‘Mummy Guilt’ directions: apply small amount daily

Nik Brear
Nik Brear
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Mummy guilt - ya gotta love it (!) In a recent BabyCenter survey, a whopping 94 per cent of mums questioned fessed up to feeling regular shame over an absolutely staggering range of everyday issues.

I understand this; in the six months since I went back to work, Mummy Guilt has become part of my daily routine. It’s something I seem to apply a little of every morning, like moisturiser, and that pea-sized amount really does last me all day long. If you find yourself similarly afflicted with a touch of MG, I sincerely hope the highlights below may be enough to make you cut yourself a little slack.

That's not an ice cream! It's, a...carrot stick. Ahem.

That's not an ice cream! It's, a...carrot stick. Ahem.

When it comes to feeding, it’s drilled into us from fairly early on that Breast is Best, making it easy to feel like the only formula-feeding mummy in the world. The truth is that breastfeeding is, and should be, a very personal choice. According to the survey, 79 per cent of mums said they felt guilty about stopping breastfeeding early and 67 per cent gave themselves a hard time for supplementing with formula.

In 2003, the American Academy of Pediatrics announced that children under two shouldn’t watch any television, and that recommendation became instant fodder for MG sufferers. However, the survey revealed 69 per cent of parents ignore the advice and let their toddlers watch TV in moderation. My favourite bit? The admission that 26 per cent of mums actually lie about how much TV their child watches!

76 per cent of mums admitted to relying on fast food a few times a month. You’ll be pleased to know that Mary Savoye-Desanti, a bionutritionist at Yale University, says eating fast food as often as twice a week is fine as long as you choose relatively low-fat options. So next time you hit the drive-thru, remind your kids this is a ‘once-in-a-while’ food choice - and then give yourself a (well-deserved) break.

Leaving your kids with another caregiver ranked high on the list of causes of MG; but perhaps not just for the reasons you’d think. Mums said they felt terrible about leaving their children while they went off to work - and just as terrible that they actually enjoyed the break. Double whammy!

My own biggest cause of mummy guilt - everything I miss; the words she says, the songs she learns the actions to and the first experiences she has that I have no part of. Yes of course I’m thrilled when she has a lovely day out with her grandparents at the zoo, but part of me would give anything to see for myself the look of awe in her little face as she sees a lion for the first time, rather than see it in a photo while sitting at my desk at work. #mummyguiltsucks

It begins as I rush around getting ready for work, rather than enjoying cuddles with my 16-month-old daughter, who is tugging at my trouser-leg. Guilt trip #2 rears its head as I leave for work, after giving her kisses. She follows me to the door, her chubby arms raised up to me, and utters the heartbreaking ‘Mama?’ that seems to questions why on earth I’m leaving her, yet again.

Guilt trip #3, using the TV as a babysitter. Our lovely extended family means Imogen is never short of attention, playdates and people who want to sit with her and read books or sing songs. But none of that dispels the guilt I feel when I plonk her in front of her favourite shows for 20 minutes so that I can make dinner, put some washing through, or stack the dishwasher. I watch her mouth relax and her eyes get that faraway quality and instantly feel terrible I haven’t got some ‘educational’ project to sit her down to instead.

Guilt trip #4 is for everything I miss;

Guilt trip #5 - food. For the most part, Immy gets homecooked, she gets fresh and she gets plenty. But there are those days when I come home from work and the cupboard is pretty bare and I end up giving her a cream cheese sandwich and a bag of Wotsits, rather than the homecooked lasagne I’d been planning. Guilt trip #6 - time. When I’m not working, I feel as though I want to spend every available second with Immy, but that just isn’t practical. Sometimes there are things I have to do; whether it’s a couple of hours to do some housework, half a day to run errands or an evening out with my husband.