5 things mums feel guilty about (and really shouldn’t)
We all feel it. That mother’s guilt. Guilt over working too much and not spending enough time at home. Guilt over not working and contributing anything financially. (That mama work/home life balance is a tough one to call). Guilt over not playing Happyland 24/7 even though sometimes it is a little boring. Guilt over using CBeebies as some kind of really helpful unpaid babysitter. Guilt over cleaning the house and not giving them enough attention. Guilt over NOT cleaning the house and living in total ‘I live in a toyshop’ mess (whilst negotiating Lego bricks like Indiana Jones because standing on one bloody hurts). If we didn’t feel guilty occasionally (or 99.9% of the time in my case), then we wouldn’t be doing our job properly.
But that mama guilt can be a right bitch sometimes and I think she needs to be reminded of who’s boss occasionally. So here are 5 things I feel guilty about and ways/ reasons why I really need to get over them.
The perfect playground
I know I’m not the first one to admit that playing inside with all these noisy, brightly coloured and annoying toys is occasionally, REALLY BORING. Is it bad that I sometimes count down the minutes until I can stop playing and do something else? My advice would be to dedicate a certain amount of time playing with your child and the rest of the time to something else, and I actually have more fun with Beau when I’m throwing him around, ignoring the countless boxes of toys and train sets in his playroom.
Since the weather got better it is a hell of a lot easier to get outside and have fun outdoors. Parks, playgrounds, beer gardens (really), zoos, farms and kid friendly festivals are all accessible to children. I’m not a massive fan of soft play centres (unless they serve alcohol) so I would rather take Beau to a child friendly garden centre for example and let him run around outside/eat flowers/soil/bugs there. Locally, in Milton Keynes, we go to Frosts in Woburn Sands which inside, has lovely wooden toys for children (which means they’re kid friendly – woohoo!), cakes and kid friendly snacks and a huge outside area with sandpit (open from the 21st May), beautiful trees, flowers and fish pond. With regards to toys…I’ve really stupidly only just discovered how good charity shops are (particularly in Bletchley if you’re local to MK). Some of the toys are in such good condition they are practically brand new and at a third of the price of buying them in a toyshop. I also read a book recently (here) that said that free play (where children take their time to play, learning through simple playtime, freedom and opportunity to play and being helped instead of pushed) promotes the important skill of independent thinking; developing the incentive to learn through natural curiosity. Beau tends to learn how to play/do anything really through watching me, and when he does play, he always wants to be close by. So as long as he knows I will always be there for him, encouraging, supporting and saying how proud I am of him building the Moomin tower block for the umpteenth time (even if I am currently occupied with something else – I am a great multitasker, it’s a mother’s prerogative) then I think we’re all pretty happy. Anyway, more often than not he just wants a cuddle and to use me as a climbing frame…
Clint has occasionally said that I’m having a relationship with my phone. He’s got a point but I run my whole life from my phone (like most people I think). I write my blog on my phone, I buy things online on my phone, I take photos on my phone, I sell crap on eBay on my phone, I read the newspaper on my phone. I also talk to other amazing mums on my phone when I’m feeling a bit lonely as this mama job is hard work and can make you feel a bit isolated sometimes. I read an article recently saying that digital distractions are harming relationships, stopping children from developing communication skills and teaching them that looking at a screen for hours is a healthy and acceptable activity. It also impacts on their future mental health. Scary stuff. Do you ever feel relieved/excited when your phone runs out of battery/you don’t have signal? After the initial panic is over, I know I do. Unfortunately National Unplugging Day has been and gone but seeing as spending too much time on my phone is the thing I feel most guilty about, I’m aiming to cut my amount of screen time down a bit more (especially in front of Beau). Sometimes, instead of documenting everything and keeping up to date with what everyone else is upto (whilst getting severe FOMO), I’m just going to let the day be. That is something I am working on, so I’ll let you know how it goes.
Bedtime is my least favourite time of the day. Beau usually sleeps through but on average it takes about an hour to persuade him to go to sleep, meanwhile all I’m thinking about (apart from go to sleep Beau go to sleep Beau GO TO SLEEP BEAU) is my ridiculously long to-do list. At about 9.30pm he usually drifts off and by that point I’m usually dead too. Sometimes, all I think about is all the places I would rather be. The sofa. In front of my laptop, working. A beach somewhere. Thinking about past lives, how easy things used to be and places we would rather be when it’s really, really hard is totally normal and I’m sure we all do it occasionally. We always think the grass is always greener but in my opinion, it really rarely is.
I mean…is it bad that I secretly look forward to the one day a week Beau goes to the childminder (whom he loves) so I can get on with ‘stuff’ and tackle that massive to-do list? (But then equally love it when I go to pick him up and he runs into my arms). I don’t think so.
Linked to the point above…sometimes I really really miss that freedom. My (much-loved) social life. Wine. That spontaneity. Wine. Those late summer nights in the pub garden. Wine. But then I remind myself that I am 32 YEARS OLD THIS YEAR FAYE and it’s about time to grow up. I had a blast in London for a good 10 years and now, my life is far more meaningful and exciting in ways I never knew it could be. I have found that having a kid makes YOU feel like a kid again and I am a firm believer that ‘me’ time or ‘baby free time’ is actually good for you. Time away from your little one every now and then reminds you of why you had kids in the first place. Besides, all I do when I’m out nowadays is think about how much I would rather be in tucked up in bed watching Eastenders and why are people invading my personal space and why does it smell in here and why is alcohol so expensive nowadays and why can I DEFINITELY not drink like I used to. My clubbing days are definitely over…I don’t wear heels anymore and there is no such thing as a guilt free hangover when you have kids, TRUST ME.
When Beau was really little I remember sitting him down in front of Celebrity Big Brother once for a good half an hour (the series where they swore a lot). A total #mamafail but those early days were a blur of stale breast milk, exploding poos and sleepless nights so I’m not going to feel too guilty about it. Now, instead of watching fighting Z-Listers (thanks CBB) Beau prefers Shrek (‘Shreh’), The Gruffalo (‘Gruph’) and Peppa Pig (‘Pe Pi’). And I for one, owe it to Mr Tumble and The Teletubbies for keeping Beau entertained on long car journeys. Teaching him new words. Making him smile. Encouraging him to dance. There is a lot to be said about how educational these programmes are as well. (Besides, all Beau really wants to do is watch videos of himself on my phone. Really really). Yes, there are occasions where I plonk him down in front of the iPad but since the sun started shining these are few and far between so I’m not going to feel too guilty about how much screen time he has in exact hours and minutes at the moment. Besides, we all need an unpaid babysitter now and then and at least I know my licence fee is being put to some good use…
So those are 5 things I feel guilty about and I would love to know what other fellow mamas feel guilty about also. There are so many things I don’t feel guilty about; the amount of love I show to Beau everyday, the fact that I am still co-sleeping with him 18 months on (in fact I’m pretty proud of that fact but that’s another post entirely), the planned activities, days out and (occasional) home cooked food. In fact if you think about it, all guilt really is is love. The reason why we feel occasional pangs of guilt is because we love our children so much and would do absolutely anything for them. Love, total and complete utter unconditional love. And that’s all they ever need, really. So give yourself a break mama (and a glass of wine), stop beating yourself up, and remember, they will always love you, no matter how many times you check Facebook or reminisce about the old days. You got this (#MUMBOSS).