Mum Guilt

Mothers say they suffer from “mum guilt” and are too ashamed to ask for help for fear of looking like a failure.
This was the shared experience voiced by mums and dads at BBC 5 live’s #mumtakeover which aimed to be an honest and intimate conversation about parenting and mental health. Celeb mums Stacey Solomon, Rochelle Humes, Giovanna Fletcher and Neev Spencer joined 5 live’s Anna Foster with a panel of experts and an audience of mums at Blackpool Tower.

Solomon, mum to Zachary, nine and Leighton five, says she carries guilt around all day. She says: “I’m a working mum – that’s why I feel guilty but a lot of my friends who are stay at home parents have the same guilt but for different reasons. They’ll say to me ‘well I’m not showing them that example of going out to work’… we just beat ourselves up constantly.”

Olivia Siegl founded “The Every Mum Movement” after suffering mental health problems following the premature and traumatic birth of her first daughter. “Within hours of having Eve the anxiety and panic attacks started,” says the 38-year-old from Bridgnorth in Shropshire. “It took over my whole life. I was fearful of leaving the house. I sterilised everything and stockpiled nappies that she wouldn’t grow into for months. I had a real feeling of self-loathing that I wasn’t a good enough mother and I wasn’t coping.”
After eight months Mrs Siegl broke down and told her husband who urged her to see a doctor. She was scared the doctor would say she was an unfit mother and take her baby away but when she sought help she was diagnosed with postnatal depression and postpartum psychosis and received treatment.
She now receives hundreds of emails through the support network she set up from women with similar experiences.
“I was angry that I’d read all the advice, bought all the gadgets, done my pelvic floor exercises but not once did anyone tell me how to look after my brain,” says Mrs Siegl. She wants parents to find talking about mental health as easy as discussing sleeping or feeding techniques.

Father-of-two Tim Dodgson, a detective with Lancashire Constabulary, says workplaces should be more accommodating to new parents. The 44-year-old, from Lancaster, says: “Past gender roles of men going out to work and women staying at home looking after the baby no longer exist. Going back to work should be as easy as possible for both parents who have new priorities now.”
He has created a contemplation room at a police station in Lancaster. It is a quiet place for mothers to express and store milk in a fridge and a place for dads to have a lie down after a sleepless night. It has music and coloured lighting to help relaxation. “It’s ok to say ‘I need a rest, I need a minute, I need to express’,” he says.

Kerry Fielding, from Blackpool, says: “You hear all about what it’s like to live with a disabled child but what about disabled parents?” The 44-year-old, who is blind, says she had to give up her job travelling the UK helping people with disabilities to access workplace technology when she had daughter Madison, now 14. She says this is because there was not enough support to help her juggle work and parenting.

“I can’t use a buggy so I had Maddie on my front or back and strangers would say to me ‘I don’t think she can breathe in there’. She would throw a spoon across a cafe and I’d call out for help to find it and the room would be silent. There needs to be much more awareness and help for disabled parents.”

Lee Taylor, 44, from Blackpool, and wife Elaine adopted their eldest son and a daughter in 2001 and their youngest son in 2006. He does not believe there is enough support for adoptive parents. “We weren’t told all the facts about why our children had been put into care and what had happened to them so we just weren’t prepared for their needs,” he says. “I began resenting my eldest and my wife ended up with depression because we couldn’t cope. You feel like the worst parents in the world but actually you’re like everyone else. There needs to be more transparency in adoption. It felt like the system was more geared up to supporting the children’s birth mother than us.”

What is obvious throughout the conversations was the need for additional support for parents and the importance of speaking out if you are finding things difficult. With more openness people hopefully will start to realise that they are not alone or a failure for feeling the way they do but instead realise it is incredibly common to feel out of your depth. If you are struggling to cope with your new baby make sure you reach out to a friend, family member or medical professional who can offer you the support you both need and deserve.

Article taken in part from
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