Thursday 24 January 2019

Amanda Brunker on 'mammy guilt': 'Horse manure... when the boys were little, I left them a lot'

Amanda Brunker with her sons L to R: Setanta (8) and Edward (9) McLaughlin
Amanda Brunker with her sons L to R: Setanta (8) and Edward (9) McLaughlin

Amanda Brunker

TV3's Karen Koster suffered so much mammy guilt that she made a documentary about it. And just in case it wasn't something you have lived with - the presenter went out of her way to highlight why you should.

I watched with interest to hear the different mothers recount their stories about parenting, and after an hour, I felt like pulling my hair out. There simply wasn't enough balance to show that it's okay to work and have a life outside of the home without being a bad mother.

Sure, all mammies have felt guilt about leaving their kids at some stage - but I feel strongly that working mums shouldn't be heaped with any more feelings of failure than they already have. Are we not supposed to be minding our mental health - and being kind to those already under stress?

I personally don't feel this mammy guilt that so many women are crippled by. I was able to manipulate my career so that I work from home most of the time, and I am very aware of how lucky I am. That wasn't always the case: when the boys were little, I left them a lot.

I actually went back to work three days after I left the hospital after giving birth to my second son, and I can honestly say, I had no guilt about it. If anything, I was thrilled to go back to work.

I had been pregnant for 41 weeks and then in hospital for another five days after contracting a womb infection. Admittedly, the job was only for two weeks, but getting out to do a high-profile gig like judging on RTE's big summer show Celebrity You're A Star (remember that?) was extremely therapeutic.

If I had of stayed at home in my PJs, I could have easily slipped into a depression as the whole pregnancy and labour had been difficult.

Although the job was only 11 days and nights, I still had to up and leave my new baba, paint my face and let my mother care for my brand new baby. I know many people would be horrified by this - apparently, that's the time you should be bonding with your baby, and that was time that I could never get back. But my retort? Horse manure. Being away from my son didn't stop me emotionally connecting with him. I had to leave him and his brother at various times down through the years, but we're still best buddies.

Let me admit: I did not potty train either of my boys; I wasn't there for their first steps either. Did the sky fall in? No. Was their development stunted? Definitely not. So could working mammies please stop assuming that just because some of them feel bad about making a living and keeping their sanity, it's not the same for all of us.

Sure, it's a natural thing to suffer mammy guilt from time to time and with another child on the way, Karen will ultimately experience more of it. But hopefully not for long.

Trust me, I've been there, done that hard slog, and now toast a large glass of wine to those women who live on their nerves and merely a few hours of sleep.

Remember, it DOES get easier. Don't beat yourself up if it's granny or a caring childminder that gives your baby a bottle or teaches them how to eat with a fork. It'll all work out in the end.

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