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Mum Guilt
Episode 9023rd February 2023 • How Not to Screw Up Your Kids • Dr Maryhan
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This episode addresses what I feel gets stamped on our foreheads the moment we become parents. Guilt. 

This guilt comes from the stories we tell ourselves about what it means to be a good mum, so, what are the stories you are really telling yourself and how are they currently serving you??

Plus, I answer a question from one of my listeners, who wants to know what to do about toys in the bedroom!

Here are the highlights: 

(00:33) Listener question: toys in the bedroom 

(05:11) The geography of parenting has changed 

(07:31) What is mum guilt? 

(15:15) What you do versus what you advise your friends 

(18:14) How is your current behaviour serving you? 

(23:26) Trusting your instincts 

(26:21) Find a support group for your mum guilt 

💚 Let's grow our village together, please share this episode with at least one friend

💚 You can purchase your ticket for the next 60-minutes with Dr Maryhan 'Let's Build Your Child's Self-Esteem'' at 8am GMT on the 1st June.

💚 You can watch the Bucket Emptying Episodes on Youtube

💚 Access the free resources mentioned in the episodes

💚 Join our campaign One Million Moments to reduce the number of children struggling with mental health challenges from 17% to 10% by 2025.

Transcripts

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Hello, and welcome to the how not to screw up your

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kids podcast. So pour yourself a cuppa, find comfy seat and enjoy

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the conversation. This is episode 90. And in today's

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episode mom guilt, I want to talk very specifically to

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mothers, and to address what I feel get stamped on our

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foreheads, literally the moment we become parents. And that's

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guilt. Now, before I start, I want to answer a listener

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question. Here's Heidi, my amazing PA and her recording of

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the question. This week's question is from Sofia, you

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mentioned in terms of sleep quality, that there shouldn't be

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many toys in the bedroom, unless they're there to help your child

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wind down. I don't have a playroom for my kids. So how can

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I make this work in my setup? Now my response now the reality

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is most parents aren't in a position to have a separate room

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within their home where their children have their toys where

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their toys live. And even if you are one of the fortunate that is

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able to do that toys inevitably end up in our children's

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bedrooms. So how do we avoid our children becoming overstimulated

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at bedtime, maybe playing with their toys rather than going to

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bed. Now you'll remember, I talked about creating the right

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environment for our children when they go to bed in Episode

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Five. And that's not just with children that's about teenagers

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about redressing the room. So you move it away from being a

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playroom, or a sitting room, or a TV room or device room into

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becoming the bedroom. So here are a couple of things that we

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can do very specifically when we're talking about younger

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children and toys. The first one is use containers, where

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possible, it's up to you what kind of containers but what we

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want to do is we want the toys to have specific homes, where

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they live, whether that's in containers, whether that's in

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baskets, whether that's in wardrobes, again, we might not

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all have the ability in terms of space, but where possible, we

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want the toys to have a space, or a place in the bedroom where

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they can live. So one of the tasks that we have as part of

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that bedtime routine, is the task is about redressing the

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bedroom, and you can talk about it we're making, we're moving

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our bedroom from being a playroom to becoming our bedroom

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and our place to sleep. So that's one of the kind of

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crucial things to do. And what we can then do is we incorporate

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tidying it away, because that's a great life skill about tidying

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and organizing. And eventually, our children can build

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independence, we can build that into their bedtime routine,

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where they do it independently. But initially, you're going to

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help them. But what you can also do as part of that is that you

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can, you can then encourage them to keep one toy out that they

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are, they get the privilege of being able to play for a certain

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amount of time with it. And it's up to you whether you have a

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timer that goes off, and then your child places the toy down

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and then goes to bed or whether they're younger, they have a

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certain period of time when you come in and then has to be put

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away. And then that toy can be left out as well for when they

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wake up in the morning. And then it's ready for them in the

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morning to play with. And what you can then do around this is

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talk about consequences. If the toy doesn't get put away. So

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you're empowering your child, you're giving them that sort of

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responsibility, you're giving them the privilege of being able

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to play and you can factor that in if you want your child in bed

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and asleep by 730, you just shift bedtime a little bit. So

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they can get five or 10 minutes with the toy. And then you have

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a mechanism that you call time. But you're then teaching them

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around independence. So eventually they'll be able to do

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it. But you can also talk about consequences, the consequences

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if they're not placing that toy down, and then getting into bed,

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when you go in for that end of their time than a consequences,

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they lose that particular privilege. And when it comes to

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tidying away toys, they have to tidy all of them, they don't get

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to keep one out. So you can use it in that sort of the negative

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consequence. But you can also teach it in terms of positive

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consequence of the reinforcement of the fact that they've had

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that privilege and that you ate that because they're so

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responsible with it. Maybe they get to have two toys out or

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maybe instead of 10 minutes, the next day, you might give them 12

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minutes because they've been so responsible in placing their

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toys away. So I hope that answers that question. And

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hopefully, for some of you it might also give you some ideas.

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My response to that particular question can be applied across

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all ages. If you're struggling with a teen or an older child

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that has got devices you can the same principle applies around it

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there being a closing down the room from whatever function it

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servs before it becomes their bedroom, redressing it, and then

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coming back in with that fresh perspective, it's a room that's

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a bedroom that is designed for sleep. So I hope that helps. So

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back to guilt and more specifically, mum guilt. Now,

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what I am going to say, in my view is that mum, guilt has

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always been there, this is not new, it doesn't matter what

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generation we are, there's always been an element of mum

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guilt. But I feel that as we parent in a more isolated remote

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way, in a less of that that communal way that potentially

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our parents, grandparents, great grandparents would have been in

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a much more community where children were raised in a as a

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whole community raised them rather than us in these very

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sort of individual slightly fragmented families where our,

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our aunties, uncles, our parents, our grandparents might

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be living far away. And so they're not there in that same

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way to mom, guilt has always been there. But I think the

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geography of parenting has changed, I think we've probably

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become much more introspective, we're very much in our head

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around the way that we parent. And I would also say, from those

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moment that we are expecting our child, whether that's because

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we're expecting ourselves, we're pregnant, whether that's through

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a surrogate, whether that's through adoption, whichever way

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it is, I think the weight and the guilt of the decisions that

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we make are so huge. And I think that that's slightly exacerbated

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by the plethora of parenting books, and parenting camps. And

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I think probably the parenting caps are probably more of an

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issue, in that we sort of almost feels like we have to be in

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these specific camps, whether that child lead, or whether

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we're, you know, the various different camps, I'm not

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necessarily going to go all the way through them. But this is

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almost this feeling. Certainly when our children are really

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young, that we have to be raising them following a

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particular specific doctrine, I think there's a lot of that

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around. And then that is also amplified by social media. So

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we're much more public about the way that we parent we have much

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more access and view to how other people parent, what looks

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like optimal parenting. And so whilst mum guilt has always been

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there, I think it's probably never been quite as amplified,

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or quite as intense as it feels currently. So it's, you know,

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it's you are not, as you're listening to this, you are not

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the only person that is going to experience manga, we're all

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experiencing it. And I've read looked at surveys that are

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talked about Psalm 80% of mums, all the way up to 95%. My

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feeling is that there may be 80% that feel it constantly. But we

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all feel mum guilt, to some extent, all of the time. And

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that might come in waves, it may well be that maybe you've got

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mum guilt, because you don't get to pick up your child from

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school. Maybe you've got mum guilt, because you feel that you

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can't give your child all the opportunities that you think you

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could, maybe you've got mum guilt, because you're working,

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maybe you've got mum guilt, because you're not working, you

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name it, there is mum guilt, you haven't had time to freshly

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prepare something from scratch, whatever that might be that

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guilt is there. And before I move on to kind of my five top

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tips, is that I think we have to start from this place that guilt

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comes from the stories we tell ourselves about what it means to

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be a good mum or a perfect mum. So we have to start with what

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those stories are telling ourselves, what are they really

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telling, we have to kind of dig, dig deep. And quite often I talk

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about the fact we have to do a bit of an audit. And I think

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that this is something that we really ought to spend a lot of

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time about, because I could talk to you about the fact that it's

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really important that you take care of yourself, but you can

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give so much more to your children when you've taken care

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of yourself. And that guilt isn't helpful in all of these

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things. So I could say to you that the best way to tackle mom

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guilt is around making sure that you take care of yourself. And

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by taking care of yourself, you mustn't feel guilty about it.

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Because by taking care of yourself, you're giving back

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more to your child. We know a lot of this stuff already. So

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I'm not going to start from that I'm going to approach this whole

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notion of mum guilt from a slightly different angle on the

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assumption that you know what you need to do to reduce that

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mom guilt in lots of way. You know that self care is really

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important. You know that that means that you're going to get

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that more to your children, but you're not doing it. So why are

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you not doing it? So this podcast episode, and the

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strategies that I'm going to talk about are very much based

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on a I don't need to convince you that there are things that

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you need to do you're intelligent enough you'd be

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listening to my podcast enough to know what you need.

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Need to do around self care, and how important it is for your

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children that you take care of you, you know it, but you're not

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executing on it. So why, and it has to start with the story. So

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before I go through the my five top tips, I really want you to

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take some time whether you press pause on the podcast episode

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now, or whether you write this down and do this afterwards,

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because there's a reason why you're kind of consumed with

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this guilt, that you're not acting on changing that guilt.

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And my view is, it's to do with the stories that you are telling

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yourself and the stories I tell myself about being a mum will be

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different to yours, we may share some common themes. But

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fundamentally, we're going to have very different stories

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because our experiences up to the point that we became mothers

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is going to be different, as well as our experiences after we

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have become a mother. So it's really thinking about and trying

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to get on a piece of paper without overthinking it. Don't

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get caught up in it literally just brain dump all of the

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things about what are the stories that you tell yourself

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about being a good mum. So when you get mum guilt, about not

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being able to pick up your child from nursery or not being able

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to pick up your child from school, or not making homemade

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meals not being part of the PTA, whatever it might be. That comes

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from a story that you've told yourself that a good mum always

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picks up their children, a good mum always cooks in from

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scratch, a good mum never loses her temper. A good Mom's got

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time and patience, a good mom's great at crafts, a good mum's

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really creative in terms of knowing what to do with her

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children at all times. A good mum feels great about being a

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mum and never resents it whatsoever. Yeah, this guilt

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comes when there's a mismatch between the story we have told

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ourselves about what it means to be this good mum, this perfect

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mum, and how we're living it out each and every day. And we have

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to start by being really honest. And I'll also be really honest,

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in your pursuit of being honest, you probably won't hit the nail

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on the head immediately. And that's why it's a really

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important, I think that we have a regular reflective practice.

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However you do that, whether you journal, whether you just write

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a few notes, whether you just check in with yourself for five

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minutes over a cup of tea every single day. What am I feeling at

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the moment? What how am I? How am I reacting to things? Is that

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me? What's going on in my head? And really getting caught in

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that? Why am I feeling guilty about this? Why is this showing

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up for me, because you will have in your mind a very clear story

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that you've told yourself, we start telling ourselves the

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story from the minute we're expecting, this is the kind of

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parent I'm going to be, I'm going to be this I'm going to be

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that we absorb information we take information from when we

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were parented ourselves, from what we see in social media,

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what we perceive is happening in other homes. And that starts

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that creates the stories, the narrative that we tell

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ourselves, and that is what drives the behavior. And that's

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what brings the guilt. So you really need to start with that.

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And you need to go and revisit that piece of paper or that

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notebook regularly. Because that's the starting point you

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have to understand. And the reason why I talk about stories

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is that they're not truths. They're what they are these the

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things that we tell ourselves, the novels that we create, in

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our mind of what that perfect parent is going to look like.

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We're always going to be fun, our children are always going to

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want to talk to us about everything. We're going to share

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everything. Yeah, and that doesn't that's not real. It

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absolutely isn't real. And we all know intellectually that

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there is no such thing as a perfect mom. But we have a

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clearer picture in our mind of what we the story that we're

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telling ourselves about the month that we expect ourselves

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to be. So we have to start with, first of all, what's the story

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that we're telling ourselves? And then where does that story

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come from? Does that come from something that I truly believe

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is crucial? And if I truly believe it's crucial, why do I

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truly believe that's crucial? So let's take that example of

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picking up our children, whether that's from nursery from the

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child minder, from school. Yeah, we might have that to be a good

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mom. That's what I need to do. Well, where's that story come

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from? Where has that story come from? Has that come from a book?

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Has that come from something you've seen on social media? Has

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that come from a friend or family? So it's really drilling

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down to

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What's the story? I'm telling myself? Where has it come from?

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And then how I'm gonna look at this specifically, number two

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is, how is that belief serving me? Or more importantly, not

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serving me. Okay, so that's where we've got to start gonna

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start with that audit. And with that in mind, we can then start

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putting these five points into action. So the first one is,

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once we've done that, the first thing we've got to do, because

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you know what you need to do you know that things need to be

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different, but you're not acting on it. So the first thing is,

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what's the gap between what you're actually doing? And the

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advice you'd give a friend. So if your friend came to you and

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said, I feel so guilty, because I've my job means that I can't

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pick up my children. And I feel like I'm failing as a mother,

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because I'm not there to connect to them. You would give your

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friend some sound advice? I know you would, because you're giving

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your friend sound advice every single day. So the question then

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becomes, if you think about the advice that you would give a

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friend, when you're looking specifically at something that

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you're feeling mom guilt, and then have a look at how big that

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gap is, because that's the gap that we want to begin to sort of

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narrow. Yeah, we can't, we're not changing it immediately. But

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we have to recognize that the fundamental shift is, I know

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that I shouldn't have this much guilt around this particular

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thing. But I do really need to understand where that's come

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from. And I need to understand how big the gap is, from what I

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would the advice I would give a friend, so that I can then look

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at ways that I can begin to close that gap. And sometimes

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closing that gap might be around doing something physically

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different. And recognizing that actually, I have guilt, because

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that's really important to me, it isn't something that I think

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other people are judging me on. It's something that is really

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important to me. And so there may have to be some action

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around modifying work patterns, if it's if it's that particular

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thing. But so often the mum guilt has got nothing to do with

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anything that we could specifically action, but much

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more around what we think, are the perceptions of what it is to

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be a perfect parent to be a perfect mum. So it's really

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thinking about that, why is that? A pressure that we're

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adding on to ourselves, if actually, the guilt is about

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you, but your child has been picked up by their father, or

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their mother. Yeah, or your other partner? Why is the guilt

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there for you to it's really being able to dig and look at

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what that is. And then looking at the gap between the advice

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that you'd keep a friend, and what you're currently doing. So

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that's the first thing that we've got to start with, we've

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got to look at it from that perspective, because my

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assumption in through all out of this particular episode is that

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you know what you need to do, but you're just simply not

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acting on it. You've read the books, you've listened to my

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podcast, you know that McGill isn't helpful, you know that

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your self care is really important, because it genuinely

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gives back to your child. And every time you listen to

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something about it, you say, I'm going to act, and then you

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don't. And it's because of these stories that you tell yourself.

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So you have to work out what that gap is. The next one is how

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is your current behavior, serving you. Now, it seems weird

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to think that the behavior that we know is unpleasant is serving

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us. But our children do exactly the same. We do it all the time,

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whether it's to do with mom guilt, whether our children are

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doing it, or whether we're doing about any other behavior, we

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tend to adopt a similar pattern of behavior. We repeat it again

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and again, because it serves us in some way. And sometimes it

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serves us because it allows us to flourish and grow and develop

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and become the best version of ourselves. But sometimes it

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happens, it serves us because it might be that right now, it

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keeps us safe. Maybe that mum guilt keeps us safe, because it

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stops us from taking risks from pushing ourselves out of our

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comfort zone. It's familiar, but it's safe. I'm familiar with

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this guilt. And so actually, I'd much rather keep doing what I'm

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doing because that guilt at least helps me strive in some

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way to be the best parent that I possibly can. Because my fear of

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moving beyond that is that I might feel that I'm then being

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selfish. So it sounds kind of slightly perverse, but really

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consider how is your current behavior serving you in a way of

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keeping you safe of helping you stay small, keep helping you

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that stay within your comfort zone, rather than taking that

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big plunge, which might actually serve you and your children much

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better. So look at the gap between what you're doing and

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the advice you'd give a friend. Look at how your current

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behavior might be serving you or let's face

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Actually not serving you. The third one is learning to

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recognize when those stories play out, and what works for you

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to change the record. So it's not once we once we're aware of

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those stories that we tell ourselves and how we get

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ourselves caught up in that, that's not an end off, we don't

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just do an audit, and then that's the end of it. It's all

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sorted now. Because we know mum, guilt is pervasive, it happens

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all of the time. But what we need to then be able to do is to

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learn to recognize when those stories are beginning to play

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out, because, as we know, with parenting is that the record

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changes all of the time, we're dealing with different things

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all of the time. So we may feel that we've dealt with one aspect

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of mom guilt, something else then pops up suddenly, randomly.

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So it's bit we need to learn to recognize when those stories

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play out with us, what conversations we start having in

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our head around them, and then being able to work out and that

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working out is generally through trial and error, we have to try

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different things to work out how can we change that stuck, broken

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record that keeps on repeat around those repeated stories?

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So we've made feel that we've kind of got it? Yeah, I'm

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dealing with my Mongo, I'm getting on top of this. And then

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maybe we flipped through our social media? Well, I don't, but

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you do, because I'm not on social media. So I've at least

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spared myself that but you're flicking through and you

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suddenly see something. And you think, oh my God, I'm such an

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awful parent, because I don't bake with my children, or I

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don't do this, or they look like they're having such an amazing

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time on holiday. And I don't do that we don't do this. And then

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the guilt comes back in again. So it's being able to recognize

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when those stories play out, and then a trial and error of what

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works for you to shift yourself from that particular state, and

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then be able to get yourself back. Now I'm not saying that

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when that we're going to sort of move to a situation where we're

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never ever going to experience any guilt, of course we are. But

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the idea is to be able to recognize that we're doing that

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and move on. In the same way as when we feel anxious, or our

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children feel anxious or we feel stressed, we're not going to

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eradicate it. But what we will be able to do is be able to

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recognize our I'm getting that feeling again, that warning sign

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that says to me that I'm in a situation where I feel

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overwhelmed, right, that's what's happening. I know I need

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to go to this tool in this toolbox. So it's about working

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out to be able to recognize when those stories are playing out.

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So we can avoid acting, or choosing behavior from those

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stories. But instead choosing behaviors from more of the

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actual truths that are happening in that situation. And then also

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being able to pull out a couple of tools that might be helpful

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for us in that moment that help us shift out of those stories,

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and step back into the actual reality of what's going on. And

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that might be around, always being ever present and ever

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playing and ever fun with your children. And it's being able to

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pull ourselves away from that and recognize that our children

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are clothed and fed and safe and happy that if we need to be on a

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work call for 30 minutes, nothing bad's gonna happen.

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We're not going to screwed them up. They're not going to

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suddenly lose all life opportunities because of it. So

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it's that being able to recognize when we're doing that.

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The fourth is really about trusting our instincts. I think

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this is something that I so we've lost that real gut

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instinct, by all means, listen to podcasts, I want you to

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listen to my podcasts. I love you listening to my podcast. But

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listen to the podcast, read the book, read the parenting books

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that you love, listen to the other podcasts that you love.

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And then trust your instincts to how you adapt or ignore the

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advice that you're being given for your family for your

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situation. I wrote a blog post a long time ago, and I'm literally

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obviously about to publish my own book about how parenting

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books don't work. And I stick by that. And it's this idea that a

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lot of parenting books adopt a very rigid, this is what you

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need to do in order to parent or to manage this particular

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situation or to do this. And what we need to get better of as

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parents and in terms of books just generally when we talk

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about parenting is to recognize that there is no one sets one

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fit or way of approaching parenting. Because the dynamics

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within every single family is unique. Regardless of whether

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you've got exactly the same age children with exactly the same

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age gap is different because personalities and

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characteristics and life experiences and your own

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childhood and your partner's childhood. All of these make the

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permutations and the probabilities of things working

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in particular ways.

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So, I've just been infinitely huge. You know, they're just so

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unlike they're so infinitesimally small, that you

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cannot say you do this one thing, there are some general

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guiding principles, but really trust your instinct. Listen to

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the podcast episode, my episode, other episodes, others books

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that you read, and take from those what you know,

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instinctively will work for your family. And if you've not yet

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allowed that instinct to really flourish, and you're still

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feeling nervous, then try something and then really

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reflect on how helpful that was. If it worked, why did it work?

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Does it feel right? Does it sit with your values? Is it

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consistent with how you had hoped to parent does it create

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the atmosphere in your family that you want? Do you feel great

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afterwards for using that or not? And if the technique works,

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but you feel rubbish afterwards, and trust your instinct to know

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that there is another way that will work and will also help you

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feel much better and feel more aligned, I think we've got

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really got to trust our instincts a lot more than we do.

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And then the final one is around building your network or

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community. Now that works in two ways. Having that network or

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community is habit is recreating the communal ways we used to

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parent. It's about having those people you can reach out to when

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you're having that wobble, I'm doing that story again, help it

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and just make help each other support each other cover kind of

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a little accountability and support group. We so often talk

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about this from the perspective of as an entrepreneur, I've

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goodness knows how many sort of masterminds and accountability

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groups that I've been part of that been phenomenal for me in

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terms of Marianne, you said you were going to do this by the

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next time that we will we met Why have you not done it? That's

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the third time that we've met, and you've not done it, but

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doing it in a loving and supporting supportive way now, I

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think as mums we're really great on about enlisting other mothers

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and, and having others that we we talk and we spend time with

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and maybe we swap spending time with children and we go out and

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things but how honest Are we being about the stories that

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we're telling ourselves about how we parent? How vulnerable

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are we being? And how much are we creating a space in order to

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be and have those conversations now, I will caveat that with we

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do not want to be open and vulnerable with just anybody.

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Yeah, much as I say to children, that we have different friends

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for different reasons, the exact same holds true for mum guilt,

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you do not want to be all vulnerable with another mum, or

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group of moms that don't share the same values as you because

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otherwise, that's only going to fuel fuel, your mum guilt. Yeah,

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if you are ambitious, if you are career driven, if you are guilty

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about not being present, to pick up your children or you're not

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part of the PTA, you're not doing all of these extra things.

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And you're trying to be vulnerable to a group where you

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know, they are, it's all about their values are very different

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to yours, they don't understand career, they really for them,

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the whole value is being a stay at home, Mum, nothing wrong with

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that. But your values in terms of what how you raise and the

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stories that you're telling about raising children are

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different. And that will only exacerbate your guilt. So it's

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about making sure that you are vulnerable. And that you built

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that network and community with like minded people where that

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support and that accountability can truly come into place. And

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it may take you some time. It may be that you have to dip your

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toe and test the water a little bit to find out whether people

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there are lots of women out there who are not being entirely

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honest about their own ambitions and desires and aspirations for

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themselves. Because they worry that if they communicate that,

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that they will be judged. So it will be you have to kind of seek

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them out and dip your toe. But make sure that you surround

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yourself with that, because they will keep you grounded. They

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will remind you of that, that you're doing those stories, and

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you can help each other it's about that being there together

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for that communal support. So let me recap those five. So it's

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what's the gap between what you're doing and the advice

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you'd give a friend? How's your current behavior serving you or

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not serving you? It's learning to recognize when those stories

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play out and what works for you to change that record. Trusting

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your instinct as to what feels right and taking in the

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information that's useful and discarding the rest and building

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your network and community not only for support, but for that

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accountability. So my give this week is going to be these top

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five strategies in a checklist with that usual space and that

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you can reflect

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maybe choose one thing that you're going to work on. But

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start from that process of getting really honest about the

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stories that you're telling yourself. So as usual, head over

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to my free resource library, Dr. Mary hande.com forward slash

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library, where you'll find the link to download the resource.

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All you need to do is pop in your email address, and you'll

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get instant access not only to this week's resource, but all

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the other free resources across all my podcast episodes, as

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ever, if you have enjoyed this episode, I would love it if you

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could follow and review this podcast so that others can find

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us and we can spread the love. So until next time,

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