Guilt. It is not just brought on by a Jewish mother or grandmother, or a Catholic mother for that matter. I have learned that this capital G word, the one with no happy spot attached, is brought on simply by becoming a mother. I wish someone would have warned me for the onslaught of guilt I would have on a daily basis since the moment Violet and Autumn were born.
I felt guilty about not spending 24 hours a day with them in the hospital NICU for the three and a half weeks they were there. I had a cesarean, so I didn’t really ‘give birth’ to them. I’m not making enough play dates for them. They should be enrolled in more classes. I’m taking them out in the cold too much. I’m keeping them inside too much. I’m not teaching them enough sign language. When I do have child care in the form of my grandmother (the amazing granny nanny), I stay around too much and don’t get out of the house to work on my own projects, the whole reason she is helping out. I feel guilty about staying. I feel guilty about leaving. I’m a stay-at-home mom; I’m supposed to be there. Guilt, guilt, guilt. It is eating away at my soul. And more pressing, it is eating away at my happiness.
Commence, mission to free my mind of guilt. I alert the people around me that I need them to tell me it’s okay to leave. It’s okay to stay. They tell me it’s okay to feel guilty, but at the same time pointless, an incredible waste of energy. Support from my inner circle is in place. I tell them when I feel guilty, at least some of the time. Baring the magnitude of my guilt out in the open would be too embarrassing, even for my partner and closest friends and family. And yet, I am doing it here.
I have to, because the freedom from guilt mission is so far accomplishing nothing. Not even fake announcements of victory are on the horizon. I figured the best way to be rid of this guilt is by posting about it, because the shame of still feeling guilty after writing about its absurdity would be monumental. And shame does not need to be added to the feelings or thoughts in my world. Happiness is at stake!
Luckily, I have Mandi, the love of my life and the great Mommy M. “Yes, you are a horrible mother.” The sarcasm oozes around her words. It snaps me out of my black hole of guilt because I know it is ridiculous. I know I’m doing a good job with the girls and I couldn’t love them more.
But a little guilty bit in the form of a ‘but’ slips through. “I know I’m not horrible, but I just feel like I’m not giving them enough opportunities/one-on-one time/fill in the blank issue.”
Mandi to the rescue again. “I’m sure they will grow up traumatized by playing indoors on super cold days, where they appear happy with their toys and laugh all the time. Yes, I’m pretty sure you’re ruining their self-esteem and social abilities forever.”
“Oh, shut up.” Having my ridiculous thoughts thrown back in my face is exactly what I needed. I’m wasting my time being worried about everything and nothing at the same time. It feels crappy. I remember that I want to model confidence and calm and by being wrapped up in my guilt I am doing the exact opposite. This is the realization I’ve been searching for. My guilt is gone. I’m free! Well for now, until it comes back. But at that point, things will be different. I can go back and reread my realization over and over until it is no longer needed. This post will save immense amounts of guilt-ridden time so if you’re still reading, thank you for indulging me. And if your name is Chai, get over yourself already.