Social media is both a blessing and a curse. Through social media we connect with others and find friendship and communities we didn’t even know existed. It’s a powerful tool – but one that can also be damaging, especially for mothers. For me, mum guilt is triggered by comparison. I find myself comparing my parenting ability and lifestyle to that of other parents almost daily.
When another mum ‘checks in’ at the nearest theme park, I feel awful that I can’t afford to take my children on big days out regularly. If one of the children’s friends tells them about the new gadget their parents have bought for them, I convince myself that they will hate me in the future for not giving them the best of everything.
I spend every hour I can building a career that allows me to still be a stay at home mum, because I never wanted to be the mother who misses out on their child’s education because of work commitments. Sound’s great doesn’t it? The thing is, working from home means sometimes, despite being with them constantly, I can’t immerse myself in quality time.
Recently I wrote about my battle with perfectionism – throughout my entire life I’ve tried be everything to everyone. I’ve tried to do everything, and I’m suffered because of it. A few weeks ago I realised I needed to change my lifestyle and embrace life’s imperfections.
As a mother, I need to put presence over presents. My work has been taking up every spare hour I have and I often find myself staying up all night to complete my to-do list. I need to spend less time dusting, vacuuming and mopping and more time actually enjoying our home. The only person that can ease the mum guilt, the exhaustion and the feeling of failure is me.
I suffer with severe anxiety, for as long as I can remember I’ve treated my triggers as coping mechanisms. It’s a vicious circle, I clean/work/panic that I’m not good enough because I am anxious. My main anxiety’s are about the house being pristine, earning a living and being a good mum. I spend so much time doing all of the above, that it triggers more anxiety.
It’s time for change…
I’ve cut my working hours. Instead of working a few hours in the day and staying up all night, I’m getting as much as I can done whilst the children are at school. So far, it’s working well. I’m getting more sleep, and I’m far more productive under a strict time frame. When my anxiety gets too much, I take time out instead of throwing myself into the next task. Instead of panicking that I’m not the best mother I can be, I’m listening to my children when they tell me I’m the ‘best Mum ever’. It’s not something I truly believe yet. It’s impossible to change a particular mindset overnight but I am working on it.
I’ve ditched vacuuming for hugging my babies on the sofa with a movie. Unsurprisingly, spending less time doing unnecessary housework and more time making memories with my children has worked wonders for reducing my anxiety. I am rediscovering the joy in the ordinary.
Changing my mindset isn’t easy, it’s a long and slow process, but I’m off to a good start, and proud of myself for taking small steps forward.
Contact Mind for mental health support and advice.