It’s a funny thing.
It gets under your skin and makes you do all kinds of crazy shit.
As a parent, guilt keeps many of us awake at night with its persistent nagging over how much TV you let your kids watch, if you read to them enough, play with them enough, or mollycoddle them too much.
As a full-time working mum, I hid behind a cloak of guilt that grew heavier with every ball I dropped. It would niggle away at me saying DO MORE, BE BETTER, GO HOME AND MAKE SOCK PUPPETS WITH YOUR CHILD.
It is what kept me up until midnight finishing the housework, and what set my alarm for 6am to get a quick shower in before the rest of the house awoke.
It made me strive to be more organised and helped me to feel more in control.
Guilt pushed me to live up to my own expectations of myself, and I was addicted to it.
I got my fix every time I had to work late at the office, forgot to return an important email, or my child got sick at nursery.
I blamed all my guilt on the fact that I was working full-time and thought if my situation changed, then my cloak of guilt would simply melt away.
I told myself that if I was not working full-time, then I would be able to be one of those mums I saw on Pinterest, who spent afternoons crafting with their kids.
I would bake biscuits and we’d decorate them together for a mid-morning treat.
The laundry would be washed and ironed. The dishwasher would not need to be loaded at 10 o’clock at night and unloaded at dawn.
I would never feel tired again.
But, then my situation did change and when my son started school, I embarked on a quest to find part-time work from home.
Within a few months, I had enough projects to keep me busy during the hours between school drop-off and pick-up. I signed up to go on class trips and I volunteered for the Christmas Fair. After school, we have swimming lessons, gymnastics classes, play dates and homework; but I still worry I don’t play enough, clean enough or work enough.
Leaving my full-time job did not make me feel like a better mum. I am the same mum I have always been. More available, certainly, but all that guilt changed nothing. I was good enough already.
We do not spend our afternoons making sock puppets, because I really am not very good at craft. I am better at other things – stories, games, days out and dancing round the kitchen.
And, I’d actually rather load the dishwasher before I go to bed and unpack it in the morning than have it on all day while I am working.
I’m still tired. Maybe because I miss the pace of my previous life, the only pace I’d known for 20-years, so pack my diary with other stuff so it still feels there are never enough hours in the day.
I like being busy and will always find a way to keep busy, in the same way I will always find a way to avoid getting the glitter glue out.
I could never have lived up to the Perfect Mum image I had formed in my mind, because nobody can. That person does not exist in the real world and I am so much happier now that I have let her go.
I am who I am and who I have always been. Not perfect, but doing the best I can with what I know.
I am not going to let myself think that’s not good enough anymore.