Even before your bump was visible you probably realised that the road to motherhood is paved with guilt. With every call from your oh-so-perfect sister, or late night Google search of ‘baby + sleep routine’, you’ve worked out that being a mum comes with a set of rules – many of which you’ve already broken. Oops! We’ve got the low-down on the guilt traps modern mums face – and how to deal with them…
Guilt trap: how you gave birth
You planned a calm water birth but the party was gatecrashed by every Tom, Dick and Obsetrician. Bridget Baker from Doula UK says, “If you have unresolved feelings about your birth, you really need to find ways to understand and heal.” Talking can be the first step. “It can be really helpful to talk through events with an experienced doula, or a counsellor from the Birth Crisis Network or the Birth Trauma Association,” says Bridget.
Instant guilt-buster: you’re entitled to a copy of your birth notes and an appointment with the Supervisor of Midwives, so book a debriefing session to help you understand what happened.
Guilt trap: feeding your baby
The majority of new mums (80%) plan to breastfeed, according to the National Childbirth Trust, but not all achieve this goal. Every year more than 200,000 mums stop breastfeeing during the first few days and weeks, with 90% saying they’d have liked to continue. A perfect storm for motherly guilt.
“Only you know the range of complex emotions and challenges you may have been through before deciding not to breasfeed,” says breastfeeding counsellor Maddie McMahon. Whatever happens, take pride in your baby and how well you’re nurturing her – however she’s fed.
Instant guilt-buster: forget feeling inadequate. Instead, repeat Maddie’s mantra: “No one has the right to judge my decisions about my breasts and my baby.” So there!
Guilt trap: not cooking from scratch
You vowed to whip up healthy purees that would make Annabel Karmel green with envy, but when it ends up coating the ceiling you ruefully reach for a jar. Before you berate yourself, how about mixing it up with baby-led weaning?
“The idea is that your baby can choose what she wants to eat and feed herself,” says nutritionist Dr Rana Conway, author of Weaning Made Easy. Your baby may get frustrated because she wants to eat, but she may not be capable of feeding herself at first, so Rana suggests a combination of the two methods. “You can spoon-feed your baby shepherd’s pie and she can feed herself with broccoli sticks.”
Instant guilt-buster: Be ambitious with your baby’s food once a week. Knowing you’re going all out on this day will give you permission to go easy on yourself for the rest of the week.
Guilt trap: going back to work
Two thirds of UK mums work, playing the role of domestic goddess at evenings and weekends and promotion-seeking missile from nine to five. Soon you’re stressing that your colleague is after your job and your baby is calling the childminder ‘mama’.
Planning your return to work carefully is half the battle. As long as you’ve been in your job for at least 26 weeks, you have the legal right to request flexible working, so explore this option with your employer, and set boundaries so you aren’t glued to your Blackberry during your little one’s soft play session.
Instant guilt-buster: Set aside 30 minutes each day when your Blackberry gets switched off and you really connect with your baby. It’s quality not quantity that counts.
Plus, don’t forget, there’s plenty of things mums won’t admit they really do…