Riding on the eternal wave of mum guilt

October 24, 2013

SwimmingPhotos shamelessly borrowed from this post.

Here’s a parenting confession, of sorts; until recently, I had never taken Eliza swimming. Cue gasps from the back. I’m not sure what it is about swimming, but once your baby is out of the aquatic confines of your amniotic fluid, there seems to be some unwritten rule that you have to take them. And every time we still hadn’t been and the subject came up, I felt a feeling wash over me. An attack of the mum guilt.

I did always mean to take her. But our local pool was too cold, other ones were slightly trickier to get to. Lessons were always oversubscribed and took place at the wrong time, or nap time. One or both of us didn’t have a costume that fit. And I couldn’t quite get my head round the logistics; what do you do with the pram? And so on and so on. So it just never seemed to happen. And I felt guiltier and guiltier.

Before I became a parent I swore I wouldn’t give in to mum guilt, especially because as an ex-Girl Guide I would always just do my best, of course. But it seems that mum guilt is a complicated metric and not so easy to rinse off. There it is, lurking in the changing rooms, hiding your locker key, splashing at you from the shallow end when you’re trying not to get your hair wet.

And it strikes at such unexpected times, for such strange reasons. Swimming is not a massive deal in the grand scheme of things; she’d have lessons at school like I did, and it’s not like I’ve left her alone in the woods with some wolves while I swan off to drink cocktails.

I mentioned this to my husband – who has also never taken her swimming, mainly because he passed over responsibility to me based on me being a better swimmer because I once won a race in the pool on holiday about six years ago – and he doesn’t feel guilty about it. So why do I?

I did take her to baby massage, baby yoga, baby singing and rhyme time, breastfeeding groups, playgroups, playdates, soft play, the eternal earworm that is Gymboree, and millions of all the other middle-class mum activities that you’d expect. As well as countless trips to the park (and Sainsbury’s). Why is it we feel guilty about the things we don’t do, instead of happy about everything that we do?

Predictably, Eliza loved swimming when she finally went on while on holiday. So I’m actually going to try and take her from now on. And hopefully this will help to keep the tidal wave of mum guilt at bay. Maybe.


  • Alex

    October 24, 2013 at 1:31 pm

    I did EXACTLY THE SAME THING with swimming! (Also read an acebiscuits post from Corrine / MotherScuffer on how swimming is just a bit of a pain in the arse all round). Also, I didn’t do any of the other things you did with E because R was very loud and I was very self-conscious.

    You’re doing good, lady!

  • Kim Carberry

    October 24, 2013 at 4:09 pm

    I have never taken my girls swimming and they are 11 and 6! They can both swim though…They’ve have had lessons with the school and a couple at the local pool only a couple though because they complained it was too cold…..

  • Alison, Not Another Mummy Blog

    October 24, 2013 at 7:11 pm

    Bad mum!

    (No not really!) But you’re so right, there is this weird unwritten rule that you must take your baby swimming. Odd.

  • Marissa Coltman (Little Rascal Reviews)

    October 24, 2013 at 9:23 pm

    I know what you mean re: the guilt. I currently have it as I haven’t taken Baby L to ANY classes in his first 6 months of life whereas R had been to Baby Sensory, MAD Academy, etc etc and I used to take him swimming once a week (ok, maybe once every 1-3 weeks!). I’m not so sure our mothers were necessarily so adventurous when we were little, think this ‘classes’ malarkey for v.small tots is possibly quite new?

  • Jo, Not a Frumpy Mum

    October 25, 2013 at 6:18 am

    Like you I felt guilty about not taking my son to swimming lessons, he’s almost 2. My nephew has been every week since birth (he’s now 2 and a half) and my mum would silently disapprove we had not taken Baby O.

    I caved we started swimming lessons in September and they’re not going great. My son doesn’t like having to do the same thing over and over and wants to do his own things. Plus since signing up, and paying the very expensive cost of it, his nap time has changed so I have to wake him up to go there so he’s always a bit grumpy.

    I debating whether or not to renew when our block runs out but the guilt keeps telling me I should!

  • Mummy Barrow

    October 25, 2013 at 6:49 am

    My teens are 19, 18 and 14 and I NEVER took them swimming.

    And the world continued to turn. I hate swimming. Actually that is not true, I hate getting my face wet. So I never took them.

    Don’t give in to the guilt!

    Not only did I not take them swimming, I didn’t do soft play, Gymboree, Tumble Tots, baby massage, baby singing, or yoga. So you win anyway!

    Oh God…. my poor kids…..

  • Katy from Modern Mummy

    October 25, 2013 at 7:43 am

    Ahhh mum guilt! I’m in the same boat as Marissa. When no.2 comes along it gets even worse. I never take Evie ANYWHERE fun like I used to with Daisy. No classes, no soft play. She just gets dragged around in the buggy wherever D and I are going. I only said to S last night that I feel awful about it and must make an effort to do more baby related stuff with her. Us mums will always find something to feel crappy about, and even more so once we encounter the dreaded playground mafia at primary school I’m sure! You’re doing a great job lovely lady! Glad Eliza enjoyed swimming on hols x x

  • Franglaise Mummy

    October 27, 2013 at 7:25 am

    Wow, you do LOADS with her! I only do baby swimming as one of my NCT friends organised it all and it was just my NCT mum friends in the class. Don’t worry, Mummy guilt is ongoing, my eldest is nearly 7 and she finds ways (innocently/on purpose) to make me feel guilt every day. Although it does get easier to brush it off. Just look at the good stuff you’re doing and try to ignore what you’re not doing. Good luck!

  • Kiran from Mummy Says

    October 28, 2013 at 6:46 am

    I used to take Milin swimming but I was always terrified of dropping him or losing my grip on him. The logistics of it though were a nightmare – particularly until he could walk. Now that he is 21 months old, his dad takes him to swimming lessons which I figure is the perfect solution. Dad and son bonding time! I can’t see myself taking baby J much while she is little because the thought of taking both of them together is nightmarish. She might have to wait until her dad can take her to lessons too! It’s funny, because we lived in New Zealand for a while and over there life is lived by the sea. All the kids grew up swimming at the pool, at the beach, in rivers – and it made sense to teach them what to do for safety reasons. I feel there is less of a pressure to do take them when they are so young and we live in London. But perhaps that’s just my way of keeping the mummy guilt at bay! x

  • Josie

    November 1, 2013 at 8:08 pm

    I’m so looking forward to losing the mum guilt. Ha, if it ever happens.

    Oh and ditto the swimming (actually I took her once) and I also do far less organised fun type activities than I should but I find a lot of them mind numbingly dull! As long as our children are happy, healthy, well fed and well loved I say screw the rest of it. 🙂

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