That’s the number of times I’ve felt guilty today. Well, it probably is. I haven’t actually counted. It sounds excessive, but it’s fairly normal for a mum. You see, at the precise moment that you give birth to your first child, an invisible lasso of guilt emerges from your body and attaches itself around your neck. It causes you to feel guilty about everything until (I imagine) your eldest child hits 18, and then you are freed.
Of course, I’ve felt this emotion plenty of times before. That time I was too knackered to go to a friend’s birthday drinks, so told her I was ill… the day I was so hungover after the office Christmas party, I didn’t make it into work… all those times as a student that I left the washing up for my housemate to do. But mum-guilt is in a different league. It’s an all-consuming sick feeling in the pit of your stomach that hits you at the most unexpected of times.
Top 5 times a new mum feels so guilty she’d like to curl up & cry…
- The first time you leave your baby. This is usually only for an hour or so and often the babysitter is the child’s dad or grandparents. That doesn’t matter, though. You feel like a bad mum who’s abandoning her baby.
- The first time you give your child Calpol. Until this point, your baby is untainted by chemicals, so it feels wrong to syringe that sticky, sweet syrup into their little mouths. (You’ll soon be dishing it out left, right & centre.)
- Admitting to friends how hard you’re finding being a mum. Aren’t you meant to cherish every moment? (Yes, even those 3am feeds followed by a two-hour screaming session.)
- The first time you give your baby formula. There’s nothing wrong with it, it’s good for them, but you still feel like you’ve just fed your little one a chip butty.
- When you realise you’ve had CBeebies on in the background for most of the day (Sid, Alex, Cerrie and Andy make great babysitters but good mums don’t ever switch on the TV, right?)
Even when you reason with yourself that you have nothing to feel guilty about, it’s still there. Hanging around like the Iceland chicken tikka lasagne that no one wants at a buffet.
“Guilt is such a useless, annoying emotion. It doesn’t change anything. It just makes you feel bad.”
Wise words. Said to me in a text from my best mate, yesterday. And she’s right, isn’t she? But then, if we stopped feeling so guilty, you know what would happen… we’d feel guilty about that.