Mother's Guilt

Rethinking Mothers Guilt - Growth Requires Guilt

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Many of us mums are plagued by mother’s guilt.

So often in my work with my clients, I hear the toxic impact of mother’s guilt on their lives.

Stealing the joy of motherhood away from them.
Draining their energy with that nagging feeling that they’re never enough.
Occupying their mind when they’re at work.
Losing sleep over feeling like they’re letting their children down.

But what if I told you that we need to be able to tolerate a certain amount of guilt?

Not because we need to endure it to be a good mother.

But because growth requires guilt.

If we want to grow and develop in our life, we need to learn how to tolerate it respectfully.

Let me explain what I mean, and to do this, I need to share some insights from my three-year training in systemic coaching.

Our most profound human need is to belong.

No man (or woman) is an island, so we can only belong in relationship with others (a relationship system).

The process starts at birth as we bond and belong.

This is the first system we encounter and belong within – and we call it family.

Our relationship systems have rules that protect our belonging.

Some of these rules are spoken, but many are unspoken. From these experiences, we develop our personal conscience.

“The personal conscience emerges out of a lively cocktail of land-of-origin and family-of-origin bonding experience, innate personality type and events in our childhood.”
John Whittington – Systemic Coaching and Constellations

Over our lifetime, we gather and internalise attitudes and beliefs about our relationships that become deeply embedded within us.

They tell us what we need to do to belong, and they become our internal rule book. Our personal conscience tells us whether we conform to, or violate, these rules.

And many of us feel the daily impact of this rule book. You only have to look at the judgement that hangs around motherhood to feel this impact.

When we act in alignment with our personal conscience, we feel we belong and therefore feel ‘innocent’.

But when we act out of alignment and risk our belonging, we feel ‘guilty’.

As a result, any personal growth or development requires us to become guilty in relation to the systems in which we belong.

I personally became aware of this after having my first child and returning to work. I became so consumed by my mother’s guilt I considered giving up my work completely to ease my guilt.

After much soul-searching, I realised that my loyalty to my own mum (who had been a stay-at-home mum when I was a child) was at the heart of my guilt.

So I had to tolerate my guilt to grow into the mother I wanted and needed to be.

My mother died before I became a mum, but I’m sure she would never have wanted or expected me to be a stay-at-home mum if it wasn’t what I wanted. I’d just internalised an unconscious rule that this is what I needed to do to be a ‘good mum’.

“It takes courage to make the transition from our original conscience group. When this movement into guilt is facilitated with respect and acknowledgement for what was given and what was received, it can bring profound growth and strength.”
Alasdair Kidd

So for us to grow and change, we need to be able to tolerate feelings of guilt.

The challenge is acknowledging our guilt and resourcing ourselves to tolerate it respectfully. Doing so can take a step closer to authentic happiness and thrive as working mums.

This is even more important if we want to step into a new paradigm of motherhood.

If we want to update our internal rule book of how we want to be a working mum (perhaps letting go of self-sacrifice or martyrdom), then tolerating the guilt of change will be vital.

I hope this insight into the nature of growth and guilt liberates you so that you can move forward with a fresh perspective on your mother’s guilt.

Get in touch for a free no-strings-attached chat to learn more about this.

Nicky x

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