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Navigating the Guilt and Shame Trap: Insights from Mothers

I've been having such rich conversations with mothers about their experience of guilt and shame.

It is clear the social conditioning we have all gone through runs deep, and that, in many ways – as women and as mothers – we are damned if we do and damned if we don't.

For example, if we return to paid employment when we have children vs. if we stay at home with our children, there will always be a societal narrative that induces guilt and/or shame: We can't win!

I'm interested in how mothers manage to deflect the guilt and shame narratives when they show up in their lives.

In my own life I try to categorise feelings of guilt into two boxes: helpful guilt and unhelpful guilt.

An example of helpful guilt is when I feel guilty for being on my phone too much around my children. In that case, the guilt is telling me it’s important to put my phone down in order to spend quality time with my children.

An example of unhelpful guilt is when I feel guilty for not spending more time with my daughter and instead choosing to pay for childcare so that I can work.

When unhelpful guilt arises, I remind myself that I want my daughter to see her mummy following her passion, so that she, in turn, will have the confidence to follow hers. I also remind myself that more time together doesn’t necessarily equate to more quality time together, and that so long as we have quality time together each week that is what matters most.

In essence, I rebuke the unhelpful guilt with rational thought.

I also question where the voice of unhelpful guilt is coming from. Often, unhelpful guilt is coming from the societal narrative we have grown up with, which is largely outdated and rarely serves us or our families.

Seeing it in this way can help us to detach from unhelpful guilt and let it go.

I'd love to hear from you in the comments re: what strategies you use to deflect guilt and shame in your lives – I’m sure it would also help other mothers reading this post for whom these emotions may be showing up in their own lives.

Photo by Verne Ho on Unsplash


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