I’m surrounded by amazing mums. They are some of the most brilliant, funniest, bravest people I know. When it comes to caring for their child, they are like soldiers. They spend time searching the internet, reading books, attending talks and speaking to others around them to find any method they haven’t already found that might help their child. Any way that they can change or improve what they’re already doing. They spend hours with their child, trying to find the methods that work. They work tirelessly every single day, to help their son or daughter connect with the world around them; and then they tell me that they feel like they’re not doing enough.
This is what I call the mummy guilt.
Mummy guilt gives us a good old battering on a daily basis. It tells us that we are not good enough. That we should be doing more. It makes us doubt, causes us to worry and makes us scared of our responsibilities. It tells us that we’re not doing our job properly, and it tells us to do better. It keeps us up at night worrying over the things we didn’t get right that day, and berates us for the times we completely messed it up.
I am a victim of mummy guilt. I feel constantly that I should be doing more. I need to spend more time playing with the Pickle. Having fun. I was too tired to put together his visual schedule, and I didn’t do all of the speech and language recommendations this week. I shouted at the Pickle when I was tired, and I shouldn’t have. I need to be more patient. I must learn to be more understanding. He deserves more than I can give to him. I am not good enough to be his mum.
Mummy guilt is an epedemic. Nearly all of us suffer with it. Autism mums seem to get it on a chronic level! Don’t get me wrong, a little mummy guilt can be a good thing. It can push us that one step farther to achieve something worthwhile. Like stress, it has its purpose to keep things safe and running well in our environment; but I believe that when it’s not kept in check, that mummy guilt can start to corrode us. It causes us to put the immediate needs of our child first, and our own needs last, always. And when this happens, I believe that we actually run the risk of letting our children down in the way they need us the most.
Imagine a car that never gets any love. A car that never gets cleaned, or taken into the garage for an MOT. It will run fine for a while, but as time goes on, little things will start to build up, the rust will appear, then eventually it will spread. Something will stop working properly, and then suddenly the little problems become very big problems. One day, the car that you rely on, will break down. It won’t get you to where you need to be. It won’t be able to take the pressure of running every single day and it will become unreliable. And it will cost a lot more money and time to fix! If you make the time to take care of your car, it will take care of you.
You see where I’m going with this?…. If you don’t start taking the time to care for yourself, eventually the things you are ignoring, will become bigger. Tiredness, stress, diet, and getting your own space and time. So many parents I know feel guilty for spending time away from their children. Some haven’t ever had more than a few hours to themselves in nearly 10 years. Your children rely on you to be in a good shape physically and mentally, so that you can get them to where they need to be. Perhaps it’s time for an MOT.
Book that class. Go for that walk (alone or with the dog). Say yes when somebody offers to take the kids for an hour. Say yes to that meal out. Say yes to the spa break. Plan for that weekend away with your partner. Book that doctors appointment you’ve been putting off. Give yourself permission to put yourself first.
To the mum who doesn’t sleep because your child doesn’t sleep. To the dad working all the hours to find the money to access therapies whilst paying a mortgage. To the carer who drops everything to drive their child to every appointment. To the parent who spends hours on the phone to get through to the right person, and then marches down there when you won’t be put through. To the mum who never gives up. You are the researcher, the therapist, the nurse, doctor, dentist, teacher and the expert of your child. The mum who has only been away from their child a couple of times since they were born, and then felt guilty when she did. To the one who finds it hard to let go.
If you can do something, even if it’s just for an hour, you can come back to your life with that little bit of peace, calmness and clarity that may not have been there before. And this, my amazing mama, allows you to continue to be there for your child and give them the very best of YOU.
You are not putting your child second, you are actually putting them first. You are ensuring that the person they rely on the most, is working at her best and is ready for the next battle.
By taking time to reward yourself, you ultimately reward your child.
Just don’t start feeling guilty about it 😉