Saturday, August 14, 2010

Get rid of the guilt


Another study and a Premier knock mother guilt on the head
When it comes to parenting, the best advice anyone can give you is “do what works for you and your family”.
After all, each of us live in different family situations.
Some of us have multiple children, while some have just one. Some of us have a partner, while some are single parents. Some of us work, while some don’t. Some of us have a great network of support, while others are more isolated.
But unfortunately many parents (read mums) compare themselves to others and are often overcome with mother guilt.
I think the biggest causes of mother guilt come from feeding your baby formula instead of breastfeeding, and returning to work instead of staying at home with the children.
I’ve done both and yes, felt guilty, but I soon got over it and stuck with the mantra of “do what works for you and your family”.
However, two news stories hit the headlines this week that gave me a glimmer of hope that some of the guilt mothers carry might fade away.

The first was the announcement by Premier Anna Bligh that a new workplace breastfeeding policy would allow government workers paid breastfeeding breaks.
The government must now provide private, clean and hygienic spaces that are signed and able to be locked for mums to feed their children or express milk, as well as flexible options for working hours and refrigeration.
One of the reasons many women wean their babies off breastfeeding and onto formula is so they can return to work – two slaps of guilt right there.
But now they can return to work, and continue to breastfeed, without the need to hide in a toilet during their lunch break.
These “lactation” breaks are a fantastic idea and I hope the private sector takes the initiative to offer the same to mothers returning to work after maternity leave.
The second story was that a US report showed mothers are able to return to work within a year of giving birth without harming their babies’ development.
The landmark report titled First-Year Maternal Employment and Child Development in the First Seven Years, is the first to provide the full picture on working mums with small children because it weighs the advantages against the disadvantages.
Previous reports only looked at the potential damage caused by a mother’s absence from the home.
The study showed that working mums have higher income, are more likely to seek quality childcare and display greater “maternal sensitivity” than their stay-at-home counterparts.
However infants with mums who worked full-time scored slightly lower on intelligence tests until they started primary school.
Part-time employment and full-time jobs after the child turns one, however, have no negative effect.
So if your maternity allowance and baby bonus is running dry, or you’re desperate for adult conversation that doesn’t involve baby poo, heading back to work makes sense.
To stop an attack of guilt, be sure to manage your workload both at home and the office, don’t take work home, and ensure you still have quality one-on-one time with your children.
The unfortunate truth is that mother guilt will never truly go away.
Market research by UK website MumPoll.com has found that raising children has become a competition among mothers.
Two-thirds of mums admit to boasting about their child, from skills like walking to accomplishments at school.
The study of 3000 mums found that 80 per cent thought their competitiveness was ridiculous, but most said they couldn’t help it.
With mums bragging about whose child walks and talks first, who has the best pram, whose husband is the most successful and who has the best post-baby body, it’s no wonder the guilt comes knocking on our doors along with a good dose of insecurity, anxiety and pressure to be the perfect mother with the perfect baby.
And while you are reading this over your morning coffee and saying to yourselves “how utterly ridiculous”, I bet you have at one time or another, compared your child to someone else’s. 
It’s quite normal to compare children as it helps us gauge how they are progressing.
But remember it is impossible to have a perfect house, perfect family, or perfect child, so if you’re a mum surrounded by competition, it’s time to find a new playgroup.

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