This morning I had an attack of ‘BAD MOTHER’ mind monkeys so acute that I felt physically sick. I felt like I’d been punched in the stomach. I had gut-wrenching ‘bad mother’ guilt. In fact, I still feel awful, half an hour later.
What happened? Realisation hit that on Friday we’re going to the dentist.
My daughter has to have some teeth out. She’s 7. Not because her mouth is overcrowded, or some other reason that would make me feel better. These teeth are coming out because they’re bad and they are hurting her. I feel SICK. Not only that, we have to go 2 fridays in a row because she has to have 3 out – 2 one day and 1 the following week. Double trouble. Double guilt.
I feel dreadful. I feel like I’ve done a bad job. I feel like I’ve not done my duty as a mother. I feel like I should have been able to protect her from this. I feel BAD.
I’ve always encouraged her to brush her teeth but she wouldn’t let me near them with a toothbrush when she was really little. It was a full on fight every time and I did the best I could.
As she’s got older she brushes her teeth every day, usually twice a day, but she’s fiercely independent and wouldn’t ever let me help. I’ve done the best I could.
She doesn’t drink fizzy drinks, in fact she doesn’t drink anything other than milk and water. She has sweets a few times a week but not every day and mostly just on a weekend. She eats fruit. She has decent balanced meals at school and at home. How has it come to this? I’ve done the best I could!!!
When the dentist told us on our last trip that she had an abcess (ABCESS!!! I know!!! I’m horrified! Don’t judge me!!!) and these teeth needed to be ‘wobbled out’ I tried my best not to look horrified. I tried to pretend this was not a big deal so that Chloe didn’t get scared. But inside I was mortified. And wracked with guilt. And just. felt. awful.
My baby. My little girl, having to have teeth out because her BAD MOTHER hasn’t looked after her teeth properly.
So I decided to write a blog about it because when I told a couple of my dearest friends, they totally got it. “OMG” said one, “mine have had that too! I felt dreadful!”. Then she said “that’s nothing, I forgot to book a place at Brownie camp – that’s unforgivable – I cried”. Another friend said “oh, my BAD MOTHER mind monkeys are having a field day at the moment – they are saying how much more I could do with the kids if I had a decent income, how I can’t leave my work at work, how I even work before they go to school – the list is endless.”
And it struck me that we are all having these gut-wrenching bad mother moments all the time. I’ve have had lots when I’ve forgotten to do stuff for school, or missed a party in the holidays. This one was the worst by a mile, though. The BAD MOTHER mind monkeys run riot and we sit there, feeling raw and guilty. To the point where this blog feels like a confession.
But do you know what?
The thing that both of my friends said, after we’d shared ‘If You Think THAT’S Bad’ stories, was ‘WE’RE DOING OUR BEST’. And they’re right. I AM doing my best. And so are you. And beating yourself up is counter-productive. I had to write this blog to be able to get it out of my system and move on!
My daughter is quite excited about having her teeth ‘wobbled out’ because she’s fascinated when her baby teeth get wobbly and fall out – she’s most worried that the tooth fairy might not be able to carry the extra money because she only has little wings.
I’ve resolved that this will be the LAST lot of extractions she ever has on my watch. I’m going to become a tooth-obsessed mother (but not TOO obsessed, that would be scary!). I’m going to work with her to make sure she brushes her teeth properly and that I help her do it too. We’ll make it fun. I don’t want to go through THAT again!
So from one bad mother who’s trying her best, don’t beat yourself up. If the mind monkeys attack, tell them to naff off – you’re doing the best you can. You’re running a business while running a home, with not enough time in the day and a whole load of other challenges thrown in. You’re trying to set a great example to your children, bring some money into the household and make a difference in your own way. That’s amazing. YOU’RE AMAZING and the world needs you, just as you are.
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Claire Mitchell is a best-selling author of the Awesome Marketing Planner and founder of The Girls Mean Business, a mum and business owner. She has been featured in Marie-Claire, The Guardian, Closer Magazine, Essentials, The Huffington Post and on the BBC.