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To be a good mum, raise yourself first

To be a good mum, raise yourself first

At the risk of sounding like a humourless bore, I’m worried about all the over-sharing that mothers are doing. Especially the “funny mum moments” kind of sharing. See, I worry that the #badmum and #mumguilt hashtags are masking a heap of genuine anxiety in mums. I worry that so many mums out there are making us laugh while away from the spotlight they really are questioning whether they’re a good mother. Just because they ‘drop the ball’ from time to time. Or even refuse to play ball at all sometimes.

I worry this because we see it every day on Twitter, Facebook, Insta and beyond. Strangers write to me of their hidden fears, because they know that I get it. My own friends let me know through throwaway remarks, because they know that I’ll understand.

“That doesn’t make you a bad mum!” I laugh.

And it 100% doesn’t.

Being human doesn’t make you a #badmum

We know this. Surely we know this. And yet, why are mothers so darn hard on themselves? Why are we constantly anxious that we’re not doing a good job? That our kids are somehow missing out because of our failings? Why, why, why?

Here’s one of the possible reasons why:

You think you’re a bad mum because you actually don’t think you are good at anything.

This makes me so sad, but I think it’s out there in abundance, masked by the #mumguilt and #badmum moments.

Despite years of trying, so many, many women still have rock-bottom self-esteem. They don’t feel worthy. They don’t feel enough. A 2016 survey by Dove found that low self-esteem affects daily life in up to 4 out of 5 women. Up to 85% of women report that feeling bad about her appearance means she opts out of important life activities like joining a club, or engaging with family or loved ones.

The dialogue so many of us have in our heads goes something like this:

•  I’m not a good role model for my kids like other more together mums
•  I’m not organised like other mums, we live in chaos
•  I’m not pretty like other mums
•  I’m not skinny like other mums
•  I’m not funny like other mums
•  I’m embarrassing to my kids

Is it any wonder that women doubt their worthiness as a mother when they appear to doubt their worthiness as a person?

Woman have, for so many reasons, grown up feeling like they’re not good enough.

The one-size-fits-all expectation

A woman who doesn’t feel like she lives up to expectations is going to be a mother who feels exactly the same way.

Having children doesn’t miraculously fix a person. Motherhood doesn’t wipe away decades of feeling like you’re shit at everything. If anything, motherhood makes it so much worse, because the stakes feel so much higher.

The scrutiny that women are under our whole lives is simply exacerbated by motherhood.

The one-size-fits-all expectation that society places on us becomes an even tighter fit when we have children.

We’re supposed to raise our kids a certain way and we feel like we’re judged harshly when we deviate from the norm.

If you’re a woman who worries a lot about what other people think of you (a characteristic of most people with low self-esteem), then the spotlight is very bright and very hot when you’re raising kids.

That spotlight illuminates the most #mumguilt thought of all, “My precious kids deserve a better mother than me.”

To that, I say, raise yourself first.

Raise yourself first

It seems to me that in order to help women realise that they are good mothers, we need to remind them that they are good people first. Forget the people we are raising, forget the role we play as their mother. Focus on ourselves as multi-faceted, striving, emerging people.

We need to seek the help and support we need to raise ourselves along with our kids.

Low self-esteem is not an easy thing to fix, but talking about it certainly helps set a person up to rise. Here are some of the little things we need to do to raise ourselves well.

5 baby-steps to raising yourself

1. Stop the comparisons

It’s hard to ignore what other women are doing when their achievements are endlessly paraded in front of us. But we can choose what we decide to take on board. We can remind ourselves that we have achievements of our own, whether we choose to share them with others or not. We can redefine what being a ‘successful’ person really looks like. Success isn’t success if it doesn’t make you feel great.

2. Remember there’s room on the broom

Something I’ve been thinking a lot lately is this: there’s room on the broom for everyone. Even though you might be starting something new that so many have done before and done so well. It’s often scary so think how talented everyone is, but imagine instead if we simply thought, “There’s enough room for me here too.” Room on the broom. Be eager to squeeze in and take your spot.

3. Just opt out

Give yourself permission to stop trying to live up to the expectations that surround you. Sure, it’s not that simple (I quit, I quit, I f*cking QUIT), but you can at least have a go. Start small. A small example: Last winter (and perhaps this one too), I basically wore the same couple of outfits all throughout the season and only a handful of people even noticed. The ones that did thought it was great. It’s a small thing, but it was my thing and it helped me stop the comparisons and stop trying so hard.

4. Stop pretending

Stop ‘faking it until you making it’. Kick the ‘imposter syndrome’ to the kerb and stop pretending we’ve ‘got this’. All of these ridiculous platitudes are just making us feel worse about ourselves. So, let’s stop with the mantras and the pithy motivational bullshit and maybe, just maybe, societal expectations will normalise a little and we can all breathe.

There’s a shame attached to not being the go-getter ‘best’ these days and it’s time we stopped buying into it. Whenever I tell people that I can’t afford something I am always really surprised by their surprise that I would admit such a shock-horror thing. I don’t think of being honest about money as a failure or a negative thing at all, so I just say right out “we can’t do that this month” or whatever. People tell me that’s really freeing to hear such honesty and then they tell me they can’t really afford it either.

5. Don’t feed the expectations

We need to stop hiding our worries behind #badmum hashtags. Stop buying into the assumption that something like missing a stupid school concert makes a woman a #badmum in the first place. Ask ourselves why we think that #mumguilt is an acceptable emotion and do what we can to shut that shit down. Do the same for every mum you know – remind her to relax, that you’re not judging her, that she’s free to be herself and that’s a wonderful thing to be.

Let’s raise ourselves first, so we can raise our kids the way we really want to. With kindness and grace.

Do you raise yourself first?

Image by John Reign Abarintos

Raise yourself first so you can raise your kids well.

Nadiya Khan

Wednesday 21st of April 2021

I do exactly the same, Helen. It’s SO LIBERATING. I rotate about 7 items of clothing for day to day and save other outfits for ‘special occasions’. I know it’s not for everyone, but it totally works for me too!

50 gifts of parenting wisdom from one mother to another | Mumlyfe

Monday 16th of December 2019

[…] More parenting wisdom: To be a good mum, you’ve got to raise yourself first […]


Friday 7th of September 2018

#3! I used to put so much pressure on my self to have a different outfit or different combination of clothes that I wore to work every day..... Then I decided to introduce myself to a uniform where I wear the same thing pretty much all week. NO ONE SAID ANYTHING.... No more stress or issue. Life changing....


Friday 7th of September 2018

I do exactly the same, Helen. It's SO LIBERATING. I rotate about 7 items of clothing for day to day and save other outfits for 'special occasions'. I know it's not for everyone, but it totally works for me too!


Thursday 2nd of August 2018

I agree. Let’s strive for the “good enough” parent - the 80/20 rule. Children just want to feel secure, be loved and comforted. THAT is what we should be focussing on. Ignore the rest and get off FB.

Lucy Kippist

Wednesday 20th of June 2018

I loved this SO much Bron. Hit the nail on the head. It's so easy to do. Thank you for your wisdom xxx

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