Breaking free from Mum Guilt
Marie Claire’s Features DirectorAndreaThompson vows to #BREAKFREE from MumGuilt
It’s a week-day lunchtime and I’m sitting in my local hospital with my son waiting to see a doctor when I feel a familiar sense of unease sweep through my body. It’s a few minutes before I can pinpoint exactly what it is. Oh wait, now I remember, its guilt. That nagging ache in the pit of my stomach that I’ve done something wrong.
It’s ironic that I feel myself succumbing to it today – during a week that we’ve dedicated at Marie Claire to breaking free from it. But of course, as most mothers will tell you, guilt goes with the territory.
Today I feel guilty about checking my work emails instead of listening to my 4 year old son’s lengthy story about a new dinosaur he’s been learning about at school. I also feel guilty for taking time out of the office mid-week to be here. Then there’s the guilt that I’m even here in the first place. My son fell over and split his lip open on a concrete path a few days earlier (should I have been watching him more closely?) and I packed him off for school telling him he’d be fine. He wasn’t, so we’re in the paediatric ward waiting for a plastic surgeon to arrive, lead him down to theatre and give him the three stitches he needs to stem the bleeding.
As I watch his little arm go limp as he drops off into an anesthetic-induced sleep a few minutes later it hits me that breaking free from ‘mum guilt’ is a work in progress. Most days, I feel like I have this full-time working-mum business licked. I have a hugely creative,varied job that I love going to each day, amazing childcare, and two spirited sons (I also have a one year old) - the best of both worlds.
But like most mums, I can’t help occasionally being sucked into that murky place where I feel like if I can't do both perfectly, I’m somehow failing. Those days when my baby son comes home from nursery and I smell another woman's perfume on his clothes, and I find myself wondering as he nuzzles into my neck, what he's been up to all day, who cuddled him when he cried, or if today was the day that he took his first steps and someday I might regret that I missed them.
And I know I'm not alone. All my working mother friends feel the same internal and constant struggle (despite loving their careers) and hate themselves for succumbing to the guilt, particularly when their male partners breezily have careers AND families without giving it a second thought that they're compromising either.
As women, we're judged constantly on too many levels to list here and if we become mothers this only intensifies. So why give ourselves a hard time too?
Whether we work up until our due dates or leave work 6 months before, take 3 months off work or a year, go back full time or part time, it really is time stop judging ourselves and each other. So come on, sign up to our campaign. If we all BREAKFREE from mother guilt, we'll feel a hell of a lot better about our lives. We'll also be a whole lot less judgmental of others if they occasionally screw up in theirs.