The guilt that keeps mums isolated

Posted in Wellbeing.

The other day I needed some paper bags to make a craft for work. I had everything else at home and a deadline. I also had my two little guys in the backseat of the car and the last thing I felt like doing was dragging them around Coles, especially as it was just for one thing. Then I had a fleeting idea! I could drop in on my Martha Stewart-type friend (she would have lunch bags for sure), and just borrow some. I wouldn’t even need to unstrap the boys as I’d just park in her driveway and grab them off her at the front door. Too easy.

But I didn’t. 

I didn’t because of that stupid niggle us mums have these days. That guilty, “You should be able to do this on your own” thought. Followed by, “She won’t appreciate being disturbed.” Then, “Just get the damn bags yourself, you can’t just rely on other people because you dropped the ball and forgot to buy them in last week’s shopping.”

It’s a seemingly small thing, the bags, but the issue is bigger. It’s about how this modern mum thinking of mine is partly the reason our village is dying. 

Death of the village

Ironically, my Martha Stewart friend made me see it when she shared this wonderful post by blogger and author Constance Hall a few days later.

The lack of a village has effected women is so many more ways then we know. Especially when we have children….

Posted by Constance Hall on Monday, 30 October 2017

We are expected to be self sufficient

In the post Constance talks about the lack of a village – that support network of other mums in the neighbourhood. How we are expected to ‘do it all’ – raise kids, earn money, maintain careers as well as the house and keep our relationships hunky dory, all because society is now set up to make us feel like it’s all on us. 

But we aren’t super mums. No one is. And we need to feel it’s OK to ask for help. 

As Constance writes, “We are expected to be self sufficient, we don’t need to go down to Penny’s house to swap milk for tomatoes, we have childcare so we don’t need to ask Alice to watch our kids while we go to the doctors, the street doesn’t even know each other.”

Having each others’ backs

Back in our mums’ and grandmothers’ day, their mum network was strong. They knew all the other mums in the street and they all helped each other out. Sure, they didn’t have childcare as we do now, but maybe they also didn’t need it? They may not have HAD to work for instance, because their rent and mortgage repayments were laughable to us now. But they probably also didn’t feel any shame in asking a friend down the road for the odd babysitting favour either. Why? Because that friend would inevitably ask you to mind their little ones when they needed, that’s just what you did then.     

I know I’ve set my life up in a way to not need to call upon my mum mates for one-off babysitting and perhaps other stuff, too. My boys are in childcare on my work days and my parents are my go to babysitters for doctors appointments, haircuts and the like. I wouldn’t want to ‘bother’ them when I know their juggle. 

But here’s the thing. By feeling guilty for ‘not coping’ or just needing to ask for a favour, we actually isolate ourselves from our village. And then, motherhood becomes very lonely and also a hell of a lot harder.  

mums with children

“Our village has been replaced with four walls and an iPhone,” Constance aptly puts it. And I know she’s right.

I found it a bit disturbing that I learnt of Constance’s post via the Facebook of the very friend who I felt silly asking a favour from. When I told her about the bags she laughed and said I should have just dropped in. She had them but also said she’d needed a cuppa and a chat that day. She was just having a shitty mum day and her son really would have loved some little buddies to play with.    

Let’s kill the guilt

I have a village of mum friends who I love and I feel like we do support each other to a certain extent, but I know we all feel guilt and shame in asking each other for help, too.

But maybe if we made a pact with each other to not feel guilty when asking for help, we’d get used to used to relying on each other more.

So actually take them up on babysitting offers and return the favour. And maybe we all need to start borrowing milk from the neighbours. Because the more we ask for help, the more the people in our village will feel like they can too. And rather than feel guilt over ‘not coping,’ we’ll all feel supported and supporting.

Oh and as for the paper bags? It turns out another mum in my village had some. She and her cute kid came over that afternoon for a play and we all made Gruffalo paper bag puppets together. Then I minded her little one while she picked up her eldest from school.

It really does and should take a village, and we have to stop feeling guilty about that.


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