So, you'd like to stop feeling guilty.
If you're like me you are not short of examples where motherhood guilt popped up its head.
As recently as last week I was at an all day event and about 11.30 I received a text from my youngest.
'Mum, where are you?' 😳😳
I put my hand up for another vote towards the Worst Mother of the Year Award.
Well, first the bad news about feeling guilty...
You cant really stop it....
You don't really want to.
Guilt is an emotion, and like all emotions it has a purpose - it is giving you feedback and guidance on your life.
It is important that you feel guilt.
There are two question to ask yourself:
Have a look at these two examples.
Carrying around the ‘shoulds’ and ‘have to’ of being a mum is exhausting.
It’s not called the ‘weight’ of expectations for nothing!
Expectations are things we grow up with.
They create boundaries and provide guidance. For example you are expected to walk before the age of 12-15 months otherwise this is a clear sign of a problem with development.
You are expected to do your homework, obey the teacher, eat your dinner etc….
A lot of expectations are in keeping with how society and families encourage behaviour and growth for the good of your development and that of the community.
The broad aim is for you to become a functional human being who makes a positive contribution to society. Then there are individual family differences based on culture, religion, family structure, birth order, personality etc.
As you entered adolescence you probably rebelled at many/some of these expectations, but you probably also carried many of them into adulthood.
Then you become an adult, and on top of family of origin and society expectations you now have expectations from your work place and expectations from your partner, AND THEN you have children!
And, if that’s not enough you also have the thick layer of consumer ‘expectations’. In a world where economic growth is still valued above all else we seem to have really internalised the ‘greed is good’ doctrine in our society. You are encouraged to buy, to have more, to be good consumers. It is an insidious expectation.
So, what happens when you step back, when you become the observer, when you listen to your noticing self and see the reality of your expectations?
You can see the ‘shoulds’ and ‘have tos’ for what they really are; they aren’t rules by which you have to live by, they aren’t absolute truths, they are just thoughts your mind is holding on to (sometimes in a vice like grip!).
By seeing this you can you can choose to let go of expectations that have no meaning or satisfaction for you.
Knowing this you can choose.
I don’t know the expectations you are carrying.
I do know thought, that as a mother when I brought my first baby home I wanted nothing to mar his perfection. I wanted no harm to come to him, no heartbreak, no pain…
But that is wishful thinking.
No matter what you do as a mother you cannot protect your child from life.
In regards to other expectations you have choices.
You can choose to participate in activities that you value. That bring joy to your heart and that of your family.
You can choose activities that focus on kindness, gratitude, togetherness.
You can choose say NO and choose to say YES.
There is a lot of freedom that comes with being an adult and having so many choices to make.
We might feel the heavy weight of expectations, but when we lose that weight it is not just freeing, it also exposes us and makes it vulnerable.
And it can take a lot of courage to lose that weight and stride out on your own path.
For when you stand as an adult in your authentic self, it can feel that you walk alone.
Over time with greater confidence in your authentic self, the aloneness is replaced by a deeper connection with yourself, with others and with the natural world.
Take care of yourself
Have you ever been taken advantage of, had your trust betrayed, or got stuck in an unequal power relationship?
Trust – it’s a slippery little sucker.
What causes us to trust someone?
Do you trust people implicitly or does it take a long time to build up and develop trust that is quickly destroyed?
What do you trust people with – your secrets, your money, your heart, your life?
Trust and vulnerability are a cornerstone of connection.
It starts at birth.
Babies trust their mothers to feed them, pick them up when they cry, cuddle them. Responsiveness and predictability are key to attachment and connection.
As a psychologist, the relationship between myself and my client is inherently trust based.
My clients trust that I will do the right thing by them. That I will listen and seek to understand without judgement. That I will value and respect their experiences, their goals, their vulnerabilities. Within the clinic space they can let down their guards and don’t need to be strong. They trust that I will guide them using proven methods and honour their journey. That I will work within my expertise and the ethical and legal boundaries of the profession.
Did you realise that 50% of ‘success’ in therapy is due to the relationship between therapist and client. And when you think about how important trust is, this totally makes sense.
Many years ago I sought out counselling through the services provided by my then work, and began seeing a therapist. This person crossed boundary lines. They crossed boundary lines in a number of ways. I followed their behaviour up with a complaint, but that too was unsatisfactory.
This incident totally derailed the therapeutic process for me. It destroyed the connection. It created a mistrust of the counselling profession which I maintained for many years, and, a mistrust of my own experiences.
Why am I telling you this?
I have described an unequal power relationship which was abused by one party. This wasn’t the first time I experienced this and it wasn’t the last. It’s also not uncommon.
You may have experienced something similar.
Here is what may help:
If you are specifically looking for a mental health professional and want more information on professional and ethical conduct.:
I hope this helps. If you want to find out more about my story go to the latest podcast episode https://anchor.fm/kim-dunn/episodes/How-a-therapist-broke-my-trust---and-how-you-can-protect-yourself-against-something-similar-happening-to-you-ear293.
As always you are welcome to email me or book an appointment on 0408533515.
Until next time, take care of yourself
* My aim is for these posts is meant to useful, interesting and/or inspiring. They are not designed to be used for therapy..
Kim Dunn is a Child Psychologist and Founder of Positive Young Minds.