Mother Guilt: A Symptom Worthy of Absolution

Mother Guilt: A Symptom Worthy of Absolution

Sep 15, 2016, 5:40:53 PM Opinion

I was in the final stages of labor.  I’d been laboring for close to 36 hours and I’d got to that wonderful stage where I was told to push.  I say wonderful in an ironic way since there is nothing wonderful or indeed elegant about being on your back with your feet in stirrups, while a cast of thousands watch from the sidelines as your eyeballs pop out of your head and you intermittently turn it, voiding the contents of your guts into a plastic bag.  “I’m not really sure you’re pushing right love,” suggested my husband.  He’d have received a violent slap to the back of the head and more than a few terse words if I had the energy and my mind was not so focused on other matters.  At any rate, I heard the words, ingrained as they were upon my soul forever, nagging at me and winding thorns of guilt around my heart.  Welcome to motherhood, a land where you can expect to be perpetually dropped into a constant state of guilt.

Without going into too much detail, my first delivery ended badly.  If you have seen the Stephen King movie Carrie then you are on the right track.  Suffice to say that when everything turned pear shape my husband’s words were far more pertinent than I might ever have imagined.  Clearly I sucked at Motherhood, I couldn’t even deliver a baby without it turning into the kind of event where 3rd year medical students would pay good money for the honour of having a front row seat.  Quite a few years later the wounds were still raw.  As I sat alongside an old friend from my university days, she shared with me a golden nugget of wisdom; that success in childbirth was due to preparation, planning and mental focus.  I nearly asked for the papers to relinquish my parental rights on the spot.  I was none of these in childbirth, I sucked big time

Not only did I botch up childbirth but when it came down to it I sucked at a whole lot of things motherhood related.  Breastfeeding.  It seems to have been turned into something of a sport for which those who succeed are rewarded with accolades in the form of virtual medals.  Breastfeed for 3 months, you win a bronze, do it for 6 months a silver and for breastfeeding to the 12th month you will be serenaded with gold.  Heaven forbid if you feed beyond this, you’ll be viewed as some kind of hippie/exhibitionist who clearly gets off from whipping her bosoms out in public.  In all this though, my heart really bleeds for the poor dears who decide not to breastfeed for whatever reason, or those who give up in the first few weeks.  For them, Mother Guilt is rampant as they contend with the silent barbs that are tsks and tuts while suffering through the mournfully insincere looks of sympathy from other women in their Mother’s Group.

I won’t go into the deeply rooted problem that I have with Mother’s Groups.  That is another whole blog post in itself.  Instead, I will state here publicly that as far as Mother Guilt is concerned I have enough of it to cover many small sheets of paper and then wallpaper a small room.  A few standouts include:

  •  The day I sent my eight year old anaphylactic son to school with a muesli bar containing peanuts.
  •  All those nights (more than I care to admit) I couldn’t be arsed cooking so I made my husband pick up KFC on the way home.  My children will probably grow up to be obese and diabetic from their lack of having a nutritionally balanced meal every night.
  • A serious lack creativity when it comes to lunchboxes.  I fill them with crisps and small packets of treats no doubt filled with sugar and fat and sugar and fat.
  • I send my kids to bed “religiously” at 7 pm every night, not because they need the sleep but because by this time of night I really can’t bear another moment with them in my presence.
  • Sometimes when I’m in the car I turn the stereo up really loud so I don’t need to “pretend” to listen to their inane story about what they did in Science that day.

I’ll stop here because you are probably getting the idea.  Fortunately though, for every act that has burdened me with a layer of guilt, there are many more that make me feel quietly proud.  I will spare you the list (I’m no Saint).  Suffice to say, at the end of the day I do love my kids in a way that is immeasurable and totally irrational.   Rather than feel down about my foibles I prefer to embrace my Mother Guilt as merely a symptom of a love that proclaims, “You feel bad because you care”.

Where do you stand on this?  Are you willing to embrace your imperfections as a Mother?  I’d love to hear some of your greatest Mother Guilt moments.  Not because I want to berate you (I’ve probably done it too), but because I want to help you to celebrate your imperfections as a symptom of a human who cares absolutely, thereby absolving you from your guilt.

Published by Tanya Welden


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