the mummy diaries : mum guilt

posted on: Tuesday, September 10, 2013

This post is sponsored by Nuffnang.

guilt /gɪlt/ noun 1. the fact or state of having committed an offence or crime; grave culpability, as for some conscious violation of moral or penal law. 2. a feeling of responsibility or remorse for some crime, wrong etc., either real or imagined.

Sometimes I feel like if I could just do everything right my kids would grow up to be emotionally healthy people with no problems.

Sometimes I feel pulled in a million different directions.

Sometimes I worry that one child feels like they're not getting enough attention. I worry that I haven't fed another one enough vegetables. I worry that I didn't listen to one of their stories about Star Wars attentively enough. Or that I didn't drive one of them to sport practice so they had to catch the bus. Or that I didn't give one them a gracious cuddle when they were hanging off my leg and instead I was a bit grumpy and...oh.

That sounds like guilt right there, doesn't it?

My guilty face?

Yet as the hilarious Em was interviewing Jen, Naomi and I, there was a big part of me that was thinking, I don't feel that guilty.

I mean, sure I did at that moment because it was the lady's meal and nap time and I was lunching working instead of feeding her properly plus she was exhausted. (She was howling at the top of her lungs but they magically edited that sound out of the video. Where can I find that editing tool for my real life?)

See how her face is all scrunched up? Howling. 

But let's take a step back. What does guilt really mean? Back at home I flipped open my trusty Macquarie Dictionary and read that little definition and typed it out there at the top of this post.

Committed an offence or crime.

A feeling of responsibility or remorse for some crime/wrong...real or imagined.

Lunching with friends or providing less vegetables than is ideal is not a crime. Worrying about the kids and trying to be a conscientious parent are natural feelings and inclinations. Guilt is a natural feeling.

But you know what? I wouldn't call that mum guilt. I'd just call it guilt. Like, regular, run-of-the-mill guilt. Or, you know, ex-Catholic-school-kid guilt (another topic altogether there).

I guess what I'm really wondering is how helpful is it to use terms like 'mum guilt'? Is it possible that by bandying around a word like 'mum' and putting it together with a word like 'guilt' there develops in our cultural consciousness the expectation that we will feel it. That's it's inevitable. And worst of all; that we should feel that. That if we're being a good parent we will feel guilty. Especially if we're a mum.

Yes I feel guilty about my kids sometimes but I also feel guilty about a whole bunch of other things (see Catholic school reference above). That doesn't mean I am guilty.

If my kiddos are loved and cared for it really doesn't matter if one lunch time when they were 1 they cried. Or if they had to catch public transport to sport when they were a teenager. Or if they didn't eat enough greens when they were 5. That's not neglect. That's not a crime.

So that feeling I have that if I do everything right my kids will grow up to have no problems? That just isn’t true. That's not the human condition.

And feeling guilty about what I have and haven't done isn't going to change that one iota.

Yes, I’m still going to feel worried about them. And I’m going to keep trying my best.

But every day, after I’ve done that and I’ve put them to bed (or said good night, in the teen’s case) I’m going to try to let it all go.

I do my best. I’m pretty sure you do too.

That is good enough, I think.

What do you think? I’d love to hear.

p.s Another interesting article on the pros and cons of mum's feeling guilt, and another on why we mamas can stop feeling guilty.

p.p.s You can check out all the Mummy Diaries if you click through at the end of the video -- I loved hearing what the other mums had to say.


  1. Love this post and the video! I have been watching the Checkout lately on ABC and they have a segment on mummy guilt and it's so funny. Before kids i never realised how much judgement that there could be between mothers, it's terrible and certainly makes you question the way you do things sometimes. I have a bunch of close friends with kids the same age as mine and many of us parent so differently, what works for one is totally wrong for another. I think being a mum has made me far more accepting and relaxed my ideas about a heap of things...such as dummies, homemade organic food, cloth nappies and the list goes on. As long as a child is loved and protected, often all the little things don't matter ;-)

    1. thank you bec! your group of friends sounds wonderful and supportive. good on you all.

      now I'm off to check out the checkout ;)

  2. Great post Bron (god you are gorgeous!)
    I don't feel guilty but I do sometimes feel sad that I wasn't more self aware with my older two passing on body neuroses and other stuff unthinkingly. But thankfully it's never too late to open up the dialogue and help undo the baggage that gets passed on, so I definitely don't feel guilty. I know I did my best.

    1. miss lila you are too kind ;) I agree it is never too late.
      I've been a different mother in a lot of ways to the eldest than I am to his younger brother and sister. somedays I feel like that's a bad thing, other days I feel like in the bigger picture, those different ways are much of muchness. x

  3. Loved your post - I often wonder if I am doing the right thing with my little one (just turned 5 months)... Some days are better than others - but in the end I love him with all my heart and I'm doing the best that I can... So I really can't feel that guilty can I?

    1. loving him with all your heart? sounds like that's one lucky lil fellow you got there shari :) x

  4. I really don't feel guilty at all when I leave Toddler C at child care...I think that may be because in the US maternity leave is only 8 weeks and so really I felt very fortunate to be able to NOT leave him until he was ten months.
    I do sometimes feel guilty when I have a lot to or uni work...and so I basically banish Daddy R and Toddler C from the house so I can get it down. I suppose I more feel like I am missing out?
    As for the rest of the things mothers worry about I managed to convince myself long ago that as long as he knows that he is unconditionally loved, he will be fine.

    1. absolutely!

      but I do feel sad about that 8 week leave in the states. that puts a LOT of pressure on new mums :(

  5. Great post! I am guilty of feeling mummy guilt. I felt it a lot more when I was a new mum and am slowly coming to terms with things that I can't change (and work on the things I can - like spending too much time on the computer). As other mums have said, I love my little girl to pieces, she knows she is loved and loves us back. <3 Love the film.

    1. thanks kaz :)

      the mister asked me if I felt guilty (in the mum guilt sense) when the teen was a baby. I said no, it wouldn't have occurred to me to. I can see that my thinking is supported by the language I have to explain what's happening to me and the kind of ideas about parenting that I subscribe to. it's an interesting one!

  6. every place i have been looking lately is dripping with judgement about how to parent and what we are doing wrong. it is so hard. but then i look at my sparkling little ladies and figure, i must be doing something right. i look at the little faces you are raising and think the same thing! xx

    1. aww, thank you ashley. I'm sure you're doing many things right. your ladies are lucky to have you. x

  7. Well I think you're already aware of my thoughts on mama guilt as I spewed them all out during the filming (I swear I didn't shut up the entire time.. Did I? I don't think I did). I am very good at feeling guilty. It doesn't take much for me to jump head first into that particular pool. Motherhood just added an extra opportunity for me to feel a whole load of guilt about everything. I realised though, when ollie was maybe 8 months, that I really needed to lay off myself a little. I was literally drowning in guilt and responsibility and it wasn't doing either of us any good. Since then I've been working hard on being more rational in my appraisal of myself and it seems to be helping. I certainly feel less fine about the more innocuous stuff I once would have gotten worked up over. Still a few biggies but getting there sloooowly but surely.

    1. I think we could all be easier on ourselves! I loved hearing what you had to say, I'm sure I'm not the only mama who can relate :) x


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