Words by Psychotherapist Jane Faulkner
Motherhood is a journey of constant learning, letting go and creatively adjusting to what life brings you. As my children have grown, I have watched myself become consumed by guilt – guilt about choices I have made, the time I didn’t have to spend with them, problems they have, all kinds of crazy things that I used to beat myself up with.
At times, this guilt could be crippling and it would really get in the road of my clear judgement about what the situation and my kids needed. I remember realising that my guilt was actually obscuring my view and also my connection with them. When I felt really guilty, it was all about me! I felt disconnected and not present to them or their needs. My guilt was also keeping me captive and I didn’t feel free in my parenting. I set expectations for myself and my family way too high and I noticed that we were fighting a lot, so I was only noticing the negatives.
I was miserable and so was my family, so I explored relaxing, handing over more responsibility to my kids, trusting and letting go of some of the guilt.
Here are 8 strategies that helped me.
- Remind yourself that your job is to teach your kids to do things for themselves and then hand it over to them. Independent kids often have higher self-esteem and resilience.
- Time is precious, however when you are unable to be with them, remind yourself that they are nourishing other relationships and learning how to handle different situations and different people. This is really important for their social skills and their confidence.
- Be clear about your boundaries and stick to them. Consistency provides stability and security for your kids. Even if they moan and complain, you are providing a safe, structured environment for them to grow in.
- Children follow by example, so model behaviour that you want to pass onto them. Look after yourself, take deep breaths and be kind to yourself and to others!
- It’s healthy for kids to see you take time for yourself to exercise, see friends or just get some space; you are showing them ways to look after themselves. You are planting seeds that will grow within them.
- Ensure that your children treat you with respect- let them know if they are being disrespectful or if you feel like you are being taken for granted. Your job is to help make them more aware of themselves and the impact they have on others.
- It’s ok to let them fall, trip up or get things wrong. This is how we all learn, evolve and grow; if I never fall off my bike I won’t learn how to balance and ride! Trust that together, you and your child will be able to deal with anything. Let your child know that you trust their abilities and are there to support them. This doesn’t mean you rescue them, more like you are their cheer squad, reminding them that they have the capacity to work through any challenges or obstacles.
- Let go of worrying about what anyone else thinks. I used to do too much for my kids because I was worried about what their teachers or other parents would think! Now I realise that if they leave their hat behind and have to play inside, they remember it the next time and I think it’s better to learn this at 7 then at 19.
To implement these strategies I had to let go of a lot of old ways of thinking that didn’t serve my family or me. I had to be open to walking a new path and allowing myself to make mistakes along the way, to remind myself that I was learning and human too! So go gently with yourself, park your guilt and remind yourself that being guilty doesn’t help anyone.
Jane Faulkner started her career as a Registered Nurse and has worked in hospitals in Australia and overseas. During her career as a nurse, she supported people through the difficult transitions of illness, grief, death, trauma, mental health issues and childbirth.
Jane has a Masters in Gestalt Psychotherapy, a Bachelor of Nursing, a Certificate in Initiatic Art Therapy and is certified in Equine Assisted Psychotherapist. Yoga is an integral part of her life, she is a Certified Iyengar Teacher and continues to study and teach in the Iyengar yoga tradition. She is an accomplished teacher, therapist, and facilitator and has led many women’s groups and Day Retreats, presented seminars and workshops, and worked with many different community groups and individuals.
Jane is the founder of Equine Assisted Therapy Australia, an organisation that provides training, retreats, programs and individual sessions that aim to provide individuals with a new and authentic ways to grow and learn more about themselves. Connect with Jane HERE.
Thanks, Jane, I know I certainly need to take this on board. Now over to you…are you a sufferer of ‘mother guilt’ – I know I’m certainly guilty as charged (though now committed to being mindful not to be)? Share what works for you and inspire others, or post a question for Jane in the comments below.