The Quarantine Diaries 8: Avoiding the Guilt Trap

I was doing pretty well in quarantine. You might have seen my earlier entries: they were all about ‘finding balance’, staying calm and facing our fears. Then my body threw me a curve ball. It’s the same curve ball it throws me every month, but right now I’m finding it particularly difficult to deal with.

Though I’ve never received a formal diagnosis, my symptoms tell me I have PMDD. Apparently this is common among women who have struggled with depression and anxiety. It’s hardly surprising that when you throw a perfect storm of hormones at someone who can struggle to cope with life’s troubles at the best of times, the result is going to be unpleasant.

Guilt and shame serves no-one

Apologise and move on
Apologise and move on

Many of us may be feeling a little guilty right now. These are trying times. It is easy to lash out at the ones we love, or whoever is close to us, in order to relieve some of the tension we are feeling. I find that mindfulness, meditation and yoga helps, as I have mentioned previously. But try as we might to avoid it, there may be times when negative emotions overwhelm us, and our reaction to this may be harmful to ourselves or others. It’s best to avoid this before it happens, of course, but if we blow the occasional fuse, beating ourselves up about it will only exacerbate the situation and most likely prolong it. Take a deep breath, apologise (if you have hurt anyone) and move on. Forgive yourself and others will forgive you.

Parental guilt

One group of people particularly prone to feelings of guilt and shame are parents. I’ve been wracked by parental guilt from the moment I had my first child: that I’m not doing enough for him, that I’m not feeding him the right things, that I’m not demonstrating the right behaviours and values. Then, when my second child came along, that I was neglecting my first because of the demands of caring for a baby. Now that they’re a little older, I often feel like I’m not devoting enough time to either of them, overwhelmed by the demands of work, school runs, activities and housework. But most of all I used to feel guilty for devoting time to myself. What this really meant was I was guilty of a kind of ‘maternal martyrdom.’

How to avoid feelings of guilt and shame

My 7-year-old enjoying screen time

If there’s one thing I’ve learned from being in quarantine, it’s that I’m not going to make it, and those around me are going to suffer, if I don’t take care of myself. This applies more than ever at the current time of the month. Children do not need a perfectly-timed home-school schedule, perfectly nutritionally-balanced meals everyday and an endless programme of fun activities to engage their active little minds. They need safety, security and most of all, love. I’ve explained to my kids that I’m not feeling great, that it’s my ‘grumpy time’ (they already understand what this means), and that I need some time to myself everyday. This means they can have some screen time, or invent their own fun activities (such as camping under the clothes airer). I’ll catch up on Supermum duties when I’m back to my full strength.

Taking a moment

My 2.5-year-old hiding out under the washing

If you’re having a bad day, or a bad (forgive the pun) period, take a moment to do something you really enjoy: whether it’s a hot bath, listening to your favourite music or settling down with a good book. Whatever it is, do it solely and exclusively for you. Try to disconnect completely from the needs of everyone else. Give yourself a break. This may mean getting up a few hours early, or staying up late. I started writing this at 6:30 am, but I knew it would make me feel better. I needed a little time to be ‘me’ before meeting the needs of others. Later on, when you feel better, take a moment to give back the love you’ve given yourself. Play a boardgame, do some baking, or simply read a bedtime story. Your kids won’t come to any harm if you’re temporarily (psychologically) unavailable. They’ll come to harm if you fail to nurture them with love, which may happen if you fail to nurture and love yourself. With that in mind, here’s a link to today’s poem: A Poem about Love.

2 thoughts on “The Quarantine Diaries 8: Avoiding the Guilt Trap

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  1. I think you’re absolutely right to take some time for yourself, however difficult. It’s something you need to make into a good habit otherwise not having time for self turns into a bad habit that becomes harder and harder to shake. Best of luck with it and although it’s hard work, in the end it’ll be worth it.
    The boys are gorgeous. Xx

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