12 Points to help tackle MUM GUILT in the time of COVID-19

As we say goodbye to the strangest Mother’s Day on record, in the midst of navigating the strange and disorienting world of COVID-19, I cannot help but think of all the mums out there who were already juggling more than they can reasonably handle BEFORE remote learning came into being! I don’t want in any way to underestimate the contribution of fathers, however in the majority of homes, the mother is the one who is likely to be left holding the baby so to speak, so it’s for them that I write this.

weldonAs though being in isolation around your beloved family 24/7 wasn’t challenging enough, now we have to worry about taking charge of their academic performance as well! For many parents, our kids going to school was probably the only chance to ‘catch up’ on all the other tasks that pile up. If we were really lucky, it may have also provided some coveted down time which recharged us just enough to keep going! Now that chance to recharge has been taken away, at least temporarily.

My heart actually sinks every time I think about this because, as a Psychologist who has clients who are mums, colleagues who are mums and am a mum myself, I know mum guilt is a very real and very normal part of mum life, only now it just got SUPERSIZED!

What just happened?

Before COVID-19, as mothers, we already held ourselves to ridiculous and unobtainable standards that even if, miraculously, we did manage to obtain, we’d never be able to sustain.

FB_IMG_1588400107100 (1)Now we have an additional workload, with less recovery time. I honestly think we need to start giving ourselves permission to suck a bit. Maybe to drop some of the non-crucial balls we are juggling. We have to change the goal post AND give ourselves permission to do that, for the sake of our sanity. Because if we don’t, MUM GUILT can become overwhelming and paralysing. It can keep us isolated (emotionally and physically) and withdrawn, so we’re less likely to reach out for help, when what we really need to do is share the burden.

If you are experiencing any of the following:

  • Finding it hard to slow down and be present with your kids,
  • Overthinking everything,
  • Difficulty sleeping,
  • Feeling not good enough,
  • Regularly getting more annoyed than normal when things don’t turn out the way you planned (e.g. kid throws a tantrum at the supermarket, kids won’t get in their car seat, kids won’t get dressed, house is a mess),
  • No motivation and feeling guilty about not being able to do all the activities that are being posted on social media (e.g. the bear hunt, the chalk rainbows) and instead feel like you are barely able to survive the day…

Then MUM GUILT may have stung you in the bum.

Follow these 12 tips TODAY to help ease the mum guilt:

  1. STOP comparing yourself to what you see on social media or in the media (films, TV shows) – someone’s highlight real vs your reality is not setting you up for success. It is putting you on the back foot. I give you permission to unplug, unfriend, unfollow, detox.
  2. Lower your expectation of what is realistic. This feels hard because it is hard, we were never meant to parent in isolation, nor were we meant to home school at the same time.
  3. Ditch the word SHOULD – it immediately implies you aren’t enough.
  4. Give yourself permission to stuff up, to make a decision and have it not work out perfectly.
  5. START saying “I would like…but if that doesn’t work out, I will be ok”
  6. THANK yourself for showing up every day to look after these little humans even though it is hard.
  7. Focus on controlling what is inside your sphere of control and letting go of things well outside that sphere.
  8. Remember the oxygen mask analogy, you have to put your mask on before you help others fit theirs! If you think of it that way, self-care as an actual necessity!
  9. Take a minute whenever you can to notice and nurture the non-mum side of you in whatever form that may take.
  10. Rest assured that no kid has ever come to therapy to talk about how they wish mum had spent more time doing maths homework with them!
  11. Remember that kids learn best through PLAY so choose connection and love every time. If you are getting into an ongoing fight about maths – play uno!
  12. And most importantly, be kind to yourself! You know how they keep saying this situation is unprecedented?! They’re not kidding! It’s ok not to have a roadmap for this!

And if these 12 tips aren’t cutting it for you, don’t be afraid to reach out for some extra support! That’s why we’re here!

Jacqueline Noble
Psychologist (and mum!)
12 Points Psychology