Octopuses are a big thing in my life at the moment. With 8 legs Octopus mums must slay at multitasking (hmm I could check Instagram whilst changing a nappy and loading the dishwasher…) Alas I am not an octopus. I digress. Octopuses are the current play-doh creature of choice to be made (by me!) in our house at the moment. I, 32 year old mum of two, new to life in the Middle East am an expert Play-Doh octopus maker (new Instagram bio maybe?). I have the joy of parenting two delightful sons, aged 2.7 years and 8 months. I love Jesus and he is my absolute anchor for everything including parenting.
Moving half way across the globe summer 2016 was by far the hardest thing I have ever done in my entire life. Since I arrived feelings have been a battle, the main one being guilt. Now I know that guilt is a common little beast that frequently jumps up and bites us mums on the behind wherever we live. I probably experienced guilt in the UK in equal measure. However moving here has brought it to the surface in new ways. I am so grateful that because of Jesus I can face guilt and move on from it because He already faced it for me. Jesus took all the guilt of the whole world upon him when he died upon a cross. I don’t have to face parenting alone. Or anything else for that matter. I am armed with strength from Jesus to remind myself that guilt is not something that I have to accept when I am simply doing my best with what I have for my kids.
So how has this guilt manifested itself in my life? During a January’s solid month of snow/rain when I for the umpteenth time tell my toddler to get the play-doh out. ‘I’d be able to jump in the car and take him to soft play for an hour if I were in England’, I think, and I’d feel guilty. When the baby is crying but I am potty training the toddler and he has to wait, I’d feel guilty (emergency code wee situation!). When I take the little one for coffee for some much needed respite (quick, go to nice coffee shops before he crawl and destroy the place!) and I leave my toddler with his Grandma and they go to the park and have a lovely time… I’d feel guilty. When meal time comes and I can’t find half the ingredients to make half an Ella’s Kitchen organic pouch- I’d feel guilty. Bath time. They sit in the bottom of the walk-in shower (they just about still fit. Roll on summer when we can put a paddling pool on the balcony) and have a great old time. I think of the spacious bath we had in England. I’d feel guilty. My toddler only has one little friend. He is such a blessing. They play almost once a week and I am so grateful. But in England he had about 16 friends and they spoke the same language as him. I’d feel guilty. I remember that my baby has not once yet been swimming (the 5cm in the bottom of my shower does not count) whilst when his older brother was born we did baby swim classes every week in England. I’d feel guilty.
I look up from my Play-doh octopus and into the kind eyes of my saviour Jesus. I know he is pleased with me. In that moment I know that I have nothing to feel guilty about. My move to the Middle East and out of English parenting culture (which may I add, I loved. Big up my amazing lifelong NCT friends!) has taught me that whilst I lack the luxuries of a car and numerous soft play centres, I am giving my children the best, by being obedient to God’s call on my life. And they’re so happy here. They love this country, my toddler tells me all the time. And I was missing it because I was busy comparing! I’m all my boys need. Never once has my son said to me ‘mummy I miss baby massage on Wednesdays and Jingle Tots on Fridays’. Truth be told, I’m the one who misses those things. Maybe they were more for me than they were for him.
So if my children are happy as crickets here, making play-doh octopuses most days, why the mum guilt? Well it’s safe to say Mum Guilt is false guilt. Where does it come from? Society? Yes. Social media? Yup. Definite culprits for magnifying if not spinning the lies that ensnare us. Lies, that we’re not clever enough, skinny enough, happy enough. What about you? Do you experience mum guilt? What can be triggers for you? Have you tried coming to Jesus with it? He really will take it all- and then you can be free to get on with being the best mum you can be- without tripping over the lies that you fall short.