Leitrim Mammy Diaries: Mammy guilt - taking the rain with the sunshine
Nothing prepares you for having a baby; the sleepless nights, the mental and physical exhaustion of keeping a tiny human alive, the crying, the guilt.
The guilt part hit me hard, and still does almost every single day. No one ever mentioned this part of motherhood to me. I was told over and over again about the lack of sleep, the levels of frustration and even about the loneliness and feelings of despair.
But not one person, book or internet site warned me about the guilt. And yet every other mother I speak to nods along in agreement - we are all riddled with it.
Guilt was not something I really remember feeling before having children, maybe it was because I was selfish then, I only thought about myself and how any decision impacted me alone. When the regret train hit me, I didn’t quite know how to deal with it.
First it was about moving from breast-feeding to bottle, then about sleep training, about waking the baby for feeds so that she would sleep at night and letting her have a little whinge as she put herself to sleep. Am I doing the right thing - is it the right thing for me or for the baby? I remember the first time I left my precious bundle in someone else’s care - and even how I feel every single time I still do it. Guilty.
This week I am one year back at work since I took off on maternity leave for my second child. If I thought leaving my first born behind was hard work, I was wrong; the guilt and feelings of regret doubled when I returned to work the second time around.
Some nights I miss bed time as I work late, some evenings I am too tired to play with them and other times I have to prioritise cooking, cleaning, laundry or you know going to the toilet over their attentional needs. And while I am sure they forget the inconvenience quickly, it often lingers with me.
Even things that I know in the long run are good for my mental health, such as a night out, or a weekend away or putting them to bed an hour early for my sanity ... make me feel bad.
You know how you wish they wouldn’t be so clingy, wish they would sleep through the night, not need to be carried everywhere, not pee on the floor, not demand five books to be read at bedtime or have a melt down as you leave the house and then you regret those wishes, knowing that bit by bit those things will end and all you will be left with are memories and the G word!
“You are not selling the baby thing very well,” a friend of mine told me recently after reading this column.
And it is true, I tend to linger on the downsides of parenthood and disasters I encounter with my offspring. I do so to counteract the ‘picture perfect’ instagram image of parenthood, to acknowledge the level of craziness and wilderness we all encounter, as we try to make our family presentable.
A report by Waterwipes found more than half of parents in Ireland feel like they are failing within the first year of parenthood.
The result of this pressure is that many parents in Ireland feel as though they can’t be honest about their struggles due to fear of judgement with more than half admitting to putting on a brave face rather than being honest about their real life.
Parenthood reality is very like the Irish weather, some days it rains (a lot) but when the sun shines it is glorious!