Mum Guilt and the Art of Self-Compassion - 2020
How often do you beat yourself up?
Do you speak kindly to yourself, or are you harsh?
Do you feel guilty if you mess up?
Do you ever find yourself saying…”if only…”?
A few weeks ago, I was really excited by the prospect of having a whole weekend with just me and my middle child – a rare treat in the craziness of family life with 3 active children.
The weekend started off really well. We camped in the woods, roasting marshmallows over the campfire – him burning his black whilst I cooked mine so that they were slightly crispy on the outside but all melted in the inside.
Saturday was spent in a flurry of activities, including a trip to Hobbycraft where he spent his birthday money on some new Airfix models and some craft sticks.
By the time we got home in the afternoon, I was exhausted and was ready to chill and watch a movie together. Heaven! However, he had other ideas and wanted to start building a castle out of the craft sticks he had bought.
No problem I thought, I will just go and have a sneaky nap on the sofa to recharge, and then we can watch our movie.
I remember snuggling down into the soft feather cushions and closing my eyes, thinking how delicious it was to be doing that on a Saturday afternoon – unheard of in our busy family life.
The next thing I knew, my son was standing in front of me pale faced with a tea towel wrapped around his hand with blood pouring all over the carpet, saying “Mum, mum wake up. This is serious!”
I went from deep sleep to wide awake in about 0.3 seconds, and asked him, “Have you lost any limbs?”
“No mum, but its bad”.
After prizing away the tea towel and seeing that he now had a very deep hole in his hand, it was rather obvious that he needed putting back together again and my meagre first aid kit wasn’t going to fix it.
To my horror, it was 7.30pm (I had been asleep for about 3 hours), and I now faced the prospect of many hours spent in A & E – not what I had envisaged for our Saturday night.
Now this isn’t the first time I’ve found myself sitting in A & E with him. In fact, it has been a regular occurrence over the years.
For those of you with children who have found themselves in this situation, you will know that the doctors and nurses, and everyone you come in contact with, will ask your child how the injury happened so as to make sure his story is consistent and true. Now I don’t know about anyone else here, (maybe its just me?) but I always feel super guilty, like I need to defend myself as a mother and prove that I am not irresponsible. It’s a bit like when you see a policeman or police car and have to check that you’re not doing anything illegal.
So, when my son said that he was using a scalpel to build a castle out of craft sticks whilst I was asleep on the sofa, I felt really really guilty. What kind of a mother has a sleep whilst her son is using a sharp scalpel?
And knowing that the doctors have my son’s medical records and can see that we have had to bring him in to A & E many times before made me feel super guilty. For the time he got onion skin stuck in his throat as a baby and started choking whilst he and I were in the supermarket; the time he snapped one of the bones in his arm clean in two, whilst slipping on a canal boat as he was reaching for a handful of skittles that I was eating, when he fell backwards off the sofa as a toddler and cracked open his head on the radiator and needed to have his head glued back together again,….and so on!
I wanted to say to the doctors and nurses, “I have 2 other children and they have never been to A & E! This child is really clumsy and accident-prone. I promise I am a good mother!”
Can you relate? Even though I know that I can’t protect my children (especially my adventurous middle child) from every possible bad thing that might happen to them, I still feel guilty when something bad does happen.
I find myself beating myself up. “If only I hadn’t fallen asleep, he wouldn’t have sliced his hand open. If only I hadn’t been eating the skittles, he wouldn’t have broken his arm and needed several operations to fix it. If only I hadn’t answered the phone and taken my eyes off him for a moment – then he wouldn’t have climbed on top of the sofa and cracked his head open. If only I had left the shopping trolley further away from the vegetables, he wouldn’t have choked.”
Recently, I read the most wonderful book by Dr. Kristen Neff called, “Self-Compassion: stop beating yourself up and leave insecurity behind.”
I learnt that self compassion isn’t self-indulgence or a way to let ourselves off the hook.
It’s actually a really powerful way of being in life that means we are more successful and much happier, and it also has an incredibly positive knock on effect on everyone around us.
So, I’ve decided.
I’m going to try and stop beating myself up.
I’m going to stop torturing myself with “if only’s”.
I’m going to speak kindly rather than harshly to myself.
I’m going to practice letting go of the mum guilt.
I’m going to practice gratitude that my son lives to see another day!
And I’m going to master the art of self-compassion – but I’m not going to beat myself up if I don’t get it right!.
Do you have any questions?
I hope you found this helpful. If you have any questions or would like to explore how coaching might be able to help you with mum guilt and being kind to yourself, just get in touch. I'm very happy to have a chat.
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