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13th Jul 2017

A practical guide to ditching the mummy guilt… once and for all

Bye-bye, mammy guilt fairy!

Gillian Fitzpatrick

It’s often said that with the arrival of your first baby, arrives the mammy guilt fairy, and she simply never goes away.


Whether it’s feeling bad for parking them in front of the TV while you get on with dinner; worrying about the lack of fruit and veg in their diet; or thinking you’ve scarred them by shouting at them… The list goes on and on.

And while it changes as they grow, the essence remains the same: you telling yourself what a bad mother you are for doing ‘X’ and how deprived/neglected/traumatised your children are because of it.Ditching the mummy guilt

Here, Claire Flannery of Strength Within explains why it’s really important that none of us get drowned out by that guilt fairy. Being constantly hard on yourself is just another example of negative self-talk. And like any negative voice in your head, the more heed you give to it, the stronger and louder it becomes.

So how do we take back the control?

Well let’s start with this: Are your children happy? Safe? Do they know they are loved unconditionally?

If, broadly speaking, you can answer yes to these questions; you really have nothing to feel guilty about. I guarantee your child thinks you are amazing and the best mama that ever was… despite what they may say when stop them from doing things to keep them safe and happy!

Banishing guilt comes down to three things: Meaning, perspective, and self-compassion:

Ditching mummy guilt

1) Meaning

This is really about your values and your purpose. Get clear on these and the pieces of the puzzle come together as to why you are doing what you are doing. So for example, when we look at feeling guilty about working: are you working because you need to put food on the table…or maybe it’s because you are happier when you have a fulfilling career. Perhaps you’re working towards a longer term goal of moving career, or more flexible working – whatever it is, when you are clear on your purpose you are fighting back with logic, something guilt fairies are not too familiar with.

Looking at values is an area I often spend quite some time on with many of my coaching clients, as it really helps to ground you, give you a sense of purpose, and build confidence in your choices.

2) Perspective

Next time you are feeling guilty, ask yourself this: will this matter in one year? five years? ten years? So, if for example tonight’s masterpiece is fish fingers and beans and you are feeling pretty sh*tty about that…will this matter in five years? Unless your children are living on a diet of solely fish fingers and beans and nothing else… I think it fairly safe to say it won’t.

If you are not happy with your choices, know that you CAN change them, it may take some time; but change is always possible.

3) Self-Compassion

This is a biggie. Mothers the world over are probably not great at this; but Irish Mammies in particular are shocking! Next time your guilt fairy pipes up, write down what they are saying and have a really good look at it; the insanity of it. Now, write down what you would say to a good friend who was feeling the same way. Shocking mismatch, right?

Give yourself a break; know that you’re doing what you can, as best you can, and with the resources you have available. Talk to yourself like you would a good friend. And if the day is a bit of a disaster, know you can start afresh tomorrow.

See for some great resources for working on your self-compassion.

With less time spent listening to the guilt fairy, you can spend more time savouring the moments of joy that come with being a parent, and are mentally more free to invest in looking after yourself and doing things that make you happy. Repeat after me: “When I am happy, I set a tone of happiness in my family…” and so ultimately, everyone is happier. Now’s there’s a good reason to get some quality ‘me’ time if ever there was one.

Claire Flannery is a Dublin-based mother-of-two young sons as well as the founder and owner of Strength Within coaching and consultancy. She is furthermore a qualified business psychologist and gentlebirth instructor with more than a decade of experience working in HR leadership in financial services.

Claire runs gentlebirth and return-to-work workshops in Dublin and says she is privileged to work with women and their partners as they make their journey through pregnancy, birth and early parenting.