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Letting Go Of The Mother Guilt


My youngest child is now 18 months old, and he is adorable. He is the cuddliest of all my babies and has a truly sweet and sensitive nature. His big brown eyes and kissable cheeks still melt my heart every time I see him.


He can also be very demanding, clingy and frustrating sometimes. His favourite word is cuddle which he pronounces ‘culloo’ and he wants to be picked up and carried everywhere. He has learned how to ask for things, and how to throw himself on the ground when things don’t go his way. All very normal toddler behaviour, but sooooo frustrating.


He is definitely my last baby, so I want to savor every minute of this. Every milestone is bittersweet as it will be the last ‘first’ in our family. I know from watching my older children how quickly these years fly by, even though the individual days feel so long. It is therefore hard to admit to myself that sometimes I find the constant clinginess a bit hard to take.


And here I am going to admit to what all mother’s secretly experience – guilt.


Oh my gosh, the guilt.


It never ends.


I see this every day in my clinic. All of us are doing our best but feeling constantly guilty. To compound this, we often feel like we are the only ones struggling, which makes us feel more guilty. We feel guilty about being relieved when bedtime has come and we finally have some time to ourselves. We look at our angelic-looking sleeping children and think I need to do better. We feel guilty about going out to work, or we feel guilty about not bringing in an income. We feel guilty about putting our children into daycare, or guilty that they are missing out on socializing because they are at home.


One of my GP colleagues recently reminded me of a simple counselling technique that I had forgotten about, and it was something of a breakthrough for me. She reminded me that human beings have the capacity to hold multiple thoughts and feelings, and both can be true. We don’t need to fight within ourselves to uphold the correct feeling, we can simply allow both to co-exist. I can love my son with all my heart, and still acknowledge that his behaviour is frustrating. One does not cancel out the other. Accepting difficult thoughts and feelings, and showing self-compassion, can help us let go of the guilt.


I can feel sad that my baby is weaning, and also be excited that I am going to have my body to myself again.


I can mourn the loss of the tiny baby stage, and also be excited to be passing on the baby clothes and bassinet.


I can enjoy my day at work, and still love and miss my babies.


I can crave time to myself, and want to hold them close.


Our hearts are big enough to hold it all.


Why not give this a try next time you find yourself having a challenging thought, or find yourself having feelings towards your children that you don’t want to admit out loud. You may think yes, I am at my wits end and desperately need a break. But deep down you also know this to be true – you would take a bullet for them without a moment’s hesitation. When they cry out for you in the night, you go to them, even though you are exhausted and cold and touched out. The minute they wrap their little arms around your neck and you feel their body relax, you know you are doing okay.


Our hearts are big enough to hold it all.



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