guilt guilt guilt.
that’s a hot button issue, isn’t it? guilt. we all experience it, some more than others. and some of us are actually… guilty. of things that we have reason to be guilty of. example: murdering another human being (or animal). if you have done that, you are guilty.
i have not nor do i ever plan on killing someone. i may threaten it, but that’s a pretty idle threat. i will be the first to admit to my physical weakness and general lack of maliciousness, nor do i possess an encyclopedic knowledge of how to cover my tracks if i were ever in such a position. (don’t let my obsession with trashy and sometimes not so trashy crime fiction fool you, i’ve picked up nothing.)
but i am guilty, terribly guilty, guilt ridden and suffering from it.
i don’t think you can classify it simply as “mom guilt” although i can pick several instances out of any given day where i find myself stewing over some thing or other that i did or didn’t do, that i feel i could have done differently or perhaps more of or even not at all.
i could have put more effort into breakfast. but, you see, we don’t have eggs and we’ve kind of gotten to the end of our current grocery cycle and there hasn’t been time this week to get more groceries because i’ve been “under the weather” and not up to a trip to the store. plain waffles and oranges are a pretty good, “healthy” breakfast, right? why am i even asking? because i feel guilty that i didn’t try harder, and that i didn’t have what she wanted readily available. what kind of mother am i? i didn’t give her marshmallows for breakfast, i’m not that kind of mother. but i’m also not perfect. guilt.
i could have been less upset with her behaviour at the library. she’s two, after all, and excited. i shouldn’t have given her a time out in front of other people, she was just expressing herself in her own unique way. but she was making a scene and it’s the library, and she’d already been told once not to run around and i was so embarrassed when she started to wail on our way out the door. to discipline or not to discipline? do i give her free reign or rule with an iron fist? guilt.
i should have written a blog or photographed a new recipe or tried to study and expand my mind or unpack more boxes or hung that shelf or paid the bills or organized my day or put time into my instagram strategy or engage with my dwindling online community or planned my social media posts for the next few weeks or sewed a pair of pants or knit a scarf, but i’ve been so tired and so overwhelmed with the simple daily tasks of keeping a house together that i just haven’t had the energy or motivation to sit down and do any of those little housekeeping chores that seem so daunting but are really nothing at all. guilt.
i should have given up personal pursuits when i had her, because she’s the center of my world now, and nothing else should matter but her. but how am i supposed to take care of myself when i don’t take time for myself? am i just supposed to sit with the resentment, am i just supposed to accept that “this is life now,” that i have to wait 18 years before i can start having a life of my own, because she’s my responsibility and i should be on top of this every second of every day? guilt.
in the shower this morning i decided that i refuse to accept that “this is life now,” although even while i’m sitting here, i’m consumed with guilt over the fact that it’s 12:30 am and i’m still awake because this is the only time today that everyone is off doing there own thing and we don’t have to worry about entertaining each other. i should be sleeping because i’m literally exhausted, i’m doing this with one eye open (and alternating them because they are both really hurty and tired) but i have to do it because all of a sudden i realized there is a discussion out there that i am missing out on because i am “too busy” to talk about it, or because i think it’s already been discussed by someone else and my voice won’t make a difference but then i thought, “damnit, you’re wrong.”
just because this selflessness has been the modus operandi of mother’s and women for centuries does not mean it should or has to contiue. have we not entered into a more enlightened age where we have realized the importance of the role of the “father” – and i do mean father, not babysitter – is as equal and valuable as that of mother? dare i say the role of the village?
it doesn’t have to be that wife and mother run the household, raise the children, bring home “bacon” and cook it and cater to her “man.” men, partners… are capable of working and cleaning and cooking and parenting. i’ve seen it. let’s hold them a little more accountable, eh? let’s expect more of them (a give and take if you will, a mutual decision that sometimes it will be 70:30 and sometimes 30:70 and a willingness to accept that no matter what way the pendulum swings we’re doing it together, which is always a win-win) and see what they can do.
granted, sometimes women micromanage the man’s (and by extension, the village’s) role, but this may be due in part to the (a) woman’s need to be in control. i believe in women, in our emotional intelligence, in our strength. we are the backbone of society, and yet we act so mild and meek (lest we be thought of as “the bitch”). and when we ask for what we need, we are “princesses.” or dramatic. okay, some of us take those stereotypes too far but in every instance you will find extremes. (aside: imagine if we, women, collectively decided that we weren’t going to scramble over each other for the affections of men or positions at work and that we would, collectively, work together instead of tearing each other down… we would literally be an unstoppable, powerful force and the world would be an incredible place.)
in general, women are amazing. but we are not allowed to complain about poor working conditions because in the past we have just “sucked it up” and “done with less” and we are always made to feel guilty because someone else was able to do it, so why can’t we?
i’ll tell you “why can’t we.” because we don’t. fucking. have. to. and if those women didn’t have to? i swear to god, they wouldn’t have. you know women have the right to vote because some other women stood up and said, fuck this noise. we’re not going to take this lying down, you men. we’re tired of being overlooked, tired of being ignored. you will hear us.
you want to wear what you want to wear and love who you want to love? i support you. as long as you are willing to do the same when i stand up and say, “i’m a mom and i don’t want to be made to feel guilty when i don’t clean the dishes one night or wash all the laundry or maybe let my child play unattended for 10 minutes while i take a f*cking break to drink a coffee or ‘zone out’ on my phone.” there are only so many times i can explain what “important” means to a two and a half year old.
d: “what are you doing?”
me: “folding laundry.”
d: “what’s laundry?”
me: “these clothes are called laundry.”
d: “what’s clothes?”
me: “these things in my hands are clothes. what you’re wearing? also clothes.”
d: “what are they for?”
me: “for wearing.”
d: “what’s wearing?”
me:… someone save me…
honestly, the more we talk about this, the more we understand, the more we normalize, the more we empathize, the more likely for some other mother to sit up, stand up, start typing or start talking about how tired and depressed and lonely and fucking GUILTY she feels.
i’d like to say here that the guilt i’m feeling is all in my head but you and i both know it isn’t. right now, the world is all about shaming everyone, and for all the wonderful things i know i do and think i do, there are strangers and loved ones who will be shaming me for not doing better, or for my not doing things how they would have done them.
i’m not always going to dance to society’s drum beat, i’m not going to ascribe to every school of thought or follow all the rules. i’m going to do what works for us and for her because it’s right and i have to stop feeling guilty about that. i don’t know if this will ever change in me, but maybe if i accept that i am prone to taking on blame i will be more likely to face it with a proper response (understanding) than taking it personally (i am the worst).
i’m not perfect. pobody’s nerfect. accepting that is the first step to relinquishing all that guilt, which is the first step to being better parents and better people, and isn’t that all we can really ask for?