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mothers guilt - part of life or symptom our lives are wrong, what do you think?

(23 Posts)
gigismummy Fri 23-Sep-11 21:15:47

Mothers' guilt is a symptom of Western society, our little houses, all alone, isolated communities, everyone at work, one hour a day with the kids. Mothers say to each other, with a sense of cameraderie, as if it's fine and normal, that every mother feels this guilt, like a right of passage. But I wonder whether it is normal or just a symptom we are doing wholesale parenting in the wrong way. For instance, it would be interesting to meet a bunch of lost Amazonian tribe mums, who live in tight communities the way humans have traditionally lived for millennia, and find out whether they feel guilty too... or maybe it's late and I need to go to bed :-)

thehairybabysmum Fri 23-Sep-11 21:26:22

I don't have it, so can't coment really. I'm quite shallow though and never think about anything much....suspect these two things are related grin

MarshaBrady Fri 23-Sep-11 21:28:35

I don't feel any guilt either I've got to say. Someone who does should be along soon grin

SouthGoingZax Fri 23-Sep-11 21:30:47

You need to go to bed.

We ma not be mothers in Amazonian tribes but at least we can get our children to hospital if they have appendicitis and not have them die.

Seriously. We live in a different world. I have 3 hours a weekday (term time) with my kids, DH is f/t carer, my mum helps out one day a week. But I have weekends and long holidays with them, they are healthy and happy and I have no problem with that. I adore them, they adore me and we have a lovely life as a family.

We are not as we were 100 or 200 years ago. There are advantages and disadvantages in that. But in remembering the disadvantages, don't forget to count your blessings.

Xenia Fri 23-Sep-11 22:07:54

I don't feel it. I suspect my lack of it is why I am happy. I am very lucky.

IN the past most children under 5 died in the UK. Go vback 2000 years ans life expectation for adults qwas only 20 - 30 years. IN Lagos in July I mentioned it was a pity my parents had died so young in their 70s and they laughed. Their average life expectancy is 48.

There was no golden past time when people were fine. However it certainly seems to be the agenda of some to make women (never men) feel bad about their choices. Don't let that happen and you aid other women. Buy into the guilt and you do us all a disservice.

Siomeone once interviewed me as p art of a series of successful working women. She said everyone one us was a "satisficer", able to say - I did a good job at work and that's enough and same at home. We didn't seek or want perfection and we were all happy.

gigismummy Sat 24-Sep-11 14:39:01

Your replies are so interesting! Yes at least we can get them to hospital and you can't in a jungle! However I think their lives may be richer in other ways. I was thinking more that if one lives in a tight nuclear community there are millions of aunties and uncles and family members to look after your children as well as yourself, which takes the pressure off mummy, plus many people to help do jobs that in our culture falls just to the person at home. Maybe you guys all have big families? I have no other family members to help look after sprogilites.

Hassled Sat 24-Sep-11 14:47:01

I think having guilt is linked to low self-esteem, which generally improves as one gets older. When I worked FT, I felt permanently guilty about the effect on my DCs. When I stopped work altogether, I felt permanently guilty about my lack of contribution to society/being a poor role model etc. Now I'm older I don't feel guilty at all.

And no, I don't think it's a cultural thing. Unless people from different cultures have varying levels of self-esteem.

HookADuck Sat 24-Sep-11 15:11:26

I don't feel guilt I just fear for the consequences of not being around much for my children during the weekdays. Can't be healthy is all I keep repeating to myself. Little choice though.

Xenia Sat 24-Sep-11 15:25:32

It is prob ably an age things too, I agre. I'm in my 40s and 3 of the children have graduated. The things you think matter when you first have them you realise don't hugely matter or not as much as you thought.

I agree that having other people around helps. Last nigth I was reading and one twin was with his big sister watching something on television and chatting and the other with his adult brother upstairs. They have had such variety of people with whom to interact, lots of people coming and going. The house feels like a public space often but it has advantages for the children.

gigismummy Sat 24-Sep-11 19:45:12

yes mine are one and three. Have never thought about the self esteem thing. May connect for some people but I have noticed that universally the mothers I have spoken to say they all feel guilty (and have young children) in addition any article one reads in the media on the subject will infer that everyone feels guilty and should stop doing so (which I agree with as guilt itself is quite useless). So it doesn't seem to make sense that all these women have low self esteem. Maybe it's a maturity thing? I am almost 40 myself but of course am still growing up! :-)

cory Sat 24-Sep-11 21:40:25

Do we know that everybody who lives in a tight knit traditional society actually likes their relatives or thinks they are a good influence on the children?
(thinking of my greatgrandmother's family who clubbed together and bought her a red dress to celebrate her father's funeral- not perhaps the greatest endorsement of traditional family life)

I think Xenia makes good points:

age certainly helps- when your children get older you realize that you don't make their lives, they do

seeing that they have more people to rely on is also very reassuring: mine lean on each for support but they also use modern technology to keep in contact with their cousins overseas and I know this is a great source of comfort for dd in particular

Xenia Sat 24-Sep-11 22:02:56

Loads of women aren't guilty and know they do a good job with their work and children but the press like to peddle a myth that we cannot cope because that helps those who cannot cope themselves feel we are all in the same club and it may even make some men feel good and keep women down.

If women realised you can actually benefit your children by working, if we changed the mind set to oh you're a housewife, oh dear that will probably damage your child for life we might make greater progress instead of suggesting housewife equals best for children.

Mimi40 Sat 24-Sep-11 22:05:28

I feel the guilt and i agree that it's cultural. We are isolated as carers of our children. I have no family nearby, and have worked like crazy to build a good support network - but even this is hard to draw on for support when most of them have little kids too. Add to this the information overload we are faced with - bewildering amounts of new research which tell us exactly how we should be doing things - and the fact that the media talks in terms of 'the mother's' childcare decisions, it's no blooming wonder we feel guilty.

I do agree though that as my kids and their friends get older, even I have to acknowledge that it seems hard to see a simple correlation between working mothers (such as myself) and delinquency wink

I do think attachment parenting is good though (I had my kids in bed with me loads, slings, all the rest), and it can be grindingly hard work without an extended family to help...

Mimi40 Sat 24-Sep-11 22:07:19

Xenia - I agree.

gigismummy Sun 25-Sep-11 10:16:17

Cory, I keep thinking about your great grandmother. How wonderful to buy her a red dress if she hated her father that much!!! I think that's rocking that they were all so close that they could do that. When my own father died everybody sat right at the back of the memorial place and pushed me and my brother to the front all by ourselves. It was awful. Then, a few months down the line, my father's brother my uncle (who had an excellent job) asked me (who was a student) to send him some money so he could post down the ashes!!!

doneitthistime Sun 25-Sep-11 19:57:58

Nope don't have it. I adore my children, I try to do my best. I work. Dh works. The children go to bed happy. I may be at work during the day but its like the Waltons at night (urm mostly).

My own mother didn't work, did everything for us and feels guilty about everything - I have no idea why - she cared for us amazingly well.

Its probably a personality thing. People really try hard to pigeonhole as 'mothers' rather than individual.

Ixia Sun 25-Sep-11 23:31:45

I sometimes wonder about living in a stone age community (think Clan of the Cave Bear type thing), where you are never alone for long, the childcare is shared and you stay close to your family.Only things such as family, food and shelter are important. I know it's a rose tinted specs thing, I'd probably be dead by 50, have given birth to a dozen kids, only 2 of which had survived etc. But I do sometimes think there most be some kind of halfway compromise. I don't have guilt as such, but am lonely and live away from my parents and extended family, I just wonder if society has gone wrong somewhere.

cory Mon 26-Sep-11 08:10:19

I know quite a few of my relatives in earlier generations felt such a closeness very claustrophobic. Some of those families were very unhappy.

It is one thing to live in the same house as your parents because you like them and have chosen to do so (as is the case with my younger brother and his family), another to do so because there are no options (as was the case for my great-aunt and great-uncle in the early 1900s-both unmarred so unable to set up households of their own).

I am happy to live in an age where it is so easy to keep in touch. I notice the difference even from when dh and I were engaged but living in different parts of the world in the 80s- phone calls were expensive in those days and there was no email or texting.

Even in Stone Age communities women who married must quite frequently have moved away from their tribes - otherwise it would get a bit incestuous. And from family researching dh's family I know they kept moving villages in pretty well every generation as far back as the 17th century- usually the woman moving by the looks of it. Only difference was they couldn't phone their relatives for support.

When I needed help in pregnancy I could ring my Mum and talk to her. In fact, when I really needed her it only took her a couple of hours to cross the North Sea and get to me. If we hadn't been close enough to keep in touch with all the cons of modern society, I doubt we would have been close enough to enjoy living together in Ye Olde Traditional Village.

LizzieMo Mon 26-Sep-11 09:58:11

''If women realised you can actually benefit your children by working, if we changed the mind set to oh you're a housewife, oh dear that will probably damage your child for life we might make greater progress instead of suggesting housewife equals best for children.''

Gosh, I thought that we were trying to get away from the mindset that one or the other is best- we complain about the media stirring things up, yet here is an example of stay at home mums suddenly being slagged off on a forum for Mums!!! If we point the finger at eachother, surely the media can't be blamed when they jump on the bandwagon!!!

Surely we want to get to the mindset where each family makes its own choices according to its own circumstances. I became a stay-at-home Mum because of a particular set of circumstances, but it was the best thing for my family at the time. I don't go around criticising working mums -whatever works for you!! I am sure that there are Mums who feels guilt no matter what they do, and some that don't feel guilt at all. It takes all sorts.

Makiko Mon 26-Sep-11 10:04:35

Message withdrawn

vigglewiggle Mon 26-Sep-11 10:11:54

I agree with Lizzie. Vilifying SAHM's will not assuage the guilt of working mothers - what a silly idea.

I have done both and my decisions were my own, I didn't care what other people thought (other than my DH of course wink). I now work, but I know that if it is having a seriously detrimental affect on my DC I will reassess. In the meantime it feels good for me and I refuse to feel guilty about that!

gigismummy Mon 26-Sep-11 16:21:57

Maybe it is a personality thing. But those people who don't feel guilty... I wonder whether you really don't in which case I am dead jealous, or you do sometimes but your logic and good sense overrides it.

Makiko I think that's very perceptive, it does make it difficult when there are different ways to bring up the sprogs and all this advice! For example the books all said to give your children loads of attention. So I gave my first daughter LOADS of attention. She is now extremely demanding and can't do things on her own. My second, I now feel like I have it right, leave them to their own devices (but not to the extent they actually feel unloved).

Very occassionally I feel as if Ive dealt with it absolutely right and my instinct knows it. But so often I just can't see the way!

Xenia Mon 26-Sep-11 22:44:49

I genuinely rarely feel guilty. Every day, sometimes every hour I am deciding a priority between work, home and a heap of other things. I just make the choice and then go ahead and then look to the future. If the choice were wrong then tis over and done so you hope to make a better choice the next hour but I don't go around under a pall of guilt. I think on the whole I do a fairly good job. It helps that people tend to say that to me an awful lot which I certainly don't need or encourage. Also I am now in year 28 as a mother so I've had 27 more years of pract ising balancing things than new mother s on here. It gives you a bit more perspective.

Also anyone male or female with a new baby tends to be exhausted and it's hard to feel great about anything when you're tired.

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