Talk show queen Oprah Winfrey: “You can have it all. You just can’t have it all at once.” I’m feeling burdened by mother guilt today and I know I’m not alone. Is it a curse of Generation X that in our eternal quest to “have it all” we expect to be able to seamlessly simultaneously juggle motherhood, work and relationships? Are we just setting ourselves up for failure, right there?
Mother guilt seems to be a very common affliction among my close friendship circle. In fact, almost every mum I’ve met struggles to strike a work/life/relationships balance – it seems we’re all struggling to be good enough, to be enough.
Today, I feel guilty for “hiding out” at my favourite cafe in order to meet a writing deadline, while my two toddlers are being cared for by family members. A friend of mine even sometimes shuts herself away in her pantry from her three children, for five minutes, just to de-stress. She is then wracked by terrible mother guilt, only alleviated by a glass of wine. Meanwhile, yet another friend is plagued by debilitating mother guilt after every day-care drop-off, especially after her mother-in-law insinuated she was “abandoning” her child due to her wicked desire to enjoy some much-needed time out to herself.
But back to me: am I selfish for wanting a creative and fulfilling career outside of my family life? Will I ever be able to fulfil all my obligations and keep my husband, my children, my boss and myself happy, all at once? How do we, as women, curb this awful, energy-sapping and ultimately pointless mother guilt and learn to accept that in striving to “have it all”, we will fail at times, and that’s ok? That there is no perfect wife, mother, friend and worker bee and we’re all just trying to do our best?
A-list actress Angelina Jolie once said: “I think if you love what you do, and the choice you’ve made in your life, somehow that drives you forward to enjoy it all. Even the chaos, even the exhaustion of it, and even when it seems out of balance.” And leading Brisbane psychologist Judith Retrot’s advice is for women to stop putting pressure on themselves to be perfect.
“For a child to develop in a psychologically healthy way it needs a ‘good enough mother’. She doesn’t have to be perfect, but in fact it’s imperative that she be ‘good enough’!” Mrs Retrot says. “Don’t waste time feeling guilty! The criteria for ‘good enough’ parenting could be: Do I, more often than not, strike a balance between my responsibilities to give my child enough loving attention and guidance and my own need to fulfill myself and enjoy my life outside of motherhood?”
“If you teach the child that you will compromise your own needs in order to cater to their wants and desires then you will, most likely, both undermine its genuine sense of itself as a caring considerate member of society, while giving it a grandiose sense of entitlement over others.
“The secret to having it all is starting early with looking after yourself and setting age appropriate boundaries for your child, because if you aren’t doing well then neither will your child.”
Image via someecards
By Nicole Carrington-Sima