• Lucy Chaplin

3 top mum guilt moments (and what I learnt from them)

Nobody told me about the guilt.

Some of the time, especially when the boys were small, I thought I was doing a fairly good job as a mum.

But then, there have been moments that still make my insides twist with guilt.

Here are my top three.

  1. Abandoning my youngest at Nursery.

Even though this is years ago, this still makes my heart lurch and my stomach churn. I knew (as a teacher then and mum of three) that the best thing to do when dropping off is to disappear quickly, or the pain of separation increases and lengthens.

And yet…

I still feel guilty about walking away.

Our youngest had started to play with cars, realised I was leaving, and run after me, just after I’d shut the Nursery door.

I can see him now, howling, with his face pressed to the glass door, banging on it with his little hands, crying for me to come back.

I longed to go back inside, even though I saw the Nursery teacher quickly swoop in to cuddle him and distract him with his favourite toys.

Logically I knew he would be alright, as he enjoyed playing with his friends, but as I walked back up the hill to work with tears streaming down my face, I felt like the worst mother in the world.

It was a wretched start to the morning, and it was only when an email from the nursery teacher popped into my inbox, telling me my son was playing happily, that I felt as though the clouds had lifted.

What did I learn?

That I shouldn’t have felt guilty.

He was happy again very quickly, and I was the one that felt awful for the longest. He learnt so much at Nursery, and actually would have missed out if I’d kept him at home with me until he had to go to school.

2. Giving my boys a junk food picnic

I have really tried to give my children healthy food.

Proper vegetables, home cooked meals (okay, some fishfingers etc) but despite all my efforts, by the time they were 3 our twins were some of the pickiest eaters around. Carrots, peas and bananas were just about acceptable, but anything else that might have Vitamin C in it was viewed with horror.

Fortunately, my mum makes the most amazing pasta sauces out of masses of vegetables, so they ate lots of vitamin C without realising it.

They usually refused to eat most new things, and anything they didn’t like they spat out quickly and refused to try it again.

I also found that even if one of them started off eating something happily, if the other one didn’t like it, they’d both refuse to eat it. This lead to a pretty limited menu.

So, picnic lunches were a nightmare, as there weren’t many fruit or veg options available. And one last minute picnic arrangement was a culinary disaster.

The friend I was meeting had a beautiful packed lunch:

  • cut up cucumber/ tomatoes

  • beautiful delicate triangles of ham and cheese sandwiches

  • diced selection of fruit

  • vegetable crisps with very little salt on them

Our packed lunch consisted of:

  • jam sandwiches (I’d run out of cheese and ham and didn’t have time to get any on the way)

  • a squashed browning banana which they refused to eat

  • crisps (these were very popular as a treat)

  • biscuits (pretty much the last thing left in the cupboards).

I felt like a terrible mum, and the most inadequate cook. I had a jam sandwich with lashings of guilt on top as the boys devoured their crisps.

The boys did have fun with their friends, and had a good supper in the evening, but I really felt I’d failed them at lunch time.

What did I learn? I shouldn’t have let my guilt ruin the day, as they ate lots of veg for tea and were absolutely fine. I gave them a balanced diet most of the time, and spending time feeling guilty during a day out wth friends was a complete waste of time.

3. Packing the wrong sports kit

Now they are bigger, the boys check their own kit.

When they were little, I used to pack it.

Leaving the house in the morning can require the same amount of kit as an Everest expedition, but without the anticipation of fantastic views.

School bags, reading bags, snacks, football boot bags, games kits, musical instruments, my work bag… sometimes I’ve contemplated adding a trailer to the car.

Once everything was loaded we set off one morning, and when we got to school I realised I’d forgotten to pick up games shorts that had been drying in the kitchen.

I could’t go home because I didn’t have time before work.

Disaster - sobbing child who was mortified at the prospect of having to wear the wrong kit.

I felt awful. It was my responsibility and I’d failed him. I was intent in getting myself, the other two children and the rest of the kit organised, and I’d forgotten to pack them.

The teacher was very understanding and my son cheered up, but I felt awful.

He was too young at that point to pack his kit, and I’d said I’d got everything for him.

Now, the boys are big enough to check everything themselves, and it’s really helped them with their organisation.

What did I learn? ALWAYS pack everything the night before and if you can’t, put a note on the car keys or something you have to pick up before you leave the house.

Mornings are stressful enough without having to remember everything.

Have you experienced mum guilt?

Email me and let me know.

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