We worry about what a child will become tomorrow, yet we forget that he is someone today – Stacia Tauscher
Guilt is motherhood.
It’s not like alcohol or drugs that you can put your mind towards phasing it out of your life. No mom that I know has ever declared at any point, “Hooray! I’ve followed these tips to the letter and after six months of effort I am proud to say that I am free of motherhood guilt!!” If you’ve met anyone who claims this they’re complete and utter liars.
Motherhood guilt begins when you know you’d conceived
… and ends after you leave this earth. In fact I believe guilt plays a big part in why mothers carry on bringing up their children especially when pregnancy was not their choice. As much as they may have wanted to get rid of any memory associated with the fetus, they did not. The guilt from deserting a heartbeat that was growing inside of them loomed enough to make them decide to brave the challenges of parenthood.
When I found out I was pregnant I was already several years in a diet of strictly non processed food so I guess I had it easier than some moms. Nevertheless, guilt prompted me to level up my game. No cold drinks, nothing raw, no wine (an absolute favorite). I preempted the guilt of causing any harm through my own actions throughout pregnancy and throughout two years of breastfeeding. My son fortunately did not have issues with his health and general well-being. Did these have anything to do with my sacrifice? I don’t know that for sure, but I would like to take credit for it!
Taking credit comes naturally to most of humanity because it feels good.
Taking the blame comes naturally to most mothers
… because we feel 100% responsible for our babies. The main reason why we feel this at an earlier stage than most men do is because we bear our babies in our bodies before they were born. Any mom who decides to bring their children into this world regardless of reason they were conceived, assumes this responsibility. Responsibility just comes naturally to us whether or not we led responsible lives before the baby.
At work, four of the latest new mothers huddle together in the nursing room with their breastpumps, myself included. Most of our conversations had to do with difficulties with breastfeeding and fights with our partners. I remember justifying our postnatal fights with our partners – that it’s because we care and, they don’t as much(!) And the reason why we care so much is because we are fully responsible when something goes wrong, anything. All other moms nodded in deep consent.
Mom guilt made our moms vulnerable
I vividly recall when I was growing up, how my mom always took it personally when I make a passing comment about the food she made, or overreacted when I’d simply said no to her. It felt like there was never any choice with her. It was her way, or face the silent treatment until I apologized. She hasn’t changed now, but it’s me who has learnt to watch what I say to her. It almost feels I’m treading on thin ice whenever I’m with her, till this day. Sometimes I will still say the wrong words and make her sad and mad. When the heat dies off she sits me down to have a talk. I’m 38 this year. I’ll never stop being the child just as my mom will never stop mothering.
I reflect on my growing up years now that I’m a mother and I understand why my mom always took everything so personally. It was because she was a mom who felt solely responsible for everything related to the children and to the household, plus she hardly had any help from my dad. In fact my dad was the typical post-baby-boomer gen type of dad who worked 9 to 5, left stuff around the house and not be bothered to pick them up. He would liberally splash out on toys and restaurants so the kids adored him, but he never thought to increase the household budget. I remember dad would ask mom if she was doing anything when we got sick. Instead of giving him a good bitch-slap, mom would retort, “can’t you use your eyes and freaking look around” then turn back to sponging away our feverish foreheads.
I would like to believe it’s gotten a lot better for generation Xers, Ys and beyond. As in, our partners are much more helpful these days because of societal pressure, peer pressure and because their moms raised them to be more considerate of their wives (two thumbs up).
Mom guilt sticks
The mom guilt hasn’t ceased though. If any with modern technology and social media, it’s become easier for mom guilt to escalate. Information and interactions happen almost at real time thanks for the internet. When we see that supermoms juggle their parenting responsibilities expertly and look like hot young things for their partners we decide that we haven’t managed as well as we should be. Or, worse, we take the blame for our partners’ infidelity. When other moms tell us how their kids sleep through the night we spit our dissent yet we secretly and harshly re-examine our methods. When our kids do poorly in school we take it upon ourselves to find the solution because by the time the men get around to it, our kids will have kids of their own.
There’re no shortage of challenges in parenting. Most of them are fixed by time and passing events whether or not you intervened. Some challenges simply have no resolution. Some events we don’t have any control over. But that’s ok. Our kids will grow up anyway. Those pictures of beaming kids and moms? That’s not their usual look. They were looks created for the camera though I’m sure there are happy moments interspersed with the moments when mom has to bite her tongue in order not to use the F-word.
The mother’s heart is the child’s schoolroom – Henry Ward Beecher
Our job is to stay sane, look out into those little faces more often than we look into our anxiety, make sure our kids laugh with us and accept that parenting is a lifelong marathon not a sprint.
I’d been completely exasperated with my 2.5 year old son these past few months. He didn’t want to pick up his toys and always wanted “mom” to “pick up”, “say the words” or “do it” instead. I was frustrated because I couldn’t understand why he seemed so good at picking up skills in language and in expressing himself, yet he couldn’t just progress(?!) I was mostly annoyed because I didn’t want to answer my own questions!
And then I learnt from a mother with teenagers that her 17 year old son was hungry one time and yelled out from his room that he was. When she yelled back “there’s food in the kitchen go get it yourself”, he responded that he wasn’t that hungry after all. This was every day conversation between her and her child unless we include the grunting.
Then it hit me. My son is making good progress all right. He was growing into his freaking role(!) Suddenly, I realized that my future looked very, very bleak.