Mum Guilt

by Jo Macdonald


I read a lot of baby books before my first child was born. Well, okay I read 2…and alright I admit it, I may not have finished them - there is some scary stuff in those books!!! But, I am absolutely positive that nowhere in those books did they mention the huge amount of mum guilt that I would experience for the next 20-years.

I’ve lost count of the number of times and things I’ve felt guilty about over the years. I thought that as I got older I would ‘grow out of it’ but apparently not, as the other week proved.

You know those stomach bugs that make your skin feel clammy and beads of sweat appear on your forehead as the cramps and nausea take hold? If you don’t you’re very lucky (and rare). Well, when you combine one of those bugs with mum guilt you find yourself sitting in a car outside your kid’s new school trying to figure out if you can make it through her welcome ceremony.

No, turned out to be the answer.

And so I missed it.

Her first day at a new school in a new country.

Yes, her dad was there. And her big sister. But not me. Nope, instead of being tucked-up in bed I was sitting in the car with my fancy dress on and the window rolled down, trying to hear as much as possible, whilst simultaneously trying not to be sick and clenching my buttocks tightly, vaguely wondering if this counted as a workout. Oh yes, it was a truly glamorous moment. And yet, still I was debating whether or not I could put in an appearance! The mum guilt from missing this big moment means that I will forever feel terrible that I wasn’t inside with everyone else. I’ll remember it on her last day of school, her 21st, and it may well come up in a speech at her wedding one day.

Why do we do this to ourselves? If my husband had been similarly effected (and hey it’s not too late for him to catch this bug) I doubt he would be mentally self-flagelating himself for the next 50 years.

So why do we mums do it?

Is it biologically programmed into us that we must abandon all rational thoughts and feel guilty at least 50% of every day from the second our darlings are born? We feel guilty that we aren’t spending enough time with them and they’ll grow-up with abandonment issues, or that we are spending too much time with them and they’ll feel suffocated, that we are feeding them the wrong foods, reading them the wrong books, frying their brains by letting them watch television, signing them up for too many activities or not enough, and on and on. I’m beginning to wonder whether when they took my blood all those times during pregnancy, they weren’t actually injecting some kind of guilt-serum into me!

At the end-of-the-day, did my daughter mind that I didn’t make it inside to her ceremony? Of course. But she also didn’t want to be the kid who’s mum vomited (or worse) in front of the whole school on her first day (or any day in all likelihood). And so she’s fine. She’s over it. Which is great.

Now, excuse me while I go off to feel guilty that I let her watch YouTube for an hour and have probably ruined her brain forever.