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By Paveena Kumar and mums

 

If you’re a mum, there’s a 99% chance you’ve experienced mum guilt. Okay, let’s be real, probably 100%! 

Many mums put a lot of unnecessary pressure on themselves, feeling that they should be doing something “better”, some may even feel guilty for feeling happy! 

We understand, raising little humans isn’t easy, so take a deep breath and give yourself a break! 

Here are 10 things you shouldn’t feel guilty, by mums, and their real-life experiences:

 

1. Taking a break 

Sylvy, mummy of 2: I think every mother should make self-care a priority. Whether it's just an hour of me-time at your favourite cafe, or a day out at the spa or catching up with friends, a break away from the usual caregiving is important.

I used to feel guilty whenever I told my husband that I was going out to meet friends and that I wouldn’t be home till late. The guilt I felt was worse because my kids were between 1 to 3 years old. But I realised that denying myself breaks wasn’t helping me be a better mum - in fact, I had so much built-up frustration and angst because I didn’t have an outlet to relax and recharge. I was my own enemy!

Everybody needs downtime from their job and responsibilities. It’s about recharging and resting so you can go back to whatever you need to do, better and stronger. 

 

Sonia, mummy of 4: We shouldn’t be guilty about investing time and attention on ourselves. A happy mum means a happy household. This is something many of us mothers, grapple with because the notion of self-sacrifice has been ingrained in our mindsets since time immemorial. Everyone has a role to play including the children, you don’t stop being an individual just because you have children. This becomes more apparent as the children grow older and need us less. I have gone back to work after a 20-year hiatus. I also took time to do the things I love while they were all in school, like trail cycling and hiking.

 

2. Disciplining your child

Joanne, mummy of 5: I teach my children right from wrong and they learnt from the tender age of 1 that if you do something wrong, there will be consequences to face. The punishment is usually based on the severity of the mistake. But, I won’t hit my children out of anger or frustration. It has to be reasonable.

Serena, mummy of 1: I have a fussy eater who is right smack in her terrible threes. Although she doesn't often have public meltdowns (those are confined to the home), I often react with a red face, screaming louder than her to stop her tantrums in public. This is of course after the gentle, soft approach is rebuked by the threenager. Often, it leaves me with a sense of defeat - that I couldn't keep calm. I’m not an angel and my child is not going to be left with emotional scars just because I insist, she finishes her meals or not be defiant.

 

3. Expecting your spouse to be a “present” co-parent

Farah, mummy of 2: Gone are the days where the father is seen solely as a disciplinarian and the financial provider. In present days, the parenting load is shared, be it the domesticated tasks of diaper changing, feeding, or putting a child to bed or the responsibility of imparting values and reinforcing routines. Every facet of a child’s upbringing is no longer gender-specific. Co-parenting also aids with consistency in the child’s upbringing and ultimately improves their father-child bond.

 

4. Making mistakes

Gaithri, mummy of 2: Parenting my oldest is easier than my second daughter. She had her own opinions and was demanding even before turning 1 year old.  I tried different methods of disciplining her but it didn't work. Then I realised I just had to be firm and find ways to communicate with her without the aggression. 

Don't feel guilty for the things that didn’t work. Parenting is a constant learning journey. No matter how much experience you have as a parent, each child is unique and we have to adapt to a parenting style that fits each child. 

 

5. Letting your children choose

Joanne: I have learnt the hard way that every child is unique in their capabilities. As a parent, I want my children to excel in school to ensure their future is bright. Expecting them to follow a specific professional route so that their future is secure. This is where I have learnt that whatever expectations you have for your children, may not guarantee their happiness. 

Share your expectations with your children but let them work for what they want.

 

6. Not being able to breastfeed

Agatha, mummy of 3: It would be awesome to experience breastfeeding but if you can’t, IT’S ALRIGHT! That does not make u any less of a mother. As long as the child is fed, that’s all that matters! All my kids drank, the cheapest formula milk and they are perfectly fine! 

I wanted to breastfeed my first, but I was on the verge of post-natal depression, so I decided to stop breastfeeding for the sake of my sanity. Keeping my sanity was a priority as I needed to be there and look after my child. My second did not want to be breastfed at all, so I didn’t push for it. I wanted to experience breastfeeding for my third, but I was also realistic that if I was unable to, I would accept it. I was blessed to be able to experience it. 

 

7. Being firm about YOUR parenting styles with your children’s secondary caregivers

Farah: Every mother has their parenting styles and wishes to inculcate certain behaviours, habits and routines in their children. You should not feel sorry for maintaining certain expectations and boundaries for your children’s secondary caregivers and amicably reinforcing your methods, even if they may disagree. Don’t feel afraid, threatened, or upset to stand your ground. In the long run, this ensures your children do not grow up confused with receiving mixed signals from their caregivers. Consistency among caregivers is key for a child’s development and well-being.

 

8. Making time for date nights

Rosemary, mummy of 2: It is easy to forget our spouse after the children come along. There is just too much diapering, feeding and sleeping that needs to be done. But, the relationship with our husband is so important, especially after having children.

When I feel overwhelmed with motherhood, my pillar of support is my husband, he is the one who pulls me back up on my feet and shows me a positive perspective of my negative thoughts. Having one on one time with him is so important, it gives us a personal space to talk about things we can’t talk about in front of the children. 

So don’t be guilty about getting a trusted caregiver to watch your children while you spend that undisrupted couple time together. This will allow you to recharge and come home to the children, as happy parents.

 

9. Asking for help

Farah: It’s almost impossible to manage every aspect of your child’s upbringing single-handedly. While mothering may be our primary role, we still must fulfil other responsibilities as a wife, daughter, sibling, employee, colleague and friend. You shouldn’t feel guilty for seeking any form of help. Trying to wear multiple hats and having divided attention across all your roles can consume you, affect your overall psyche and even cause burnout. 

Being a mum does not rob you of your innate needs, delegation of tasks to others does not liken to neglect of your work or your child. You are looking out for your own physical and mental well-being so that everyone benefits from you functioning optimally.

 

10. Deviating from ideal notions of “the best” for your child

Farah: Today’s mothers are well equipped with information and knowledge of “gold standard” parenting. BUT, there is no such thing as an ideal mother or child. We must remind ourselves that we are not bringing up a 2D by-product of a parenting textbook but another live human being. 

It’s ok if your child skips a nap or have that forbidden chocolate. It’s ok to occasionally give in to your child’s tantrum or fussiness when all other options have been exhausted. There’s nothing to be ashamed of if we occasionally steer away from this mirage of perfection.

 

Rosemary: And does “best” always mean providing the most expensive clothes/things? 

I purchase clothes that are comfortable, presentable, and most importantly, affordable.  My children outgrow their clothes fast, and most of the time, I must hand the outgrown clothes to someone else.

There was once, I brought my oldest daughter for a live show. During the break, there were some staff walking around selling merchandises. My daughter was "enchanted" by a light toy. The staff was smart to pass the item to my daughter and engaged in a conversation with her (not me...). Looking at how my daughter smiled, melted my heart and made me hand over $30. After the show, the merchandise ended up in my bag, eventually in the storeroom and after 2 years, in the dustbin. So whether it is an expensive toy or just an empty cereal box, know that materialistic things are never permanent, but the experiences are.

Take this $30 light toy for instance:

Mums, remember to strive for balance, not perfection. Be kind to yourself – and do not feel guilty about perceived shortcomings, mistakes, and weaknesses. Celebrate life as a mum in the truest sense – your children and husband will love the real you. HAPPY MOTHERS’ DAY!

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