Mother Guilt November 18 2015
So it starts the minute you see those blue lines on the pregnancy test and you try to work backwards and remember how many big night outs you’ve had and how much blue cheese you’ve eaten since conception. Mother Guilt. It steadily increases from there and occasionally you experience a “fuck it” moment where you put yourself first. BIG MISTAKE. There creeps in the Mother Guilt again, probably twice as hard. Oh no wait that might be the hangover.
If the definition of GUILT is "a feeling of responsibility or remorse” then it actually takes into account both the past and the future. Double whammy. We are not only remorseful of all the tequila shots we unknowingly sank prior to our pregnancy glow, but we are also preempting the future with the huge weight of responsibility that lies ahead.
And so it begins. Where, how and for how long your labour took (or shock horror your planned C-section). Boob or bottle. Attachment parenting or controlled crying. Organic, ethically sourced whole foods or grabbing a jar of something that looks the same on the go. Working or not working. We know the drill.
As time goes on, I’m sure the guilt increases over time in proportion to the number of things you’ve done or said or thought as a Mother. Maybe my child was just born a non sleeping, picky eater who bites innocent girls at the park? NO, Mother guilt says "it’s all your fault!"
As most Mums know, normally there is one parent who can exit the house each morning only thinking about themselves and their day ahead. Happily they skip off to work and generally don’t think about the daily grind back at home until their thoughts turn to dinner. Most of the time when a Mother leaves the house they are normally exhausted from all of the planning that has gone into place to get there, and then their mind never really leaves their children. If we are lucky enough to get some hours to ourself, we may be worrying if they are sleeping well at day care or racking our brains if today was the day they were supposed to go to school with a cake or a gold coin donation. They never leave our minds. The survival of mankind can thank Mothers for that.
So why am I feeling a dose of the Mother Guilts this week?
Because I booked a quite spontaneous trip to Bali ALL BY MYSELF!
I know, it’s going to be amazing.
Or is it?
Should I really be leaving the boys when it’s such a busy time of year? There’s that party. That basketball game. That presentation assembly. That Volcanic Ash that could quite possibly delay my exit…. or prolong my sleeping, swimming, slurping, shopping holiday. None of it has happened and I’m ridden with guilt already. My spreadsheet is going crazy with every little detail of each day that might be forgotten. Hours of work will go into that spreadsheet that will probably stay neglected on the kitchen bench.
I know I deserve a little Mummy break. My rational mind is telling me so. But my rational mind tells me a lot of things. My heart is already aching at the thought of those days, nights and early mornings without my boys. I know it’s ridiculous. Sick even. What am I thinking? Well I’m not thinking, I’ve been sprinkled with a little bit more of that guilty dust with each additional boy that we’ve added to our crew.
Before you send me a little note to tell me not to feel bad and that I deserve it and that Shane can handle it, don’t worry I do have the capacity to switch off. The anticipation is always the worse bit.
So what can Mum’s do to shake a little bit of that Mother’s Guilt off? We know that it will never truly go away, so the first thing is probably to not be so hard on yourself. About anything really. We are our own worst critic. The reality of life is that each day will always include a variety of choices and compromises and opportunity costs. I’ve said it before, do the best with what you have in that moment.
Secondly, remember that the glass is half full. MOST of the time, the situation could be worse. For me this week and my little trip to Bali, my glass is very full. Focus on the positives and always look forwards, not backwards.
Thirdly, be present. Wherever you are, be all there. Make the most of every moment and don’t waste your energy (or miss the moment) thinking of another. Remember what the wise Maya Angelou said “people will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel”.
When you are with your children, especially when you have the opportunity to get out of the daily grind with them, make it quality time. Focus on them. Strike up an all consuming conversation that reminds them that they are the centre of your universe. Even when you are sipping cocktails half way across the world!
So when I'm on the plane to Bali and they remind parents to always put the oxygen mask on themselves BEFORE their children, I will shake off that guilt and remind myself of the most important lesson of all - you need to look after YOURSELF so you can be the best Mum possible.
Wish me luck…..