Guilt is everywhere – especially for mums.
And that goes double for new mums.
It could be about everything and about nothing.
Guilt over returning to work, or being at home. Guilt over breast or bottle feeding. The type of daycare, or kinder, or school we select for our child. Sleeping arrangements. The meals we feed our kids. Whether we’re spending enough time with them. Whether they’re enrolled in enough extra-curricular activities – or not enough.
In my experience, we mums are pretty good at feeling guilty. We’re good at second-guessing ourselves, and at feeling inadequate.
Guilt usually comes and goes, depending on what’s going on in our lives.
We don’t always recognise guilt, of course.
Sometimes guilt manifests as dissatisfaction, Or anger. Or just plain unhappiness.
Guilt leads us to experience unpleasant emotions. It can lead to tension and arguments, with partners, friends, and family. Oh, and with strangers online.
Why do we feel guilty?
Usually, we feel guilty because somewhere deep down, something is unresolved within us.
Maybe something that happened in the past, that we have yet to grieve and relinquish.
Maybe it’s because we’re being inconsistent in our words and actions. We say we want one thing but we do another.
Maybe we have an unrealistic expectation of ourselves and we feel like we’re failing, again and again, which leads to guilt.
Guilt is sneaky, because it can show up in unexpected ways.
Guilt steals our happiness. It sabotages our ability to live in the moment.
Guilt creates rifts between people, and it can even break apart relationships.
So many of us walk around with such strong feelings of guilt, that we’ve come to accept it as “normal”.
And I guess in a society with rising levels of mental illness (like depression and anxiety), then perhaps guilt IS the new “normal”.
But it doesn’t mean that it’s healthy.
The great thing about guilt is that it can be overcome.
Notice – I’m not saying that guilt can be eliminated.
Guilt is a human emotion, and just like all emotions, it has a purpose.
Guilt means that there’s something that needs to be resolved, healed, or grieved.
I remember feeling incredibly guilty when I returned to work.
I did some soul-searching (using one of the processes outlined in this program) and I realised that, for some reason, I believed that “good mums stayed at home with their babies”.
No wonder I felt guilty!
It was only when I identified and dealt with the belief, that the guilt went away. And now if those same feelings of guilt resurface, then I can recognise that it’s the old belief rearing it’s head again.
And I can resolve it.
Guilt is just an emotion.
And it’s not inherently “bad” to feel guilty. Rather, it’s just a sign that something needs to be resolved.
And it’s up to us to decide how we want to manage guilt.
Of course, we don’t have to manage it if we don’t want to. And some women choose not to.
But, if we don’t address the guilt, then there can be pretty devastating consequences.
Guilt can just keep simmering, and gradually increase in intensity as we find more and more things to feel guilty about.
Sometimes, we turn to food or alcohol, to avoid feeling guilty.
But eventually, the guilt resurfaces. And we find ourselves experiencing problems like physical illness, or chronic sadness (even depression), or relationship issues, or a general feeling of discontent.
Even worse, through our actions we might even start inadvertently teaching our children (especially our daughters) to feel guilty as well.
So maybe it’s time we all did a bit of soul searching.
If we’re feeling guilty in certain situations, or if certain topics are triggering our guilt, then it’s a perfect time to start healing those old wounds or changing those unhelpful beliefs (and if you need a bit of help doing this, check out this link).
Our feelings of guilt are telling us something. It’s high time we listened to them.