I have mum guilt. And wife guilt; and daughter guilt; and sister guilt. All the guilt.
I grew up in a culture where I felt like I had to be the perfect everything. The perfect daughter; the perfect wife; the perfect daughter-in-law; the perfect student; the perfect employer/employee; and now the perfect mum. The combination of expectations that I place on myself and those that are placed on me have left me feeling debilitated recently and is the reason for my silence.
Over the years I have been able to juggle these roles without feeling the weight of these expectations. When Ayaan arrived he required so much of my time and energy that everything else started to fall through the cracks. Being a mum has been a physical and emotional challenge like no other I have ever experienced. It has also made me very aware that I cannot do or be everything for everyone all the time and if I didn’t begin to prioritise my mental health would suffer . My priorities are now Ayaan, my nuclear family, and for the first time since I can remember, myself.
Motherhood is very lonely and there is so much pressure to mother a certain way or to be a certain way post baby. Expectations to recover quickly and return to a professional or a social life similar to one pre baby can be overwhelming. Our bodies have gone through and continue to go through immense biological and hormonal changes well beyond giving birth. Mothers are also more often than not, the default parent responsible for the physical, emotional and logistical needs of our children, whilst trying to rediscover our bodies and mental health. This coupled with societal expectations can be insurmountable.
Society has a way of making mothers feel that no matter what we choose for our families and our children some fault will always be found. So many are quick to question and comment on your feeding decisions, your sleeping arrangements etc. but few are there to just let you know that you are doing a great job – something so many of us crave to hear.
So please before you make a comment to a mother about her children or about her choices know that she has probably thought through and agonised over every decision a hundred times hoping to be as sure as she can that she made the right one. In an ideal world, external validation should not be necessary but a little validation and support from loved ones can go a long way to relieve guilt, give mums the self confidence they need and so they feel like they are enough.