Every mum probably has something they feel guilty about. The one that nags away at me is whether I've allowed my anxiety to damage my son. I had a long history of struggles with anxiety before I became a parent. Recurrent pregnancy losses only added to that when it came to my worries about my son's safety.
I'm fortunate to have discovered mindfulness and self-compassion some years ago, and it's helped me re-define my relationship with anxiety. I don't so much suffer from it any more so much as live with it. It's a part of me that I don't need to get rid of. I've got to know it better and befriended it. Which has released me from being stuck in a battle with my anxiety. And it also means that anxiety doesn't stop me letting my son do normal things like going to the park, climbing or getting covered in mud in the garden. You might think it's crazy that such commonplace stuff could ever be an issue, but anxiety for me always was emotional rather than rational.
So these days anxiety isn't the black cloud hovering over me that it once was. But every now and then my son will do something, like ask me if he needs to wash his hands when really the answer is 'no'. And I'll think 'there it is - I've messed him up, permanently'. I'll assume he's picked something up from my actions in the past when I was struggling more, and taken it as how things are meant to be.
And that weighs heavy. My parents both had anxiety disorders. And I've always felt I 'caught' a bit of that from them. The last thing I want is for my boy to grow up feeling afraid of life. That was what motivated me to apply mindfulness to my own anxiety struggles a couple of years back. I was at a point where everyday things like going to the park felt like going into a war zone for me - fraught with possible dangers. So I did some really brave work with myself around allowing anxious feelings to be there, working mindfully with them instead of needing to eliminate all risks. And it paid off hugely. I still can't believe that some things that used to paralyse me are a complete non-event now.
I haven't eradicated anxiety - and I still overreact to things sometimes. But instead of feeling guilty, I try to feel proud of myself. I share mindfulness with my son, so hopefully he'll be better equipped than I was as a child. And I've done an awful lot to break the cycle of anxiety being handed down through generations. As a mum, I'm always going to feel guilty about something - I think it goes with the job description. But my boy is actually a very relaxed, adventurous little soul who's loving life. That's all I want for him, so I'm sure what I'm doing is Good Enough.
What pushes your guilt buttons?