As part of our #BREAKFREE campaign, blogger at The Honest Mum, Vicki Psarias explains why feeling guilty when you're a parent is totally futile...
Whenever I feel or indeed hear the dreaded ‘guilt’ word, or worse, ‘mum guilt’, I die a little inside.
Not because I don’t suffer from it (I just don’t let it eat me up) but because I wish we were at a place as women (and men) in 2016, where we were equally supported in both the workplace and in the home, to the extent where guilt is minimal or nonexistent.
I wish that competition over parenting ‘one upman (or woman) ship’ wasn’t apparent and that SAHM vs Working Mums vs Mumpreneurs etc… just wasn’t a thing.
So why as women, are we so concerned with how others regard our choices, – and why do we allow these notions of what motherhood means to derail or discourage us on the path we choose/hope to follow.
You see, there are pros and cons to all ways of bringing up baby – and neither balance, nor a perfect life (despite what insta-sham tries to tell us) simply doesn’t exist.
Maternity leave, the first time round (second time was just three months long and rather wonderful) was tough for me. After suffering a traumatic birth, I felt as lost as can be, lower than low, directionless – ironic considering I was a TV director – lacking in strength and confidence, unsure of my future both in the workplace and emotionally… I knew I needed to get better, and also to find a different way of achieving a creative career that would work for my family and I.
I resolutely knew that staying at home (even though that wasn’t a financial option anyway) wouldn’t make me happy. (Although, hats off 100% to those who do it, including one of my closest mates, because it’s the hardest job of all.)
And that’s the key isn’t it? Being honest about what makes us happy.
The more frank we are with ourselves and one another – the more ‘THIS IS WHAT IS RIGHT FOR ME BUT MAYBE NOT FOR YOU AND THAT’S OK’ the better (yes I’m shouting, it’s important).
There is room for all our choices. We are lucky to even have a choice, when so many women don’t.
The more we women (and men, naturally) support one another and stop tearing each other down, the easier life will be for all, because right now we are far from equality in society. We are far from acceptance – be it breastfeeding in public or admitting we need a break from our kids.
Being honest and open and having one another’s backs is true feminism in action, as far as I’m concerned.
And the mothers who want and/or need to work part/full time/for-the-five-minutes-when-their-kids-are-napping – mustn’t be afraid to ‘lean in’ Sheryl Sandberg-style, and simply CRACK ON.
Yes, personal lives affect business and there will be times you feel s*** when you can’t make the school play or need to catch a flight that matters for work, but we need to weigh up the good and not focus on simply the bad.
You’re a role model to your kids, being content in your work makes your kids happy too, and doing the best you can is good enough.
Guilt is futile.
‘There will always be people who think their way is the only way,’ says Emily Leary, blogger at A Mummy Too agrees. ‘I’m pretty thick-skinned about these things because I know I’m doing what feels right. We parents should be cheerleading each other to achieve the lives we want, not jeering and prescribing what that life should be.’
‘It’s healthy and natural as a parent to reflect on how you could realistically improve your own and your family’s lives, but if you lie awake every night questioning your every decision, racked with guilt, you’re being way too hard on yourself. If you’re doing your best, you’re doing okay.’
And while so many of us have it so ‘good’ (myself included) working in flexible careers, it’s worth acknowledging that I still often try, and fail, to achieve balance because balance is utter baloney when you have a family.
Most days I’m juggling like the mother-hustler that I am: full time blogging in my time and on my terms (or sometimes a three year old’s – hello meeting a deadline at 2am).
As a previously one of a pitiful seven per cent of female filmmakers, life as a TV director on set was not synonymous with a happy family life for me.
12 hour days which usually meant 15 in reality and often working away from home was just not going to work for me or my firstborn when he arrived – so, as he turned one, I directed a few commercials then dedicated my time to my blog in between screenwriting gigs. By being one of the first handful of parenting blogs in the UK in 2010, meant that by the time my second son came along two years later, I was in full on pro-blogging mode.
Yes, the guilt is lessened by the fact I work from home (my kitchen is my desk) but I do need to be away for meetings and shoots and my schedule is all about compromise. The internet never sleeps and it’s not always easy to pull myself away from just one more email… The upside, I might be insanely busy one week but it means I might have two days off the following.
If I didn’t have a job I loved – a creative outlet, as such – I wouldn’t be happy. I crave that stimulation, otherwise I’m a miserable mama and who wants one of those?
And here’s the thing, it’s OK. Heck it’s more than OK, it’s vital to state what you want once you have kids, whatever that might be, because you are still a person with needs, desires, aspirations. You have every right to want to dream big, thrive and succeed.
Having kids made me more ambitious than ever because more than ever, I want to do well for them. The little people whose future depends on me and my husband.
What’s more, we are not destroying our kids’ happiness or self-worth by following our own careers.
‘Parents aren’t as important or influential as we’re led to believe,’ says pyschologist Karen Pine. ‘The current zeitgeist makes parents believe that their every move will shape their child’s future. It won’t. Once we accept that, we can stop feeling guilty about not being the perfect parent.’
‘A bit of healthy neglect is good for kids. Hands-off parenting teaches children self-responsibility, independence and gives them an internal locus of control. The more we, as parents, do for our kids the more we undermine the development of those important life skills.’
See, following your career is good not only for you, but your family too.
Vicki blogs at Honest Mum (http://www.honestmum.com) and Mummy’s Got Style (http://www.mummysgotstyle.com). You can follow Vicki on Twitter at @honestmummy