fbpx

Feeling Shame in Parenting: Share Your Experience

By Julia Caldwell

“Are you sure she’s hungry again? Didn’t you just feed her?”

“Don’t you think your baby is wearing too many clothes? Won’t he be too hot?”

“You should put the baby down, otherwise she will never be independent”.

“You know, if you don’t teach her to share/sleep/have manners/eat healthy foods, he will never learn”

Being a parent is hard. Really hard. Nothing can prepare you for the intense joy and the equal degree of exhaustion that comes with having a baby. Advice on how to be a “good mum”, whether solicited or not, is everywhere. Look up a mums’ forum online and enter at your own peril. In the shame-filled pressure cooker of the early postnatal period, even well-intentioned advice (like the suggestions given above) can feel like personal attacks and criticism. 

Shame, in Gilbert’s model of compassion-focussed therapy, is defined as the negative evaluation of one’s self as bad, unworthy, inferior, or undesirable, and underpins a wide range of psychological symptoms. This is like a critical relationship that mums can have with themselves (internal shame), seeing themselves as a bad or not good enough mother. Perhaps, more painfully, we can also feel shamed by others (external shame), where we believe we are viewed as such in the eyes of other people – especially those we look up to, such as other mums who seem to have it “altogether”. Although mums can have internal and external shame, this isn’t the case for everyone. Although most mums can relate to an experience of being externally shamed by others, this does not necessarily mean they will develop an internal sense of shame as a mum.

The use of mindfulness, acceptance, and compassion is shown to powerfully counteract the poisonous effects of shame. Mindfulness and acceptance helps us to build present moment awareness, and attend to what is happening in the “here and now”, rather than getting “fused” with, or “hooked” by, shameful and self-critical thoughts about one’s capacity as a mum. Compassion allows mums to rest in kindness in the present moment, facilitating greater acceptance of shame-based thoughts and actions that might keep us stuck in a relentless struggle with our experience as a mum. From this standpoint of compassion and kindness, we can find it in ourselves to turn towards, rather than away from, the pain and shame that comes with caring deeply for others. We can then move towards compassionate, and effective, values-guided action on how we want to be as a mum, enriching our relationships with a sense of connection, warmth, and inclusiveness.

We are currently investigating the experience of shame, and the benefits of compassion, in Australian mothers. If you are pregnant (third trimester), and would like to be involved with our research project, please click here to find out more and to participate in our survey: https://survey.app.uq.edu.au/CompassionateMums.survey. We also encourage you to share the survey with anyone you know who is pregnant (third trimester).

5 Reasons Why Accessing Therapy via Telehealth May be Right For You
Read More
Trauma Does Not Have to be a Life Sentence

In an ideal world every child will be nurtured, loved and protected. Unfortunately, as my news feed keeps reminding me, we don’t live in an ideal world, the world is not a fair place and numerous children encounter adverse and even traumatic situations far too early in life. These highly traumatising life events may involve […]

Read More
Redefining Success: Ditch Resolutions, Embrace Your Values

By Ms Ali V Flint Learn more about Ali The January air seems thick with a kind of angsty, overwhelmed, tension, laced with melancholy of the holidays end and a brave hope for a more joyful, abundant, promising New Year. We are almost through January now, and the excitement of a fresh start might be […]

Read More
Get in touch

    Your Name (required)

    Your Email (required)

    Preferred Contact Number

    Your Message

    This site is protected by reCAPTCHA and the Google Privacy Policy and Terms of Service apply.

    Address
    7 Marie Street, Milton
    Brisbane, QLD 4064
    Phone
    07 3193 1072
    Social
    Opening Hours
    Monday, Thursday, Friday:  8:30am-5:30pm

    Tuesday & Wednesday: 8:30am-9pm
    (receptionist available until 6pm).