When William was born I was as prepared as I thought possible. My freezer was full of healthy meals that I could eat one handed, I’d read books about newborns, I’d been to antenatal classes, and I’d watched more youtube videos on breastfeeding that I care to admit! The nursery was equipped, I had a bouncer chair and a baby carrier- frankly, I felt sorted! I knew that I would be tired (I underestimated how tired though), I knew that I would have
less no me-time and I knew that it would be a steep learning curve. There was however, one part of motherhood that I was completely unprepared for – guilt.
I say sorry to Will literally hundreds of times a day: sorry I have to change your nappy, sorry but you can’t eat dog biscuits, sorry your milk isn’t ready yet, sorry your upset, sorry I don’t know what the matter is, sorry you have to have vaccinations today, sorry but you can’t play with plug sockets/mobile phone chargers/all wires! Sorry, sorry, sorry! It seems most of my day is spent apologising, and whilst some of these apologies are rather tongue in cheek, far more of them are completely sincere, guilt-ridden sorries.
This was particularly true in the first few months after Will was born. Despite attending all the classes, watching all the videos, spending a day back in the maternity unit, and getting help from various midwives, Will refused to latch on and breastfeed. This led to a huge amount of anxiety and guilt on my part. I felt that I was failing my son. It was supposed to be the most natural thing in the world and yet for some reason we couldn’t make it work. In the end I expressed milk for 10 months; it worked well for us and we fell into our own way of doing things, but the guilt remained. The rational side of me knew that I was a.) doing my best and b.) that formula feeding was also a perfectly acceptable way to feed a baby, but the new Mum side of me felt dreadful.
Breastfeeding wasn’t the only thing I felt guilty about – I felt guilty about giving Will dummy (I have no idea why I felt this was in some way bad, I just did), I felt guilty when after 9 months of no sleep we tried controlled-crying (controversial but a total life saver for us), I felt guilty when Will caught a cold off me, the list is literally endless, and quite often completely irrational!
Recently my Mum-guilt is related to my return to work. Will turns one on Thursday (where has my baby boy gone?) and I start work the following week. I have been determined to spend as much quality time together this week as I can. I have been making the most of every day and doing lots of fun things together like swimming, going to the beach and playing on the swings. All this ‘making the most of my time with Will’ along with moving house in two weeks has left me with very little spare time. So today I made a compromise, and you guessed it, I feel terribly guilty about it. Will’s birthday isn’t going to be the sugar-free paddington bear cake I had planned, its a Marks & Spencer caterpillar cake. Will he get to eat any? No. Will he care? No. He would much rather play for an hour (or six) than sit in his highchair watching me panic over a sponge! I will probably look back at photos of Will’s birthday tea party and cringe that he had a shop bought cake that I wouldn’t let him eat, but I will also remember that by making that decision, I got to spend more time with my precious boy.
From what other parents have told me, the guilt never goes. There is something about being a parent that makes you feel like any decision you make is the wrong one. So as Will reaches his first birthday I have set myself a new year’s resolution. I am going to learn to embrace Mum-guilt, remembering that whatever the decision may be, us Mums are all doing what we think is best for our children. It may not always be popular, and it may not always be right, but its always with the best of intentions.