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Mother Guilt & Our Biggest Self-criticisms

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It’s a worrying trend that only seems to be on the increase, mother guilt. New research released, commissioned by Barnardos Australia, has revealed that nearly 60 per cent of mothers say they are their own biggest critic of their mothering, over their family, workplace, other mothers and even the media.

So are all the smoke and mirrors around motherhood distorting the views of a good mum? With the prevalence of social media, and more of our lives published online for all to see, it’s not hard for mothers to compare themselves to other women, and what may be perceived as the ideal image of mothering.

“Mothers view their children (13.5%) as their second biggest critic and partners (8.5%) as third.”

Social Demographer and supporter of Barnardos Mother of the Year, Bernard Salt goes as far as saying the ‘Imposter Syndrome’ is at play – where people are doubtful in the roles they play, and are lacking self confidence in their own abilities.

“What we’re seeing is an increase in mothers tending to be self-critical of themselves, and I think that comes down to a matter of self doubt,” explains Bernard. “This has nothing to with capability; it has everything to do with self-confidence. There is a term that describes it, ‘Imposter Syndrome’, where people are doubtful about the roles that they’re in – and this can be anyone in any role, a journalist, a young consultant – but it’s not actually based on the way that they’re performing in those roles, it’s self doubt about their ability to be in the role.”

“Meeting the needs of their children creates the most pressure for mums, followed by finances, society’s expectations and judgment from others.”

Bernard adds that there is also much more expectation from society these days with regard to parenting generally and mothering especially. “For a number of reasons – through social engagement, online entertainment, education, awareness and the impact of advertising – we’re now more connected than ever,” he explains. “But in terms of the wider communications of what is expected of mothers, we’re being presented with an artificial reality, it’s creating an environment where people feel they need to be able to achieve that.”

All of this is quite unfair of course, as we know mothers do a terrific job, and there is not one size fits all model. “Whether you’re a mother in the 1920s or today, whether you have eight kids or one, motherhood is motherhood: it has always resonated as a valuable and of course a central part of human life,” says Bernard. “It is not that motherhood is getting any better or worse, it’s that society’s expectations of motherhood is changing.”

Manisha Amin, Barnardos Australia Marketing Director agrees, saying it’s easy today to feel overwhelmed by the options and choices out there. “It’s also easy to see why mums may feel like they could do a better job,” explains Manisha. “We believe that mums need someone to help them count what they do well everyday, rather than focusing on what could be done better. That’s why we’re encouraging people to nominate a great mum they know for Barnardos Mother of the Year.”

To nominate the great mums you know, visit Barnardos Mother of the Year.

Written by Franki Hobson

Franki Hobson has worn many hats during her many years as a women's lifestyle journalist and editor. Her launching pad was COSMOPOLITAN magazine, where she moved from News & Entertainment Editor to Features Director, covering everything from the legalisation of the Morning After Pill to Gwen Stefani, fashion, beauty, sex, health, fitness, entertainment and relationships.

Franki Hobson is a contributing lifestyle writer for The Carousel.

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