Before having a baby there was so much I prepared myself for.
I listened as people told me about sleepless nights and bought a decent under-eye concealer.
I heeded warnings about nappies leaking and food spilling and had an almost endless supply of vests and babygrows.
For once in my life I thought I was ready for the challenge ahead.
But nobody had warned me about the guilt. Not a soul had prepared me for that.
The feeling that whatever you do you’re not doing it well enough. And oh how I could have done with a heads up on that front. I’d have been happy with eye bags and wouldn’t have minded dressing my baby in stained old vests in exchange for some kind of armour against the stifling guilt that comes with being a mum.
And I’m not alone.
‘Mom guilt’ is something Australian blogger Siobhan Rennie recently explored in her blog Me Oh My Mum. Discussing the shame she still feels for stopping breastfeeding her daughter at a few months old, Siobhan says judgemental stares when she pulls out a bottle still bother her. She admits she can’t help being hard on herself.
When it comes to shame, in the Middle East moms often feel it the most when they’re forced to rely on others to assist them in the household duties.
Despite living in a society where hired help is the norm, the guilt of sharing the load is still something that bothers many women in the Gulf.
Teacher and mom of two Fatima H says: “It’s easy to become lazy and take advantage of the situation. I feel guilty as the maid knows more about eating, toilet and sleeping habits than I do. Especially when I only had 45 days maternity leave.”
And there’s no less guilt for moms who don’t go to work. Palestinian/ American mom of three Safiyah says she’s used to dealing with feelings of shame.
She explains: “I feel like less of a woman because I have a house cleaner.
“When we grew up we never had a house cleaner and when I had three kids in a row we still didn’t as I was in America and it was too expensive. We eventually started to get a house cleaner once a month and I felt extremely guilty. Now I live in the Middle East and it’s more reasonable so I have one three times a week. I feel guilty albeit less guilty but it never fully goes away. The thing I feel guilty about is that I’m a stay at home mom so I don’t have a reason to have a house cleaner but before her I would always push my kids away because I was busy with dishes or laundry. Now that I have a house cleaner I’m more relaxed in general and my relationship with my kids is a lot better. I play and laugh with them a lot that’s why it’s worth it.”
Dubai-based mom-of-one Kiera Purdue tries to remind herself that for all the guilt running her own business brings, there are benefits and it’s important to focus on these as well.
She explains: “I feel guilty as I work very long hours but the worst bit is that I own the company and so theoretically I should be more in control of my time but what it means is that I am the one that stays late and works the weekend.
“The offset is that when there is something that cannot be missed, I attend it. I move things around to suit me. And when she was a baby - as I went back to work part time after three weeks and full time after seven - I went home to breastfeed at lunchtime every day for the first three months which I think would be quite unusual.”
Still, in a culture where many women don’t work, there are times when even tough businesswomen feel pangs of guilt.
She adds: “My daughter asks me regularly why I have to have a job and then names other mums who don’t work but she’s now in school so I don’t feel so bad as I know I’m actually just not spending time with her for part of the afternoon.
“It’s a weird offset of guilt as I know that all mums feel guilty whether it’s an offset for work or personal time - regardless of childcare.”
While we all feel it, it’s often not easy to deal with. So if the guilt ever feels like it’s weighing too heavy on you, try and see it as a blessing.
Mom of three Rosa Meekums says: “I read in a book that mum guilt is a blessing because it means you're a good mum. If you weren't a good mum you wouldn't care or ever worry that you could do better. It resonated with me as I often wonder why we feel so much guilt. The book suggests that it's nature's way of making sure we do our jobs well!”SHOW MORE