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Welcome to Guilt Free Mummy

Don’t let becoming a mother stop who you are meant to be

— Laura Jones

Welcome on this journey as we explore the world of Mum guilt. We are going to be bringing you raw and honest stories from real women that are or have suffered from mothers guilt. We will also be speaking with the survivors that have freed themselves from the unreachable standards they placed themselves under, as well as speaking with a range of professionals and experts to help us understand how and why we do this and how we can break free. Hold tight ladies and grab the tissues, this is going to be a hell of a ride.

Shekinah

Shekinah is a Kahuna Massage Specialist, Marriage Celebrant, Shamanic Practitioner and Rites of Passage Facilitator form the Gold Coast, she is also a mother to her teenage daughter. Here she bravely shares her journey through Mum guilt. Follow Shekinah on Facebook https://www.facebook.com/ShekinahLeighHonouringtheFeminine

In early 2006 as I embarked on a new career path I found out that I was pregnant. The timing was terrible as
my partner and I had just decided to separate, the following months were an emotional rollercoaster as I made choices about my future, trying to incorporating this new life growing inside of me.
My birth experience was traumatic, resulting in an emergency caesarian, I remember sobbing on the operating table, shaking with fatigue and disappointment, feeling like I had failed myself and my baby, the mummy guilt had well and truly started. The first year after birth passed in a zombie like haze of sleepless days and postnatal depression. My daughter was a great crier and only seemed to settle when she was being carried. I lost count of the times that I stood outside her bedroom door crying, just praying that she would sleep and give me a few moments of much needed rest. My life revolved around her needs and I lost myself in Motherhood, I felt ashamed and guilty for not feeling the joy and happiness that so many other mothers seemed to be experiencing. I loved my daughter more than anything else on the planet, her smiles lit up my world and her laugh was infectious and yet I had never been more miserable in my life. To make up for her less than ideal entry into the world I breastfed for longer than was healthy for me and quickly learned how to put her needs before my own, thinking that this was the way to fix what I had broken and assuage the mummy guilt that I was burdened with every day.


Before her second birthday her dad and I separated, we had stayed together and tried to make it work but it
was a losing battle. My own feelings of childhood abandonment after my dad left at a young age forced me to give it 150% before I called it quits. In the end is was for the safety and well-being of my daughter that I walked away, one of the hardest decisions of my life and one made possible because of the predicted mummy guilt I would feel if I stuck around and raised her in a toxic environment. Sometimes Mummy Guilt has benefits!


This began my solo parenting journey and while there was massive relief to be out of relationship the burden of being Mother, Father, sole financial provider, counselor, nurse, disciplinarian, housekeeper and business owner definitely took it’s toll! I understood on an intrinsic level that as a Mother I could never win in societies eyes. If I didn’t work and stayed at home as a full time mother I would be ridiculed. If I took up a full time position and left my daughter to 5 days of before and after school care I would be vilified. In the end I chose to continue with my own business. While it required more energy and organisation, the flexibility of deciding my own working hours allowed me to be the one to raise my child and while it was exhausting and financially precarious it still felt like the best choice for us. It has not been an easy road and over the years I have suffered Mummy guilt over various things.


• Being an introvert with an extroverted child
• Needing space
• Not being affectionate enough
• Being too tired
• Not being a good cook
• Not being arts and crafty
• Not being more loving and nurturing
• Not going places because she was too wild and sensitive
• Not giving her a sibling to play with
• Not having enough money to do more than one after school activity
• No signing up for weekend sports
• Not having the energy left by bedtime to spend an hour reading stories or singing songs
• Not having her father around enough
• Sending her to her father more than was good for her
• Being to harsh
• Not having enough boundaries
• Giving her to much responsibility
• Not giving her enough responsibility


One of the things that helped me break through a huge amount of the Mummy guilt, and I would like to say once and for all, but I’m not sure that’s possible, was being diagnosed with breast cancer in 2017. For a couple of years previous I had been monitoring a breast lump. I had changed my diet, stepped away from toxic relationships started putting myself first again (at least some of the time) and was re-evaluating my work/play balance. I tried supplements and protocols from the mundane to the wild but the lump kept growing. In one year it doubled in size and that’s when I decided that I needed to have surgery. It was this experience, of doing all of the ‘right’ things but still ending up under the knife that made me realise just how big an impact stress and emotional suppression can have on your health and well-being.
After surgery it took me 8 weeks to get full mobility back in my arm and to be able to massage again. That was 8 weeks without income and during this time I had to gratefully receive help, I finally learned the value of community and tribe and that being humble and vulnerable were not weaknesses but opportunities to connect and grow. My daughter had to step up and do more things for herself, we had to have conversations around who she would want to live with if I passed on, I had to explain to her my alternative health choices and why I was making those decisions, I made a will and faced my mortality. I had to let go of the fear of dying and leaving her alone. It was a massive ‘rite of passage’ experience with more than one dark night of the soul as I grew and transformed into a more powerful and whole version of myself.
I had to admit that the life I had been leading wasn’t fulfilling me; putting my needs second to another persons most of the time was not bringing me joy. I wanted to be that selfless mother that loved caring and nurturing others but that’s not who I am all of the time. I have envied those women that love parenting, effortlessly raising a brood of happy children and I felt enormous Mummy guilt for not being that kind of woman. It took me a long time to acknowledge that it was ok that I wanted to be more than more than a just a Mother, or a worker, or a partner. My passion and soul purpose encompasses so much more than that and yet I am so grateful for what this journey has taught me. I would not be the person I am today without this trial by fire. It has taken me over a decade to actually feel proud of what I have accomplished, to be able to honour my motherhood journey and pat myself on the back for a job well done! I have raised an incredible child, walking that fine line between guidance, discipline and allowing her spirit and naturalness to thrive and shine. Those first few years felt like an eternity, those middle years I thought would never end and that I would truly break before we made it through but these last few years have shown me what dedicated and loving parenting can achieve.
Now that my daughter is a teenager and doesn’t need me as much I am reclaiming more and more of myself. I can accept more fully the life experiences that she needs to have and the lessons that she will choose to learn on her life journey. She has been my greatest teacher and I have done my best every step along the way.

I honour all of the mothers out there who are doing their best every day, even when you feel like it isn’t good
enough. I know the judgement that comes from self and others can be a heavy burden to carry and I encourage you to put down that unnecessary load. You can never win if you play by those rules, you need to make up your own rules and play the game your way, in a way that feels best for you and your family. There is no one perfect way to parent, there is no secret book that everyone but you have access to. Motherhood is the hardest and most undervalued job in the world but I see you and I send my love out to you all!


In Beauty
Shekinah Leigh

Krista

Krista is a mother of 8 (4 children and 4 step children ) plus a grandmother to 5, living in Hay, NSW and has her own blog Postcards from my Life. Krista descends from a succession of very strong and independent women and she discusses the how the expectations have impacted own life and motherhood.

https://kristaschade.wixsite.com/postcardsfrommylife

My mother is a dynamo, an absolute powerhouse of a woman, and has shown all her children the importance of independence and forging a unique place in the world. She taught us the value of dedication to our community.

My family has a proud history of strong women.

Mum trained as a nurse and moved from Sydney’s beaches to Broken Hill when she undertook her midwifery training, before moving to the small Riverina town of Hay, supposedly for six months. Some 50 years later she is enjoying retirement on that same small town, having met and married a hometown boy, my dad, and making Hay her home.

Before I was born, mum became the baby health clinic nurse, and returned to her career as she went on to have further children. She was (and still is) the person in our town who other parents turned to, for advice, for comfort or to share worries. Throughout her career Mum has made a positive difference in people’s lives, sometimes literally saving their life. That places a lot of expectation on someone who has been, at one time or another, a brash teen mum, a married mum, a scared single mum, a shaky step-mum, and always a fumbling, mistake ridden human. I am always conscious of working on being better, and it is because of my families support and my mother’s example to follow.

Mum’s mother Bess raised five children and worked to support her family alongside her husband, my grandfather, sewing and working from home to supplement the family income, in a time when women considered supplicants to their spouses. She too was a strong and fiercely independent woman, who did not suffer fools lightly, and ruled the roost alongside my gentle and wonderfully eccentric Dadgran Bob.

I grew up hearing stories about Bess’s mum, Granny Manns and my mother’s holidays in outback NSW at Granny’s place, in what sounds like a revolving door of cousins and friends dispatched to the tiny timber home outside Cobar for school holidays. Mum talks about her with love, describing her as a small woman, who took the harsh living in her stride. Throughout her lifetime Granny raised 12 children and buried two more with sorrowful grace; one in infancy and another as a young man, following a drowning that could have destroyed a lessor parent. Granny Manns also buried two husbands; unexpectedly she became a widow with two young daughters, one of who was Bess, before re-marrying and enjoying a long marriage with her brother-in-law.

As you can see, my family has given me, and my two sisters, some very big shoes to fill. (I should also mention we sisters have a great dad and wonderful brother who both share a deliciously dry wit, and who I would be lost without, but for the purposes of this article I have only chatted with my sisters about the women in our lives, and our daughters. Bear with me and I think you will soon see the theme here)

I have a daughter of my own, and now she has a daughter as well, and over the past few years I have watched my girl take on secondary study and second jobs, then apprenticeships, industry training and marriage and motherhood. She runs her own business and I am fortunate to be part of the sounding board she uses as she builds her own empire.

I am proud – so proud! – when I watch her strive and question and accomplish and worry and triumph and despair, but for a while now a small voice in the back of my head has been saying “Is it too much? Have we done this to you?”

Mum guilt is not new. An internet search instantly returns countless articles and studies discussing the complicated emotions women feel when juggling family and career, or family and no career, or no family and career, or any of the endless combinations of guilt.

It’s not that men don’t feel stress and pressure; that’s not my discussion point here. As I age, I find myself not only feeling troubled by the choice I have made for my children, but whether the efforts to try to outwardly display a strong superwoman persona is affecting our daughters and granddaughters.

Have my efforts to meet the standards of the amazing women who have led our family before me, have I unwittingly passed on additional unfair pressures on my daughter?

I discussed this with my sisters, both mothers to daughters themselves, but I kept my questions deliberately vague to begin with, because I didn’t want to sway their thinking at all. Both told me mum guilt was a usual part of their lives, a constant worry as they raised their girls. When I asked about them to explain the women in our family both immediately responded with descriptions such as ‘strong’, ‘inspiring’ and a ‘force to be reckoned with’. Both expressed a real sense of pride about belonging to a family of determined and hard-working role models.

I asked if they saw these traits as a negative or positive influence on themselves and their girls and their responses were rapid; both told me the trait was overwhelmingly positive and had installed resilience and independence in their daughters.

By now I was considering that my worries were my own, and I was starting to feel more than a bit foolish.

I took a deep breath and sent a missive to our group message, explaining how I had been feeling, and that I was planning to try and unpack these emotions in a piece of writing. (I present to you – the piece.)

The replies from my sisters were sprinkled with CAPS LOCK and face palm or sad face emojis.

“Oh my GOSH. Yes!”

“When you point it out like that, it really hits home..”

“I feel like I’m just treading water a lot of the time.”

“How did mum do it all without letting on everything that was going on in the background?”

Wow. Talk about dropping a bombshell on my unsuspecting siblings.

I recently travelled with my mother and spent time with her younger sister, my aunt, and I casually raised the topic with them both. My mother immediately scoffed and downplayed her own achievements, but as we chatted and strolled to Aunty LA’s favourite coffee shop, they both shared their memories of Bess and Granny Manns. My aunt had a very successful career herself prior to retirement but the sisters equally recalled the expectation to perform to Bess’ high and rock-solid standards.

“I did feel most loved when I was achieving.”

I have pondered their words, marinated my reflections and my sister’s thoughts for a few weeks, and am at the point where I know what I want for my family, and what I was hoping to achieve here.

I want the people in this article to feel incredibly proud of their accomplishments, no matter what they are, but to lessen the pressure on themselves to be anything other than their authentic selves.

I want anyone reading this to feel the same pride and know that while guilt is not new and it has its own place in keeping us empathetic, is should not be the over-riding emotion.

Guilt can’t control us. It is but one of the sentiments that we feel in our soul, but we cannot allow it to be the loudest.

When guilt is quietened we will be able to hear the sweeter sounds of pride, joy and delight. In ourselves and our strong girls.

Vanessa

Meet Vanessa, a mum of two boys and an owner of her own work from home business.  She has one younger brother who suffers from a mental illness and her dad passed back in 2006 unexpectedly of an aneurysm. She has three other step brothers and 1 step sister who she doesn’t speak to. Her boys are aged 4 and 2. Jaxon is the oldest and Thomas is his younger brother. In this blog, Vanessa has shared her very real and very raw account of motherhood, post natal depression and the steps she has taken to regain her life.

Should I have had kids? I ask myself this question all the time knowing that I can’t change what has happened. From early adulthood, having kids was never on my agenda. I never gave it much thought. Perhaps it was because I was raised in a broken family and deep down I knew that I didn’t want that kind of upbringing for my kids or maybe it was because I hadn’t met the one person I wanted to have kids with…To this day, I am no closer to answering this question. Perhaps one day, I will have the answer.

Until then, I just live with and manage the constant struggle of being a mum. I never expected how much being a mum would open up a huge pandoras box! It has brought up so many thoughts, emotions and experiences which I never knew existed. In one minute, I can go from being a happy relaxed mum to one that is panicked and stressed! It’s a constant juggle between the practicalities of being a mum and the inner voices/demons. The negative emotions are really so hard to ignore sometimes. It’s like I just want to go to sleep and never wake up. They are debilitating and draining, and they make me question my whole life, at that moment.

At times, I have been overcome by such a deep sense of sadness and loneliness. I would look at my boys and just stare and feel nothing. While others would admire their interactions and their mannerisms, I would pretend to notice and be proud of them. Deep down im numb and void and all I want to do is escape or go to sleep.

I am having to pretend a lot so that people don’t see what’s really going on. I don’t want to burden those close to me with my own feelings and thoughts because I don’t want to be seen as the victim. But I am… I am a victim of post-natal depression and I knew that I had to do something about it for myself and my kids so, I contacted some peak organisations who offer support to mums and parents. I am not afraid or ashamed to say that I did and still do suffer from post-natal depression. I’m proud of it because I am laying my heart on the line and acknowledging the fact that I am only human. It has however taken me a long time to get to this stage.

I will never forget the day I found myself crying in the bathroom at the hospital after my first son was born. I was inconsolable while my partner was holding my son in the hospital room;  or the feeling of emptiness I felt when holding him and trying to breastfeed. I felt numb for a very long time and I didn’t know how to deal with it. I was just so exhausted from the sleep deprivation and the constant breast pumping. I lost who I once was.
Things really took a turn for me when my employer didn’t have a job for me after my maternity leave. I was very bored and frustrated at home and I was very much looking forward to going back to work so that I could feel more productive and independent again. This wasn’t going to happen and I found myself getting more angry and emotional after I came to the realization that I no longer have a job to go to. I realized at that moment that I took working for granted. Of course, I would complain about having to go to work, but who doesn’t, right?

I missed working, I missed my senses of independence of contribution and I mostly missed the interaction with other adults. I went down another emotional spiral while trying to juggle the demands of a baby. It wasn’t fun and I wouldn’t wish this experience on anyone.

At that time, I started to bury myself an even deeper hole. I withdrew from the mothers group and I barely spoke to my partner. I looked after my son, in terms of meeting his physical needs, but the emotional connection was practically nonexistent. I didn’t have anyone I wanted to turn to because everyone around me was either a new mum or busy with their own lives. I had no outlet, no opportunity for me to be me, with no baby in tow.

Then I had my second son….and things changed, again!

I had my second son because I wanted my oldest son to have a sibling. To this day, I am glad that I made that decision but looking back, I realized that I didn’t even take a moment to think about me and what I wanted and more importantly, how I would cope!

Being pregnant was fine, after the morning sickness wore off. It was something new to look forward to. When he came, I admit that I managed my mental health and the whole process of being a mum a bit better. I knew what things to look out for in myself and I learnt to reach out when I needed a break, even if it was to go to the loo on my own!

It was the perfect distraction, but I knew that deep down, my inner demons and thoughts were there, waiting for the right time to appear, and they did.

I remember I was lying next to my youngest son who I was trying to get to sleep and I just started crying. Out of nowhere, tears came gushing out and I had no control. I didn’t want to wake up my son or alarm him so I buried my tears in a pillow. It was at that time that I knew I needed help.

PANDA to the rescue! I searched for their website and sent them an email, while crying and waiting for my son to sleep. It was an intense moment but one I will be forever grateful for.

They called me the following day and I had a really good chat with one of the counsellors. She offered me some strategies and tips on how to cope better and she encouraged me to reconnect with my counsellor, which I did. I also spoke to a counsellor who specialized in post-natal depression, and that was what has lead to who I am today. I sought her support for 8 weeks and then I connected with another counsellor who I am seeing to this very day.

Talking about how I feel and navigating my mind helps me immensely. It helps me understand why I think and feel the way I do. I don’t know where I would be without it.

Now, I am a small business owner and a mum. Sometimes I say im a mum first and other times I say im a small business owner. Whatever order I say it, I know that I am now acknowledging the hard days and enjoying the good ones while also striving to be the best person I can be.

Vanessa now runs her own business from home, Vanessa M, and sees a councillor regularly who has taught her the art of self care.

Laura Jones

Thank you for joining me on this journey. I am Laura, a mum and business owner that is fiercely passionate about freeing women from Mum guilt.

Before motherhood, I was a very free person. Always single, very ambitious, well travelled and was basically living my best life! I had no fear and if anything scared me, that made me want to do it more. I was determined to try everything and let nothing stand in my way. I have always had a mindset that allowed me to achieve anything I set my mind to. Then when I was starting a new life in Australia my mother fell suddenly sick. I travelled to Spain to be by her bedside and when I reluctantly had to leave a return to Australia due to my visa conditions I discovered I was pregnant. Pregnant by a guy I had been dating only 6 weeks. Getting on that plane was a turning point in my life, it was never the same again.

The guy abandoned us, my mother died, I was in a foreign country with no money and living with friends in a party house. My daughter gave me the strength to get through and I entered survival mode. Until this point I had no idea how strong and resourceful I could be. I will forever be so proud of how I navigated that time of my life, but it’s effects will always scar my mental health.

When my daughter was 6 months old, I met my current partner. My life changed and we became a family. However, this happy ending is where my mental health issues really start. Having support allowed me to exit survival mode and PTSD really set in. I eventually seeked out professional help and learned some amazing coping strategies that have helped me regain my life.

Dealing with this trauma made me fascinated with other Mum’s mental health and I was shocked to the core to hear of how many mums are struggling in many different ways. So many different issues yet one theme kept recurring “guilt”. No matter what these Mum’s were going through, they all felt guilty for feeling that way, for even speaking the words out loud. Guilt even seems to plague the minds of Mum’s that aren’t struggling with their mental health.

So, it is time to take a stand. I want to explore this secret world we all share and expose it. I want to show you you are not alone, I was to rip it apart so that we can talk about it and most of all I want to help free you.