A suggestion to make living with guilt tolerable

Was chatting with my sis about the constant guilt mothers have about not being a good enough mother.  She recently went back to work after having Lily.  Not big trainsmash, since she works from home.  Yet, she still feels guilt because she feels grateful has an excuse to be away from Lily for a bit. 

Introverts need some time on their own
To me it makes a lot of sense.  She's an introvert, which means interaction with people drains her emotional energy.  Being alone recharges her emotional energy.  Anyway, nothing drains your energy like a child!  I'm an extrovert and gets energy from interaction with people and I get sucked dry from interaction with children!

So anyhow.  The guilt comes from ideas about what a good mother should and should not do.  Good mothers are supposed to want to be with their children, don't they?  Good mothers shouldn't want a break from their little jewels, should they?  Good mothers never want to give their children Neurophen so they would sleep through one night - just one night!
The tyranny of shoulds
Our society indoctrinates us with all sorts of subtle strange ideas.  Interesting how these subtle standards are just sooo unrelenting and sooo unrealistic.  It makes us unhappy because we can NEVER fulfil the expectations of these standards.  Nobody does.  Almost everybody tries to.  Lots pretend they are happy living according to these "shoulds". 

What do we get from living under the tyranny of shoulds? 
Depression, stress, shouting at kids, needing that glass of wine in the evenings, fighting with husbands, "headache" every night just before it's time for bed, chocolate. 

Crazy making shoulds
Living under the tyranny of shoulds is a constant crazy-making game. 

It's like feeling ok about yourself only after you've lost the last 5kgs.  Or after the next promotion.  Or after buying the bigger car.  Or after your husband changes this...or that. 

Not guilt-free
I'm not proposing that you will be able to live without guilt at all.  Guilt is good when it leads to a change in thinking and behaviour.  Good guilt leads to clarity and refreshment.  Think of the last time you were first to apologise for starting a fight.  How good it felt to know that you did wrong but could mend the wounds with an apology.  That's good guilt. 

Free from inappropriate guilt
What I suggest is that you realise guilt induced by unrealistic, unrelenting "they will think" or "I should" thinking are inappropriate guilt.

It is inappropriate because it is built on inhumane building blocks.  On building blocks that expect perfection.  And even worse, undefined perfection! All you know about this vague standard is that you'll never reach it; you'll always fall short. 

You will only be a good enough mother when you ... (fill in the vague and unrealistic blank).  
You will only be a good enough wife when you....(fill in the vague and unrealistic blank).
Your husband will be good enough when he...(fill in the vague and unrealistic blank).
You will feel happy in your skin only when you...(fill in vague or unrealistic blank).

Really?  Said who?
Ask yourself:  Who taught me this?  Who said it should be?  It this standard realistic?  Is it good for me?  Is it good for those around me? 

If trying to live according to this standard is causing unhealthy reactions, it probably not good for you, your children, your relationships or your health.   

My suggestion
  1. Make a list of all these unrealistic and vague expectations that rules your sanity. 
  2. Then, formulate a more realistic expectation.  This is often the difficult part and it may help to chat to friends about it.  You'll be surprised how many similarities you'll have with your friends when it comes to unrealistic and vague OK-ness.
  3. Then formulate a plan.  Make sure your plan is specific and realistic!  You might have to think outside the box a bit to find a practical solution to make your plan work. 

An example could be: 
  1. Unrealistic expectation:  To be a good mother, I should always like to be with my children. 
  2. More realistic expectation:  As a good mother, I need a break from them at least 30 minutes a day. 
  3. Plan:  I will train my children that if the "mommy's taking a break" sign is on the door, they are not allowed to come in OR stand by the door knocking and yelling at the top of their voices about how their brother/sister is doing this or that / not doing this or that! (this is obviously for older children)

It might take a bit of training and boundary setting to get your plan to work.  Remember, you are working with trainable little minds, so just stick to it.  (Easier said than done, I know.)

The bottom line
You are not expected to live under the tyranny of any unrealistic and vague "should" to be a good enough mother.  So, show yourself some respect and kindness and start your fight against this tyranny. 

You really are allowed to.  Promise.

Which of the "shoulds" are causing you the most inappropriate guilt?
What effects does these unrealistic and vague expectations have in your life?
Which decisions have you made after reading this article?
Tell me in the comments section below. 

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Loving your blog Amanda, refreshing and comforting at the same time :)

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