Mothers need to stop feeling guilty

Are you a new mother? Forget “new”, if you are a mother you would know what I’m talking about. Mothers and their sense of guilt go hand in hand. Especially when you are raising your child with a lot of care, love, concern – the way all mothers do, you are bound to face this situation.

To give an example there must have been these situations when you have been faced with these guilt-ridden questions which you are left to answer yourself. And it starts at birth.

  • Why is my child not latching? Maybe something is wrong with me
  • Why is my child not gaining weight? Maybe my milk supply is not enough
  • Should I give my child formula milk? What kind of a mother am I to feed formula to my baby!
  • Why is my child not rolling over? Maybe I didn’t have enough calcium during pregnancy.
  • Why is my child crying in the evenings? Maybe I’m the bad mother who doesn’t know how to manage her baby?
  • My baby fell down and got hurt. I’m such a horrible mother! How could I let this happen?

The list is endless. And if you are a working mother. God help you! The whole world is out there to make you feel that you are the worst mother ever as if your own guilt was not enough to make you miserable already.

But why do mothers feel guilty all the time? It’s not that they aren’t doing enough for their baby already. They are doing enough and more and yet the all-engulfing feeling of guilt doesn’t seem to leave a mom alone. Some of the top reasons why mothers feel guilty are:

Play by the rule book

Even without you knowing it, there are several rule books that have been created by the people around. This stems from the amount of information available today and mothers do not want to stay back. They want to know everything when it comes to their babies. As though knowing is not enough, following it to the ‘t’ is what they want to embrace. Psychologists say, “That’s not possible. You simply can’t be following every rule.” That’s where your guilt comes from. You know what is right or wrong but knowingly some wrong things happen. For example, you want your baby to have nutrition-packed food. You can’t cook a meal 4 times a day with possibly every nutritional ingredient in the required proportion. If you do, you will not be left with enough time to spend with your child. And if you don’t, you will have to resort to packaged baby food with fortified vitamins and minerals. “Packaged food” is not good for your baby – some rule books say. So what do you do? Feel guilty no matter what choice you make.

The world is a great judge

Really? Ask yourself. People around will judge you no matter what. If you marry or you don’t marry; if you don’t have a child, if you do have a child at what age did you become a mother; whether your baby looks chubby or petite, whether your baby is fair or dark, have a lot of hair or no hair. Do I even need to tell you the long list of all milestones which you hope your child will achieve at the right age? But hold on. Every every child is unique. And with all your experience with information gathering, you know better that it doesn’t matter what the world has to say about your child! And definitely you are not responsible for that! If instead of 6th month, your baby’s tiny choppers sprout at 11th month, how are you responsible? And even if you are, for any baby, teething can happen anytime between 4th to 15th month. If there is further delay, you will anyways be consulting a pediatrician, won’t you? So chill. Give a cold shoulder to these nobodies in the world.

Mother’s happiness is not a crime

Do you know what’s important for your baby? Your happiness. Only when you are happy, can you take care of your baby and fulfill her needs well. Your stress hormones can transfer to your baby-making her extremely uncomfortable. Do you want that? Then why do you feel guilty for not feeling guilty when you take a day off? You need a break too. Everybody does. That’s why they have weekends in offices and defined work hours in a week/ day. No one can function round the clock. So if you are lucky to have someone who is willing to let your hair loose, grab that moment with both your hands. You need it for yourself and for your baby. Relax, no crime involved in this!

A little ignorance is a bliss 

You know what? It’s good to not know everything. Sometimes when your baby cries and you feel lost and keep wondering why can’t you know (like they say) from your mother’s instincts? It is possible to not know everything about your baby. And moreover, instinctive knowledge about the baby’s discomfort could actually be dangerous. True, that there are mostly five reasons why a newborn baby cries – hungry, gassy, cold/hot, needs a diaper change, sleepy. But a baby’s only way of communicating is through her cries. She lets you know that she is uncomfortable. You are supposed to take care of her. But you are the mother not the pediatrician. If after trying out all “instinctive responses” your baby is still not calm, it’s best not to rely on your motherly knowledge and take the baby to a doctor. Please take this fact and gulp it down with motherly ego, a mother can not and does not know everything about her child. A mother is not omniscient like the Almighty. There is nothing to be guilty about it.

Parenting is a joint responsibility

You are the mother and no one can take that away from you. Baby is dependent completely on you because you are the primary caregiver (in most cases). But please understand that raising a child is a joint responsibility of both parents. So share your work with your spouse or anybody else who is willing to take care of the baby. More than the quantity of time spent with your baby, focus on the quality of time spent. Often, in our desire to be with the child we want to be the master of everything. That will only take a toll on your emotional and physical well being. At the end of the day, after doing all your chores the baby gets a hassled, haggard, exhausted, snappy mother. That’s not what your baby wants. Focus on safety, nutrition, health, development of your child even if you are away or working. That’s your responsibility. If you know the gaps that may have been in your absence, compensate for that when you are with your child. Reading to a child is an important aspect of their development, which your nanny may not be able to do. So take out time after work, to read to your baby from his favourite pop-up book. That way you spend quality time and fill up the gap. You know what I mean?

‘Guilt’ and ‘worry’ are two separate things. No one can tell a mother ‘don’t be worried’. Because you will be, no matter what. But guilt comes from your feeling of doing something wrong or not doing something right. Sometimes the definition of these “rights” and “wrongs” are not correct. So think about the end objective and if you are able to work towards that or not. If yes, then allow yourself some brownie points because you are doing a great job!

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