and baseless and can be overcome. I'm going to share some of the areas in which I have experience Mum Guilt and what helped me get over it.



BREASTFEEDING
I have shared my breastfeeding experience here, and on my Youtube channel. I had a very difficult time with breastfeeding and had to stop after just 3 months. Pretty much from Day 1, Cocoa started drinking formula because I could not produce enough breast milk to fill her tummy. I spoke to a lactation consultant, who cried with me when I bared how bad I felt about it. She reassured me that breastfeeding can be very hard for some women, gave me some tips to try and let me know that if I ever felt I had tried everything and it still wasn't working, it was okay to stop breastfeeding. I persisted for a while but was pretty miserable and at the three month mark, decided to stop.

Getting over it: I reminded myself that all breasts are not created equal, and what works for one mother does not work for another mother. I also took into consideration that I tried very hard, from drinking supplements, trying out different lactation recipes, and even getting a prescription to help me. I would have given myself an A+ for effort, but unfortunately the actual results were not what I hoped for. I had to cut myself some slack because I tried, and sometimes that's good enough.

BABY'S HAIR CARE
This might seem trivial, but when you have a baby girl, it's easy to see her hair as a project of sorts. You see all these cute babies with long, full hair online or social media, and secretly or outright wish, hope and pray that your daughter will boast the same. Additionally, because I blogged about natural hair care for a few years, and even got Naija Hair Can Grow's book detailing how to care for babies hair, I had expectations for Cocoa's hair. When her edges started cutting, I blamed myself. When the back of her hair started breaking off, I blamed myself. I felt bad because I don't know how to cornrow. It sounds silly, but this is my truth.

Getting over it: I have not quite gotten over it, but the simple truth is that I have not put in the kind of care that I know I can, for her hair to thrive. I do try here and there to make an effort, but the truth of the matter is I drop the ball a lot. I guess what keeps me going in this regard is knowing that she does have mostly long hair, so I can work with it, and try to nurse her edges and the back of her hair. I have decided to go to basic, simple hair care regimens for both of us, and I hope to see results by the end of the year.

FINANCES
Few things are worse than feeling like you cannot provide for your child... or that you can't afford the nicer things for your child. A lot of mothers from low-income households can understand the feeling here. I thank God for providing enough for us to take care of Chloe, but she could really have a lot more. I feel bad that I currently cannot afford some extracurricular activities for her, e.g. swimming. When she's older and there are other activities I'd like her to partake in, God-willing, I'll have a much better job that will afford me those things. But for now, it hurts me sometimes that I don't have the kind of money I thought I would have at this time in my life.

Getting over it: To combat the guilt I have, I have found ways to reduce costs for me, so that I can take her out once in a while. I also look for free outings and events to take her to. Luckily, I'm not one for big parties and don't mind having only family over for her birthday - she's too young to even know or care right now, in my opinion. She goes to a decent daycare, and her teachers love her and vice versa. I know I'm doing the best I can with the little I have, and that makes me feel okay. I've also found ways to put money into her savings account - not as much as I'd like, but it's better than nothing. So kudos to me.

HEALTH
If you're a mum and you've ever had a sick child, I'm sure you have felt some guilt at least one time. The first time Cocoa got sick enough for me to take her to the hospital, I was sure that it was partly my fault. Maybe I hadn't cleaned her room enough, or used enough hand sanitizer, or did enough skin-to-skin with her. Even as recently as two months ago when she had a bad cough and cold, I asked myself whether I washed my hands long enough at work! If you allow your mind to run with it, you'll blame yourself (if not fully, then partially) and wonder if you could have done more to protect your child from illness.

Getting over it: People get sick, and yes, that includes children. Of course, we pray that our children will be healthy forever. I mean, you can put them in a protective bubble if you want, but that's hardly even ideal. When Cocoa started daycare, I knew ahead of time that since she was being exposed to other babies from other homes, it was only a matter of time before she would catch something. When/if something comes up, I do the best I can - making sure she's comfortable and showering her with even more affection, taking her to the doctor if I think she needs it, and giving her prescribed medicines. If nothing else, I replay one of my mum's favorite quotes on raising a child: "It's just building her immunity."

CAREER
I'm pretty sure a lot of working mothers would relate to this point. Spending time away from her because of work. I always knew I would continue working after having children - it was not something I gave a second thought to, because I believed I would always feel that way. To a large extent, I still do. However, the part about being a working mother that gives me mum guilt is the number of hours I spend away from my child. On a normal day, I drop her at daycare at 8am, and I don't get home until almost 6:30pm - 10.5 hours a day. I feel guilty that I don't have a more flexible schedule that allows me to get home earlier, or spend a few days a week working from home. For a while there, I really toyed with the idea of quitting work, staying home and keeping Cocoa with me. In my mind, that would slash the cost of daycare - but what about income for my other bills?

Getting over it: The simple fact of the matter is that bills need to be paid, and that's what I remind myself of, whenever I start to feel down about working. As much as I would like to maximize the time I spend with Cocoa, I also need to earn a living and provide a great life for her. Additionally, I do want to have a career that I love, and serves my purpose. It makes me all the more determined to find that position that will enable me have the kind of flexibility and income that will afford us a more than comfortable lifestyle.

This post is already pretty long, and I have 5 more points about Mum Guilt that I'd like to share. I hope you don't mind, but I will continue this blog post on Wednesday. Please leave a comment below if any of these points resonate with you, and check out Part 2 of this post on Wednesday.

1 comment:

  1. Thanks for sharing. I've also experienced a lot of mummy guilt. Like you, I also had trouble producing milk despite taking so many supplements. I stopped at two months. Definitely felt guilty about it. But, my biggest source of guilt was putting him in daycare at 4months. Some days I still feel guilty about it because he spends 8-10hrs there. It's not easy being the ideal mother, we just need to learn to cut ourselves some slack like you rightly said.

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