Being a mother is a tough gig. If you’ve ever had a conversation with one, you’ll already know about the sleepless nights and endless dirty nappies. But there’s one thing that no one can prepare you for, and that’s the guilt. Your tiny little person is perfect; perfect hands, perfect feet – everything is perfect. But even your best intentions can go out of the window. There’s no such thing as a perfect parent – that can feel really hard to forgive yourself for. But go easy on yourself. Just remember that you’re a human being, you’re learning, and you’re just doing what you need to do to get by.
Read on to pick up some tips for breaking free from the motherhood guilt.
A woman’s place is everywhere
In the not too distant past, women were expected to stay at home to maintain domestic bliss and raise the children, while the men went out to earn the money. Fast forward 50 years and now, women are working just as much as men (albeit with a gender pay gap), but also still doing the large majority of work at home and for the family.
In 2016, according to the Office for National Statistics, women did almost 60% more unpaid work than men. The study showed that on average, men did 16 hours a week of unpaid work, which included adult care and child care, laundry and cleaning. This was compared to 26 hours a week of unpaid work done by women.
These figures didn’t include the mental and emotional labour of ‘worry work’ – so called because women often occupy the role of residential worrier. They notice when food needs buying, clothes need replacing, they stay on top of doctor’s appointments, they schedule after school activities and arrange playdates, they remember birthdays and buy gifts, the list goes on… Women essentially write the to-do list for the whole family.
“Work like you haven’t got children and be a mother as though you don’t have a job.”
This is a lot of work to stay on top of. It’s no wonder that things might slip sometimes. When it comes to feeling guilty about not managing this huge workload seamlessly, the first step towards freeing yourself from guilt is realising that it’s not your personal failure to keep up – the system is stacked against you!
There are ways to prioritise, delegate and manage the heavy workload of motherhood, just like with any other workload! Here are some top tips for shaking it off:
Don’t be too particular
J.K Rowling was famously quoted: “People very often say to me, ‘How did you do it? How did you raise a baby and write a book?’ and the answer is, I didn’t do housework for four years! I’m not Superwoman.”
She’s onto something here. You can’t be everything to everybody all at once. Maybe ditching all of the housework for four years is a bit extreme – but some things can slide a little if it means that you’re making more time for what matters to you.
Share the load
If you’re lucky enough to be raising your child with a partner, then it feels important to ensure that you’re both pulling an equal amount of weight, so that one of you doesn’t burn out – especially if you both work. More countries are introducing shared parental leave. This is a brilliant cultural change, as it means that both mothers and fathers can be involved in their children’s lives from the very beginning, and understand the ins and outs of their care, leaving no excuse for one partner to take the lead over the other.
Let go of control
Maybe you’re 100% times better than your partner at doing the laundry, choosing the food for packed lunches and organising the home diary – but only because you’re very well practiced. Ultimately, taking everything on by yourself isn’t sustainable. Could you draw up a list of all your weekly tasks and split them up amongst your family members? It might feel difficult at first to delegate and let go of control, but eventually you might find a new, healthier norm and they might learn a thing or two about how to run a tight operation.
Commit and communicate
Carrying the weight of parenting equally between two partners takes hard work and good communication. But if you’re able to strike that balance, that hard work will pay itself off. And if you’re not in a position to split the load with a partner or with other family members, then go easy on yourself – you’re doing an amazing job!
We’ve already covered getting your partner involved, but for some of us this isn’t always an option, and even when it is, getting the little ones involved is a great way to teach them good habits. When they’re old enough, get your kids to run a vacuum cleaner around, making tidying up a fun activity for all the family! You could even set up a reward system to thank them for their hard work.
If you’re looking for a product that makes life a little easier, Natracare’s Organic Cotton Babywipes are the biodegradable, compostable and guilt-free choice for wiping up messy faces and bums.
Do you have any top tips for striking a good balance at home when it comes to parenting? Let us know in the comments below!