The Mammy Guilt

Mammy guilt is a phrase that is now being bandied around regularly, possibly ignited by the fact that the pressure on mammy’s these days is huge. But what is Mammy Guilt exactly? And why do we let ourselves fall prey to it?

Picture this: a well kept, warm and inviting home. The smell of dinner hits your nostrils as you walk in the door. The children are occupied quietly with homework or various arts and crafts. Not an electronic media device in sight. Mummy is effortlessly gliding across the kitchen, apron on, broom in hand, smile on face……Now, lets add on 6 decades and see the contrast between the 1950’s and present day. Well, it would be easier to draw comparison – there is a house, kids and a mum. Everything else is rather different.
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When we think of Mammy Guilt, we think of the mother that hates leaving her kids on a Saturday because she has been at work all week. But this well known guilt trip has evolved. Mothers today are under so much pressure, whether they work full time at home or full time with an employer. One thing both parties have in common is the need to have everything perfect when it comes to raising a family. I have been on both sides of this and have felt the Mammy Guilt in a number of instances:

  • Classic Mammy Guilt – while working full time, any weekend activity that did not involve me spending time with the kids made me feel terrible.
  • Shopping Mammy Guilt – I go to Penny’s to pick up a few bits for me and come home with socks plus 2 bags full of toddler outfits and babygrows. They needed a few bits. Again.
  • Television Mammy Guilt – the baby is crying, the toddler is moving around the sitting room like a mini tornado. I do the unthinkable and turn on the TV so that I can dunk some biscuits into tea. And yes, the baby is looking at it to.
  • Nutrition Mammy Guilt – I fed my toddler a ready made meal. I let my toddler have a sugar loaded juice. My toddler sometimes has a dinner plate that does not contain colours because I am too shattered to get creative in the kitchen.
  • Nappy Mammy Guilt – yep, he’s been in that nappy far too long.
  • Angry Mammy Guilt – I’ve lost it with my toddler and shouted and felt horrible afterwards. I’ve asked the 3 week old baby with the hell she just keeps on crying. And felt quite stupid afterwards.

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There are so many situations, the above are a few honest ones of mine. These days we are overloaded with books on how to raise nutritionally sound, socially adept children; all developmental milestones are hit within a certain timeframe and they don’t see the TV until they are 18 years old. If we so much as stray from this hard and fast rule book, we beat ourselves up and worse yet, judge each other for not maintaining the standard. This is where the guilt comes from – we put the pressure on ourselves.

Motherhood is a rough ride – there are a fair few bumps along the way and it is not possible to be perfect. You will forget to give him lunch on time. You will lose the plot and shout. You need to go out with the girls and let loose on a Friday and feel like crap the next day. You will not have time to sit and interact and play games all day. And you will let the TV do some babysitting sometimes. Its called life, and we must live our own and not judge others for how they live theirs.

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In the words of two famous Craggy Island parishioners – careful now, down with this sort of thing! Mammy Guilt is not good.

Here is my antidote for dealing with Mammy Guilt:

Each day I will do my absolute best to care for my family.

I wont get everything right, but I will learn along the way.

I will take care of myself.

I will hug each one of my kids tight each night and tell them how much I love them.

Before I close my eyes to sleep, I will be proud of myself and the family I have produced.

I am so lucky.

I am a wonderful Mum.
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The Break Up

Not all relationships are meant to last. It’s a fact of life, and a sort of process that we all go through. There are so many positive experiences that you can have when you enter into a relationship with someone. But god does it hurt when you break up. Songs have been written about it, movies have been made; even trends have emerged on twitter (#taylorandcalvin).

But what about when friends break up?

Are friendships deeper than romantic relationships?

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Friendships often last for years; a lot of the time they are born in school. They stand the test of time and create a trust like no other. A friend is the one you turn to when your mother is driving you up the walls and won’t let you go to the teenage disco. A best friend (or bestie) is the one you cannot wait to call when you find out you are expecting a baby. That bestie’s arms are also the ones that you fall into if a boyfriend breaks up with you. Friendships tend to outlast many a romantic relationship in a person’s life.

So what goes wrong?

Much like a romance, friendships can sometimes fizzle out. Two people can grow apart and move in different directions. In this case, both parties simply drift away and the process is practically painless, given that the sentiments are mutual.

But in the case when one friends suddenly rips the plaster off without notice – it burrrrrrns.  One person is happily going along, life is great, my best friend is there for me etc. Then BOOM – the bomb drops and that friend is no more. It’s like your left arm has suddenly gone missing. First there is the shock of it all. Then comes the emotions; the anger, and the sadness. Then the wondering about what exactly went wrong. Then some more anger and tears and finally…….a hollow. It’s like a long term relationship break up times ten.

Two sides to every story.

No relationship ends ‘suddenly’. (Unless of course there has been a serious incident that warrants it.) While one person is ignorantly blissful, the other is usually feeling a little disgruntled. Many a factor (including external influences) can then add to this unhappiness until finally something will trigger a breaking point. Maybe one person was feeling a little neglected? Or perhaps the opposite feeling of being smothered? Either way, right or wrong, people don’t usually throw away something that they have invested themselves in for no reason. They too are hurting, and have been for a time.

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Licking your wounds.

When good friends go bad, there is always the risk of things taking a turn down nasty lane, which runs parallel to bitchy street. Anger is in control here, but ex friends have a lot on each other and the ability to really hurt. Losing a friend is damage enough without having to heal additional battle scars. Time and absence is a great healer. Disconnect on social media and in social circles if possible. You cannot move on from someone when they are sitting right next to you all of the time.

It’s over. What now?

Life moves on.

There are plenty more besties in the sea.

Sometimes one friendship can be so consuming that you fail to recognise and appreciate all of the potential friendships around you. True friends may not have been there for the last twenty years, but they are here, right now and when you need them the most.

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When you are truly over your break up, its best to look back on your time with your ex friend and cancel out all the bad stuff. Appreciate the time you had and great things you did. Regrets are pointless as they are out of your control.

Forgive them.

And forget them.

And as the old saying goes, never cry over someone who wouldn’t cry over you.

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This is what Autism looks like.

On April 2nd, some of the most iconic landmarks in the world (including Blarney Castle!) will light up blue to raise awareness of Autism. In Ireland, 1 in 100 people have Autism and for reasons unknown, it is becoming more and more common.

Autism is a spectrum disorder which means it can range from mild to severe, and symptoms can present themselves in a wide variety of combinations. Basically, no two people with Autism are the same.

Having a child diagnosed with Autism is an extremely traumatic event in any parents life. They say initially, the parents grieve the loss of the child. Will he ever go to the local mainstream school as I visualized? Will he play sports? Will he drive a car? Will he ever get married? Hopes and dreams are initially dashed and parents experience grief. The future becomes very uncertain. Naturally as parents we dream about our children’s future. As an Autism parent, you learn to look at things day by day.

Autism parents everywhere want you to be aware of Autism. Why? Because children with Autism grow to become adults with Autism. And these adults belong in society as much as you and I.

The child in the playground who wont wait his turn. The kid in the supermarket covering his ears and saying ‘mmmmmm’ loudly. The little boy in the play center playing alone, spinning in circles. Is this what Autism looks like?

The little girl throwing a ‘tantrum’ with her mum in the queue in front of you, holding up the whole shop. Is it a tantrum? Or Autism meltdown?

Please do not judge that parent. It may be Autism, and if it is, they are going through hell right now and your tutting or judgmental staring does not help.

The little kid who has his head in the iPad while mum sips a coffee? Don’t judge mum. Sure, too much iPad is bad but in a crowded place it can help this little guy block out all of the loud noises which cause him pain. And trust me, this mum deserves her cup of coffee.

So how do I know? Because I am an Autism mum. I have written this article to raise awareness. I am using my blog to raise awareness. If just one of you reads this and knows a little bit more about Autism, my work here is done.

Autism is a condition, it does not define a person. My son has Autism, I chose not to refer to him as autistic. Why? A wise friend of mine explained this really well – if Autism were the flu, would you say that your son is the flu? Or that he has the flu?

I want my child to grow up in a world where people will be aware of his challenges. An Autism mum’s biggest fear is what happens when I am gone? This is why we light it up blue every year, to let people know that autism exists.

So what does autism look like you might ask? It looks like me and you. It’s the little girl next door. It’s the man waiting at the bus stop. It’s the teenager you just walked past.

In my family, it’s cheeky, mischievous, gorgeous, bright eyed and handsome. It’s smiley, energetic and extremely affectionate. It’s just so handsome I could eat it!!

And I don’t care if I am biased. Because it’s my boy. x

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And then the argument started….

To have and to hold, in sickness and in health, til death do us part. Or, until we have a newborn and I want to kill you. There are so many articles out there about how to survive the first three months of a new baby. You know, the tips on colic, lack of sleep and cluster feeding etc. But there is another challenge new parents face that can be overlooked – getting through those first few months and actually liking each other by the end of it!

It’s such a beautiful scene; she surprises him with announcement of “I’m pregnant!” Tears of joy, excitement and nervousness follows. He heads to the local while she orders ‘What to expect when you are expecting’ from Amazon. Six months of bumps, scans and buggy buying follow. All the while, the happy couple seem closer together than they ever have been. The most amazing moment of welcoming their first child arrives, two become three. Then….BOOM! Constant crying, nappy changes, exhaustion – having a baby is a huge shock to the system, life changes big time. And so does your relationship.

Every single thing my husband did drove me mad. Why, why does he have to step so loudly when he is coming up to bed? What part of do not fasten the nappy too tight does he not understand? Yes, please pick up the baby after his bottle feed and do ‘weeeeeeee’, up and down one more time! And can you imagine how annoying I was? I hate to admit it, but I run a tight baby ship. There are methods to be followed and if there is any deviation from instruction there will be hell to pay in the form of torrential nagging. The point being, most couples are fit to kill each other during those first few months. Most if not all really. It is a wonder homicide rates do not increase with each baby boom!

I am not a professional in the field of counseling. But I like to think of myself as a seasoned war veteran. I have served in two post baby relationship battles and survived. So I cannot give relationship counseling, but I can maybe offer some advice. (Note – if you end up killing him anyway, please don’t blame me!)

  • Split the chores – if you find yourself continuously watching how much housework each person is doing, and comparing, stick a list on the fridge. Divide and conquer.
  • Respect each others parenting styles – do not let the baby nap late in the evening, it was all that I asked. Yet, the baby napped because he allegedly needed it. Let your other half parent in their own way. And let them learn from their mistakes without your critique. If something doesn’t work, they need to pick up the pieces. Like in my example, Daddy did the feeds that night and baby never napped late again. (Me 1, Hubby zero. Ok, yes I admit that that is not in the spirit of the article).
  • If you get the child/kids to bed to sleepput the mobile phones down! Time alone is so rare. Do not waste it on social media. Talk to each other about how hard it is. Have a whinge. Or talk about something else completely!  It can be great to switch off from baby talk.
  • Hug – simple I know, but it takes two seconds in between feeds and nappies to give each other a hug. You are going through this together, and sometimes when a child will not stop screaming for three hours, there are just no words.
  • Be a team – give each other time away (let him play football with the lads, let her go shopping for a few hours). If she is breastfeeding during the night, get up and get her a drink, change the nappy, be there. When he does things like wake up and help while you are feeding, say THANK YOU.

I have come through the post baby relationship war twice and not without my battle scars! But you can survive, and it will make you stronger. It will get easier, and if you stick together through the tough times, you will be together to celebrate the good times. Just don’t expect miracles – he will still excessively channel flick, use selective hearing (when the baby cries at night) and use your towel when he showers. These things I cannot help you with. After all, I’m a mother not a miracle worker!