I was fortunate to grow up with an amazingly strong woman as my mother. She raised four children with very little outside help and support. My dad had (and still does) a very demanding job, which took him away for work a lot and we never lived close to any of our grandparents. Looking back now, as a mum of three, I wonder how my own mother managed?! There is a ten year age gap between me (the eldest) and my baby sister. How did she manage to raise a teenager, a screaming toddler and two energetic boys? I have very few memories of my mum ever being sad and I don’t think, as a child, I ever witnessed her beating herself up for not doing a good enough job. Yet having had many discussions with my mum about parenting it is clear she too suffered from “mum guilt”.
For those of you who are not yet parents “mum guilt” is a form of guilt that (surprise surprise) us mothers get for no proper reason. It can hit you at the most unexcpected times and for the stupidest reasons. An example I experienced a few weeks ago was sending my three year old to playgroup with chicken bites and not the desired ham sandwich. Silly I know!
Recently my own “mum guilt” has intensified. In November 2016 I gave birth to twins and our family went from thee to five in the space of 13 minutes. Before the twins it was just David, Finlay and me. We would spend every Saturday together doing fun family activities. David and I would devote as much of our attention as possible to Finlay. Spending time playing games, singing songs and dancing around our living room like loons! But then the twins joined our wee family gang and David and I got lost in a haze of formula milk, pooey napies and baby sick.
In the early days of twin life we always needed a second pair of hands at feeding time. The twins were too little and lacked enough neck support for us to feed them both at the same time (something we have both mastered now!). This meant that poor Finlay was relegated to his playroom with his new found friends: Paw Patrol! It would break my heart (and David’s but let’s just focus on me since this is about mum guilt!) when he would come through at the worst possible time, normally right in the middle of the feed and ask if we could play with him in his playroom. I’ve lost count of the number of times I have had to decline his offer due to twin duties. This is something I struggle with daily: making sure I spread myself equally among my three children.
As I wander through the fog of twin babies, it is hard to find enough time each day to spend one on one time with Finlay. Days go by and as I lie in bed reflecting, I realise I didn’t manage to give him enough “mummy” time that day. Cue “mum guilt”. It kicks you in the stomach and then consumes your thoughts. It’s so gripping, like a leech stuck in your brain sucking out all sense of reality and filling it with false guilt. That’s right 90% of mum guilt is false guilt! We are spending our time being guilty for things we cannot help or cannot change. Right now I cannot change the fact that I need to feed the twins four times a day, which will result in Finlay having to play Lego by himself. I have come to accept that this is only for a short season in both of our lives and as he grows up, Finlay probably won’t remember these days.
Having recently received laser eye surgery as a gift I had to return to Glasgow for a follow up appointment. I saw this as a perfect opportunity to spend some much needed one on one time with Finlay. I booked a day return flight for us both. And what a wonderful day we had! We did all the things he enjoys like visiting the Lego shop, the burger shop (McDonalds) and chasing pigeons on Buchanan street. It brought me great delight to see the massive chocolatey smile on his face after he had finished his chocolate strawberries and to hear the best words in the world: “I love you mum”. That day might not be one he will remember forever but it’s one I sure will. Every moment was precious.