You know, lovely mum, I think you’re pretty fantastic.
When I come to your house, I can see it’s full of love and family.
When you make something for afternoon tea, I appreciate your generosity and the fact that we have something delicious to eat, that I didn’t have to make.
When you arrive late for our catch up, I’m so happy to see you and have been looking forward to your company.
When your child is crying a lot, I can see that you love her dearly and that you’re doing your best to help her. I want to help too!
When you wear your new outfit, I think you look beautiful and I laugh with you about the mud stain on your pants from carrying your child.
When you reply to my message after 3 hours, I know you’ve had a busy day, doing the things that matter most, and to be honest, I’ve been busy too.
When your child isn’t wearing pants, I understand, because let’s face it, all our little ones think it’s way more comfortable to go sans-pants.
When we haven’t spoken for two weeks, I know that you still value our friendship and that we both have a lot to juggle. I’m just hoping you’re ok.
When you’re having trouble concentrating on what I’m saying, I empathise with how tired you are and admire how you just keep going, regardless of how many times your child wakes you up at night.
See, you’re amazing!
So, you can understand that I find it a little confusing when you say to me things like:
“Sorry my house is such a mess”
“Sorry I don’t have anything better to give you to eat”
“Sorry I’m so late again. I’m so hopeless”
“Sorry she won’t stop crying”
“Sorry I look so terrible”
“Sorry for such a late reply”
“Sorry my child is half naked….again”
“Sorry I haven’t been in contact”
“Sorry I’m so vague and not fun today”
From my perspective, you don’t need to be sorry for any of those things.
They’re just part of life with children and I get it.
Sometimes I see a flicker of embarrassment, or maybe even shame, cross your face.
Lovely mum, you don’t need to feel so bad when things aren’t perfect or how you wanted them to be.
You’re amazing anyway.
Mums apologise A LOT
Have you noticed too?
We don’t just apologise constantly to our mum friends, but also to our partners, our children, shop assistants, waiters, co-workers, our parents, and even strangers.
Women tend to apologise more than men. They apologise automatically and for the littlest things (have you ever apologised when someone bumped into you?!).
We apologise because we think it’s polite, to soften a message, to keep the peace or to be more likeable. We apologise because we lack confidence, because we think we’re causing inconvenience or because we feel bad for the other person.
The word ‘sorry’ is used so broadly. Robin Lakoff, linguist and author of “Language and Woman’s Place”, says that ‘sorry’ is a ritualised way of communicating, “meaning something like, ‘I hope this is O.K. with you,’” and that “it lets people — especially women — get away with saying what the other person doesn’t want to hear.” Or, what we think they don’t want to hear. As in “sorry, I need you to move so I can get past with my pram”, or “sorry, I still haven’t got the water I ordered 20 minutes ago” or “sorry, I don’t want to buy your solar panels (especially now that you’ve woken my kids up by knocking so loudly on the front door!)”.
I’m not immune to this either.
Years ago, I had a friend who apologised constantly for the most minor things, to the point that I found it quite irritating. I desperately wanted her to understand that she didn’t need to worry or feel bad about those things. I couldn’t understand why she couldn’t see that no one else was worried about them, or even noticed them. And in comparison, I thought I was pretty good at knowing when to apologise and when not to. But now, my husband often asks me “why are you apologising for that?”. You know what? I can’t answer that question sometimes! There is no logical reason!
Of course, I’m not saying that you shouldn’t apologise for anything at all. Apologising is important in terms of mending and strengthening relationships and taking responsibility for your own actions. An apology shows that you know that you’ve negatively impacted someone and you regret it.
I’m suggesting that you consider whether you say sorry for things too often, or for things that you don’t need to be sorry for.
Because apologising for things that aren’t actually your fault can negatively impact your self-esteem. It reinforces a message to your brain, that you are constantly letting people down, that you’re not good enough, or you’re an inconvenience.
How to check if you should be saying sorry
If you’re able to catch yourself just before you say sorry for something, quickly ask yourself 2 critical questions:
- Was it in my control?
- Did I do something wrong or inappropriate?
If the answer to both of these questions is ‘no’, then save your apology for another time when it’s really needed.
There may be times when you want to apologise for something that’s out of your control but you know impacted someone negatively. Try saying something different to acknowledge the impact. For example “I really appreciate your help”, “Thanks for understanding”, or “Thanks for being flexible”.
Things you definitely don’t need to apologise for
Here are 10 things you can stop apologising for right now:
- Other people’s behaviour or mistakes (for example, your child is crying or someone bumped into you)
- Not responding to calls or messages straight away
- Things that aren’t in your control
- Asking questions or asking for help
- Needing time for yourself
- How you feel or look
- Having a different opinion
- Not being perfect (this includes not having the perfect children, house, cooking, etc)
- The parenting and life choices you make
- Saying no.
Do you need to stop saying sorry so much?
If you’re not sure, try keeping a tally of how many unnecessary apologies you make this week.
Remember that you never need to apologise for being yourself and living your life as best you can. You might be imperfect and things might not go to plan all the time, but you’re amazing anyway!
And lastly, when you’re apologising to other mums, keep in mind that they can usually see that it’s something you don’t need to be sorry for and they understand that you’re doing your best! Listen and believe it when they say you don’t need to be sorry.
Ok, lovely. Here’s your action plan for this week. Answer and action the following two questions:
- What’s something you often apologise for, that you shouldn’t?
- What will you say instead of apologising? (it could be nothing) Start saying that today!
Hey, if you’re apologising for things you feel guilty about, check out my popular post on Mum Guilt.