‘Me time’ versus ‘Mammy time’. The guilt factor.

I’d heard of it before. Bandied around like all those things that come with motherhood. Stretch marks. Night feeds. Tiredness. Mother’s guilt. Guilt? I thought. What have I to be guilty about?

I’ve just given up a year of my own body to bear this child. I’d gone through all the hoops, all the heartburn, the surgery birth and I was living in a baby bubble, strapped to the house, never leaving the suck monster’s side. Toilet trips were put off for hours. Showering intervals could last days.

I gave so much of myself to this needy little thing that I just couldn’t grasp what there was to be guilty about. I felt like a saint. I felt I should be worshipped, or at least a shrine put up at my front door. New Mom lives here. BIP (Breastfeed in Peace).

And then a few things happened. A family member offered to babysit. We got out for a night. We spent it in silence, shell-shocked to be out in public. Apparently the whole world had just been getting on with things while we HAD A BABY.

The night was spent checking the phone, texting, ‘is all ok?’, waiting for rapid responses and then giving up and calling anyway. Was this the mother’s guilt they talked about?

guilt trip

I got a new job and went back to work. And on that first day, as I sat, pumping in my car, I thought about the bundle at home. My whole life, back at home and I was not with her. There it landed, with a big, bloody bang: mammy guilt.

I never felt anything like it. I thought I am the worst mother in the world. I probably shouldn’t have been even let have a baby. I started thinking about the future therapists my child would have to see. I thought, for sure, this is the worst feeling there can be.

But, over time, things got better. Both I and baby got used to being separated on the days I worked. We went from pumped milk, to formula, to her not even needing a feed when I came in from work. She was growing and she was fine. We had enough mammy and baby time for no bonds to be broken. We were grand!

And as things progressed and life settled back down, and I realised I could work and raise a baby and do things that I had always wanted to do, a new feeling arrived. Secondary Mammy guilt. Selfish Mammy guilt.

This is a different type of guilt entirely. This is a self-interested, chosen neglect. Instead of being forced into abandoning my child for work and other such necessary bill-paying vocations, this was a wilful separation from baby. Or, more often, a decision to ignore baby while I got on with what I had to do.

Housework was no longer abandoned. I washed the floor with her strapped to my leg, sometimes whining. I cooked and threw scraps at her, like a little dog at my feet.

I learned loads of ways to keep her quiet. Cupboards were tiny paradises of ten minutes of peace for me, ten minutes of magical exploration for her. Oh look, tinfoil!

child in bathroom
What? What, Mammy, what???

Soon I progressed from house work to the odd checking of email or sitting down for a few minutes with my phone. I got back to taking some ‘me-time’.

I found myself putting deadlines on my desk. A blog post had to go up – in the next few minutes! An article I was writing had to be finished – tonight! That book I was writing – for no-one in particular – well if I didn’t get two hours work in each night, I was furious.

“Who are these deadlines for?” my husband asked, frustrated at my devotion to work and not our baby.

“Me,” I’d say. “For me, I HAVE to do them.”

“But do you?” he said, logically. “Will the world fall apart, if you get something done this week?”

Yes, yes, I'm very important
Yes, yes, I’m very important

And with that one little man-to-wife chat, the whole world I’d created came tumbling down. This ‘office from home’ was abandoned. I realised I had brought work into my home life, because I missed it; the buzz of the deadline; the feeling of worth, the thought that I was more than just a mum. I was a person.

Now, we have tried to compromise. I still work, but I’m careful to do it to suit baby. I don’t get out the laptop until she’s down for a nap or in bed for the night. If I plan on doing work and she doesn’t feel like going to sleep, I no longer have a conniption and just breathe deep and get on with minding her.

I’m sure this all sounds terribly selfish and not very good mammy-ish. And you know, maybe I am just a bit of a selfish mammy. But I can’t help it. I spent 30 odd years working towards my own goals and future. I can’t just abandon it now.

And I think about my own little girl’s future. I plan on teaching her everything I valued along the way. Education. Personal growth. Hard work. Commitment. Would I want her to throw all her hard work away when her babies come along?

Probably not. And by that time, I’ll most likely be the doting granny in the corner, sending selfies with my grandchild, on whatever the equivalent of Facebook is by then. And I’ll offer to let her get on with what she needs to do. Because I’ll always understand the need for ‘me-time’ on ‘mammy time’. Even if it is on ‘granny time’.


Have you ever experienced Mammy guilt? Would love to hear your feelings on this subject and how you coped.


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28 Comments on ‘Me time’ versus ‘Mammy time’. The guilt factor.

  1. Guilt is the one part of motherhood you really can’t prepare for! I am struck with it every day of the week, sometimes I am being too hard on myself but other times I know I should put the phone down and soak in the beautiful memories of my baby! Going back to work is one thing, but not being ‘present’ when at home is a whole other ordeal!

    • Fiona, can’t agree more! I guess the smartphone times we live in have a lot to answer for. We didn’t have this problem with our own parents at all! Maybe they had their heads stuck in the book or the telly instead? Glad you have the same experiences, makes me feel slightly better!

  2. It doesn’t sound like you’re being very selfish at all!! It’s totally normal to want to express who you are outside of being a mother. I say, go for it!
    Our daughters are looking to us to show them what it is to be a woman – it’s good to show them plenty of possibilities ?

    • I think that’s what I was trying to get across Niamh, so thanks for picking up on it. Tough juggle, but you can only do your best I guess. (Seriously though, hope she’s not scarred!) lol

  3. Oh yes, to every single one of these scenarios! When I saw “throwing scraps at her” I woke my husband by laughing!
    I had a rule that I would only work or do housework when Austin was in bed – that morphed into being only after I had spent one full hour of giving him my total attention and that morphed into “lets just leave the house because its too hard not too look at my laptop or clean that filthy counter top!”
    But I never experienced guilt like returning to work and waking away from my crying baby in the morning – it should come with a hazard warning!

    • so funny! there is so much housework to do, it just has to get done when they’re around – otherwise they’d have no food or clean clothes or bedding! yeah sometimes i leave the house too, because at least then i can spend the time with her! even though she hates shopping and cries to go home!

  4. Oh I can so relate! My eldest will be 20 soon and I still sometimes worry and think ‘should I have done this, or that?’ Probably not what you want to hear 🙂 In all seriousness though, it’s so important to have your own identity, job, passion, whatever it is that makes you tick because I genuinely believe that a happier mother is a better mother.

    • I think so. From everything I’ve read, keeping your own identity / interests is the key to being happy. Though the balance is something hard to strike, because there just really aren’t enough hours in the day!

  5. Oh guilt should be my name, everyday I wonder if I’m doing something wrong? right? who knows….but I do know everything I do and achieve is for my girl so that takes some of it away….just a little bit 🙂 x

    • Yes Jade Guilty Priscilla has a nice ring to it! Since posting, all I’ve heard from other Mums is that they feel exactly the same. That’s a whole lot of guilt goin on!

  6. Mammy guilt is something they should talk about in antenatal classes! You’re completely unprepared for it, but I don’t know of anyone who hasn’t experienced it. You need time to yourself, but then feel guilty when you do something without your little one. It sounds like you’ve got a good balance now – I hope you can keep it up 🙂
    Alana x

  7. Wait til ur a granny before making such a claim ! ? I Have Granny guilt. My Grandson is 4… I’m 53. I have a busy life & and 8 year old also.
    It never ends ?

  8. Every word of yours I can relate to… I recently wrote a post on conquering mom guilt too…

    I too have made up my mind to only use my laptop when my boy is napping….and so far so good..

    • I try to stick to it (although sometimes the phone does come out) and I do admit to a bit of early morning blog / catch up work when she’s still sleepy and has me up at 6am. But when she’s properly awake, I really do try to pay her as much attention as possible. Man, that sounds really bad, like I’m neglectful!

  9. Nicola you’ve just described the first 18months of life with Luke!! I blogged about it too at some stage. It still comes in waves, like today as I sent him off to my sister at 8am until 6pm after having me and his Dad with him everyday for the last 2 weeks . It’ll ease again though I’m sure. Maybe a selfish mammy sometimes but a great one all the time 🙂

    • Thanks Louise, have had a lot of Mums get in touch to concur! Are you saying after 18 months the guilt eased??! I’m very lucky to work part-time, because we have a good mix. Blessed really. But sure as women, don’t we always have something to be guilty about, housework, weight, baby, blogging??? lol

      • Wait til you have 3!! =3 times the guilt! I love this blog, I think we all feel guilt but as a working mother I made a decision not to have any more because i couldn’t handle going back to work again after maternity leave ? I wish every morning that I could give it all up to be with them..i think as mothers now we are expected to do it all, the house, the mothering, the hobbies, the full time job- modern day mam..hard work I just hope in 20 years time i will look back and say it was worth working 40 hours a week and they will forgive me ?

        • couldn’t agree more. we want do it all, have it all, be there for them 24 / 7. It’s just not possible. I was on my local radio today talking about this exact thing. I suppose balance is the key. easier said than done! x thanks for your comment.

  10. Not selfish at all – we all juggle but we need to learn to let go of the guilt I think. Plus it all gets easier (in terms of time, if not emotions!) when the kids get older…..

  11. I experience mommy guilt quite frequently especially as mine get older and more independent. “Mommy wants an extra 20 minutes of sleep, make your own breakfast”… “Ok I took you to the park for an hour now let mommy get some work done” …3 hours later mommy is still on the computer working and the 3 kids have destroyed everything in their path and are now bored and wanting my attention.
    Think it just comes with mommy life. I am sure you are doing a fab job and yes your daughter will someday see that your hard work is something she too shall practice. #effitfriday

    • Thanks Trista. I guess it’s very normal to want a bit of time to yourself. When babies are very small you have no choice but to respond to their every need. When they’re older and a bit more independent, it’s very human to say ‘five more minutes’, or as it turns out, three more hours! I hope she will be hard worker and achieve. Her busy little mind at the minute though bodes well. She demands ALL my attention!

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