Author: Mother Cat Date Posted:10 June 2017
“One small crack does not mean that you are broken, it means that you were put to the test and you didn’t fall apart.” —Linda Poindexter
So, with my 3 week old in the car I drove to my first mother’s group. Covering the window fully to stop sunlight coming in, I was feeling like a good responsible mum. When I arrived back home I noticed my daughters face was sunburnt- The sun had come through the back window in 10 minutes of driving and burnt her poor little face.
So the guilt started.
Why didn’t I notice, how could I be such a bad parent and burn my poor baby.
The self -torture continued and, even now, not completely vanished.
How do I move forward?
Fortunately the sleep deprivation in the weeks following seemed to blur the memory somewhat…
All the non-deliberate things we do, that sometimes harm our children and the corresponding guilt that can come. I’ve been thinking, what good does this guilt bring? Does it bring us closer to our babies- no, does it help us move forward- no, so why do we get so stuck?
Apparently the paths that guilt run in our brains are linked to our reward centre- so short term the guilt brings some sort of neurological calming, so it makes sense that we get stuck- the brain initially likes it! But to the detriment of our whole being and mind health. So how do we stop that process? Interestingly, the thing that is more powerful than guilt, being able to override this process is gratitude.
Yes, I agree, it is super cliché but helpful to know that on a brain level- gratitude is a thing that can help override guilt.
So other than trying our best to be grateful at times, which can be an absolute mission, what else can help us squash this guilt- because guilt doesn’t actually help us “be better”, it actually does the opposite. Interestingly it is self- compassion that helps spur us on, not guilt.
There’s a great TED talk on self-compassion by Kristen Neff, an Associate Professor in Human development and culture (if you want to have a look here the link)
I’ve commonly heard it said that mother guilt never goes away. This is saddening, as guilt makes us feel even worse about ourselves and doesn’t even serve a function in making us “better” mums. I like the analogy that Katie Kirby uses in her “Hurrah for gin” (clik here for blog ) - aiming to squash the guilt fairy with straight forward logic.
Remembering to squash her into tiny pieces! And if logic isn’t working, give her the poison of gratefulness or self-compassion a try.