I don’t know if I’m a bit of a heartless cow or just good at compartmentalising but I don’t get the whole maternal guilt thing.
There I’ve said it.
I don’t get that mothers feel guilty when they leave their children and obsess over every choice they have made and beat themselves up for anything that might be a bit sub-optimal but was the best that they can do at the time.
I especially don’t get working mothers’ guilt. Guilt that appears to come from the fact you are doing something for you, away from your child and not there pandering to them all the time. I wonder if this is all a construct of the media, a way to get us to buy self help guides, to watch TV shows offering solutions to something that doesn’t really exist.
I understand regret – I regret those times that I wasn’t there to cuddle them when they were poorly, the firsts that I have missed, the times when they tell me that they miss me because they haven’t seen me for a few days.
But I do not feel guilty.
And let us be clear – I’m a Catholic and I know what feeling guilty feels like. I feel guilty if I can’t face taking the girls to mass each week and suffering through an hour of trying to make them behave like mini grown ups rather than exuberant pre-schoolers. I know what guilt is.
My husband doesn’t feel guilty that he goes out to work – that he barely took any paternity leave, that he has only done nursery drop off a couple times – it just is a part of his life that we find the best childcare we can and then leave them confidently with that carer.
I hear other mothers discussing how guilty they felt about teeny, tiny decisions taken at haste in a normal day and I wonder why they are beating themselves up over something that ultimately won’t make a difference in the grand scheme of things. I’m doing my best – yes sometimes I am a bit shouty, or short, or distracted but I am doing my best. And I know that when things are out of balance we will find a way to sort it all out and get life back into the right order.
I read about mothers feeling guilt about working, about not breastfeeding for longer, about controlled crying and want to run over and give them a shake and say you made the right decision for you at that time with the information and situation you had.
And perhaps share with them what a kind midwife told me that childhood amnesia means they won’t remember any of the ways you messed up in the early years and that they were designed to survive – it takes an awful lot to mess it up sufficiently to damage them.
Evolution is a wonderful thing.
Or maybe I am just an emotional pygmy – what do you think?