• Niamh O'Reilly

Welcome To Motherhood, Would You Like A Side of Guilt With That?


I hate guilt. There is nothing worse than that overriding sense of guilt that hangs on your shoulders and keeps pushing you down little by little. I really feel like as a nation we still suffer with a collective echo of ‘catholic guilt’ heaped upon us by years of oppressive reign by a church that often held more power and influence over the people than the state itself.


Even though today our country is much more open, multi-cultural and liberal, that feeling of inherent guilt still lingers in our DNA.


And as mothers, we’re saddled with even more guilty fun in the form of ‘Mum Guilt.’

It may often be used as the buzzword ‘de jour’ or to cynically hawk self-care products, but when you get past the bullshit, mum guilt is very real and has been around in some form since the dawn of time.


We simply put a label on it.

And while we might have been the generation to give it a moniker, I think it’s fair to say we’re also the generation that’s been hit by it the most.


Why? Well the reasons are clear. We are the generation of mums who’ve been told that we must do it all. We can work and still be the ever present mom, be a partner, be a go-getter, be the parent who does all the activities with their children, does the drop offs, the pickups, the playdates, the ingenious messy play ideas, the one who reads the stories at bedtime, cooks the meals, keeps up with the homework and every other little thing in between, while concurrently and seamlessly rocking it on the Workfront each and every day without a single stumble.


And if you stumble? Then you’re guilty I’m afraid. Guilty of being a bad mum. You weren’t able to keep all those plates spinning, we’re you?


We are the guilty generation, because we are bombarded by expectation. It's as though the second the baby is put up on your chest, you're slapped with a side of guilt you cannot escape.

Impossibly high standards are constantly perpetuated by a highly curated and utterly hollow, photoshopped social media feed, that is simply inescapable. Even when it’s wrapped up in ‘realness’ it’s never quite real enough to make us feel less guilty about our own supposed missteps.


Every day we scroll by posts with the perfect children, the perfect home, the perfect mother, balancing it all without breaking a sweat. Even if the savvy part of our brain knows it’s all bullshit, even if we know the perfect images we’re seeing are merely a filtered set-up that hides the real-life toddler meltdowns, tears and messy houses, we still cannot help but unconsciously compare ourselves to this image of false perfection and the guilt comes flooding in.


It's exhausting. I feel as though everyday I’m faced with a series of doors and each one is a choice. I try desperately to make the right one and open the right door, but no matter which door I open, what’s standing on the other side is always guilt.

I’m going to give you an example of how, no matter what way you cut it, the answer is always guilt.


I don’t really enjoy playing games on the floor with my kids. There I said it. Cue the guilt.


Now of course I do it. I do it all the fucking time. I play on the floor with them, I play trains and hot wheels and tractors and jigsaws and imaginary games involving animals, teddys, and every vehicle known to man and boy. I’ve played them so much that by now, I feel as though I’m starting to lose my marbles, so some days when my kids ask me for the millionth time to play cars with them on the floor, I make myself busier than I need to be. Cue the guilt.


Those are the days when I tell them I’ve to make the dinner or hoover the floor or clean the surfaces or just secretly scroll on my phone to avoid it. Cue that guilt.


Then there’s the days when I sit down and play trains on the floor with my kids, I go through the motions, but end up getting bored or disinterested at the incessant rules of the game, the constant bickering and the utter monotony of it being the 400th millionth time I’ve done this exact thing. Yes you guessed, cue guilt.


Some day’s I try and reason that well there are times the need to be able to play by themselves, so I hover nearby and come over now and then and chime in with things like ‘oh that’s a great track you’ve built,’ and go back to chopping carrots, but then feel bad for not sitting down and playing with them. Cue the guilt.


Then there are the days when I’ve got my laptop open on the table desperately trying to send just one work email and my child just keeps coming over and hanging out of me begging me to play. I think, it must be my fault because I’ve played too much with him and now he cannot play independently – yes… hello guilt? Party of one, your usual table is ready for you again.


Guilt, guilt, guilt, guilt. The answer is always guilt.

It’s almost impossible to get away from. It's strange because it’s very easy to tell your mum friends that they need to cut themselves some slack, but never yourself. It’s easy to see how much of a good mum your friend is who’s feeling guilty over something small you know she shouldn’t be. The truth is, until we start to apply that same kindness and logic to ourselves, we’re never going to open the door and see anything other than guilt.



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