Parenthesis: How new mothers can deal with the guilt of not doing enough

Mother kissing and hugging newborn son at gray background, tender, care, love

With all the sacks full of advice that are doled out to you during pregnancy, the one thing that everybody fails to mention is the bucket of doubt and guilt that comes with each delivery. And the interesting thing about this bucket is that it’s a bottomless pit. It has an unlimited supply for each and every child, every day for the rest of your life. And for some strange reason, it only affects the mother. The father remains completely impervious to its vicious lure.

From the time the child is born, am I holding it correctly? Oh no, I just said it. He’s not an ‘it’. How could I have said ‘it’?
Am I feeding him right? Am I feeding him enough? Ouch, that hurts.

I’m so tired. Go to sleep! What kind of mother am I? I can’t even get my own child to sleep. He’s finally gone to sleep after I rocked him for an hour. N says her baby sleeps through the night. She just lays him down in the cot and he magically goes to sleep on his own. Should I be rocking him? But, he doesn’t sleep any other way. Oh my god, will I be rocking a 12-year-old to sleep?

Aww! Look at how lovely he is. He’s eating food for the first time. I can’t wait to cook for him. I shouldn’t have given him ‘yellow dal’. I should have stuck with the banana. Poor fellow. Look at how he’s crying. It’s all my fault.

He’s a year old. He’s not walking. K’s son is already walking. Do I carry him too much? Maybe I should put him down more. But he likes being carried. Am I making him too dependent? Oh no, will I be carrying a 12-year-old boy?

He’s two years old. He’s not talking. G’s daughter rambles on endlessly about the moon shining in the sky. And she’s two months younger than him. Maybe I didn’t sing enough nursery rhymes. Should I talk to him more? It’s because we are a nuclear family. I should watch less Netflix. But what do I talk to him about? I can’t ramble on endlessly about nothing. I need adult conversation. I’m not good at baby talk. I should have spent more time with other people’s kids.

He has a fever. I shouldn’t have allowed him to play in the pool. I should have known better.

He’s not playing with the other child. Maybe I don’t give him opportunities to socialise. I haven’t taught him how.

He’s fallen down. He’s scraped his knee. I should have been watching him on the cycle.

The teacher called. He’s distracted in school. He doesn’t complete his work on time. I should pay more attention to his homework. I should make sure he is more organised.

And so it goes…

Am I doing too little? Am I doing too much?

Whether you are a working mom or a stay at home mom, whether your child was breastfed or formula-fed, whether you do everything yourself or you outsource it all, the one thing we all have in common is guilt. Sometimes, a little guilt is good. It just shows that you care. But, at other times, the guilt can overwhelm you.

And the sad truth is, there is not much that one can do about it. As soon as you resolve one situation and make your peace with it, another crops up in its place.

So, how does one maintain one’s sanity through this journey of parenthood?

~ Trust your instincts. You know your child best. You know what works for him and what doesn’t. You also know what works for you and your family as a whole. There are plenty of experts out there, follow the one that fits in best with your own ideologies.

~ Filter the advice you receive. Not all advice is good. Sometimes, it may have worked for someone else but doesn’t necessarily work for you. Each child is different.

~ Surround yourself with like-minded people. Other mothers who think like you when it comes to raising their children can be a huge support for when you have doubts. They will tell you when you need to fix things or when you are overanalysing a situation.

~ Understand that there is no such thing as a perfect parent. We all do our best under the circumstances. We have all made mistakes and will continue to do so. The key is in acknowledging where we have gone wrong and being honest about it to ourselves and our children.

~ Stop comparing yourself to other mothers. This is not a parenting competition. You only need to focus on yourself and your child.

~ Don’t try and do everything. Attempting to be super mom all the time, only results in a tired, stressed out and cranky you. Let some things slide. Your child only needs love and a happy you. Choose your priorities wisely.
Stay positive. Focus on the things that you are getting right. Refrain from beating yourself up over the one thing that is going wrong,

~ Make a list of the areas that you feel need improvement. Choose a couple that are the most important for you. Put a plan in place and make small changes towards them. Give it time. Don’t expect things to change overnight. As the children grew older, it got harder to travel with them as they refused to experiment with new food. As foodies, it became increasingly hard for my husband and I to take them to new places. We decided to introduce a new dish every week to our menu at home. The idea was to expand their taste buds. We struck a deal where they got to create their own menu at home if they agreed to try and experiment with new food once a week. It worked like a charm. Today, the kids eat almost everything and traveling with them is a breeze.

~Learn to look at the bigger picture. Don’t get caught up in the small stuff. Some days will be easier than others. Ask yourself if this will matter a few years from now. And now, take a deep breath. Tomorrow will be better.

Akhila Das Blah
Akhila Das Blah

Akhila Das Blah, aka The MOMster, is a proud parent of three bright, curious and engaging boys. An educational consultant with over 15 years of experience in teaching, curriculum development, teacher training and designing creative learning experiences, she combines her technical expertise of managing children in a classroom with the empathetic understanding of raising children in today’s world. Wearing a combination of her teacher or parent hat, sometimes both, she shares her knowledge and expertise of children in a practical, fuss-free and implementable manner. Additional add-on: She was nicknamed the Momster by her cheeky six-year-old for her ability to go from Mom to Momster after 8:30 pm on a school night.