Guilt. It’s a funny little thing guilt. It can arrive from nowhere, creep up on you spontaneously. It can make you cry, make you act irrationally and erratically. It can hold you back…but mostly, it can hurt.
Since becoming a Mother, I’ve experienced more guilt than my poor little mind can manage. In fact, I think if you asked me to summarise motherhood in one phrase, I’d say ‘one long guilt trip’.
Sometimes the guilt is warranted, sometimes it’s just symbolic of how much I care. Either way, I think it’s time I turned my back on guilt and told it to kiss my newly svelte yet still flabby backside.
So, what do we women have to feel guilty about? I’ll fill you in…
I recently returned to work after 10 months Maternity leave. Part of me yearned to regain some ‘normality’ to everyday life, another side of me shuddered with the thought of giving up my babies. The whole matter made me ooze with guilt. It attacked me from two angles. Firstly, I felt guilty that I’d no longer be my children’s main carer. Returning to work has rendered me a part time parent. I spend, on average, 3 hours a day with my children while they’re awake. An hour of that is spent travelling. Sometimes, the guilt eats away at me so badly that I spend journeys to work sobbing. I watch as my husband loads them into the car and my eyes mechanically fill with ‘gilt rain’. It hurts, I’m meant to be there for them every waking hour. I’m meant to pick up the pieces when knees are scuffed, mend their hearts when tantrums take over and share their joy, their passions, their daydreams and play. Instead, I’m at work.
Then I start to feel guilty again. This time, I feel it because I WANT to work. I love my job, I love my career. I’ve worked hard to get where I am and I don’t want to give it up. I appreciate my independence – it’s not about the money but the empowerment.
I also love the ‘adult’ company. Work gives me the escapism I craved for so long. It’s time for me. Sometimes (when I’m not sobbing through guilt), I drive to work in complete and utter silence. I spend time listening to my thoughts. I plan for our futures. I reminisce about what life was like before.
Then I start to feel guilty again. I wouldn’t swap my new life or role for anything but every now and again, I want to just be ‘me’ again. I used to be the actual party, now I rock Friday nights with a towel on my head and a cup of weak tea in my hand. I’d love to chuck my best wear on and head out amongst the scene. Let my hair down, sip cocktails and dance like a tit whilst trying to impress no one. I feel guilty because I should want to stay at home and play the doting Mother. I also feel guilty because 90% of me really enjoys staying at home playing the doting mother.
This makes me a bad friend. I dodge text messages, bail at the last minute, make plans and never commit to them. I have every intention of sticking to them but something always gets in the way. The last few social events on my calendar were recently abandoned at the result of my daughter landing herself in hospital. It often feels as though every time I make plans, she senses and takes action to keep me home. I feel guilty because I ever dared dream of having a night off.
I’m trapped in a vicious circle.
Well that’s just the start of it. Guilt raises its ugly head several times a day, mostly mundanely.
Today, It started when my son stole my toast this morning. The toast that was sporting the last of the butter. I wanted it so badly but like the ‘good mam’ I pretend to be, I handed it over to him. I felt guilty because there was that split second where I could have shoved it in my mouth and said ‘no, you’ve got porridge’.
I felt guilty when he started screaming hysterically and I didn’t know how to calm him. I should have known what to do and I didn’t. I’d failed him. I felt instantly shit. Then, I started laughing (don’t deny it, you’ve been there too). Of course, I felt guilty because my son was crying and I was laughing at him. I swore I wouldn’t do it again, I promised (I will, we all will).
Now that’s just the guilt I inflict on myself, I haven’t even started on that imposed on us by the Media.
I feel guilty that a year on, I’m still carrying an extra stone of baby weight. I feel guilty that I never quite believed that breast was best. I feel guilty that I formula fed, I feel guilty that I breast fed in public. I still, to this day, won’t admit to a health care professional that Ella’s Kitchen pouches were my saviour. I feel guilty because I don’t have time to invent scrumptious puréed mush. I feel guilty because I bribe my children with ice cream, Pombears and biscuits. I feel guilty because there’s always one thing I forget to pack (don’t let it be the nappy). I feel guilty because I don’t wear make up or high heels when slogging through farms. I feel guilty because I rely on ‘In The Night Garden’ or any CBeebies shite whilst I pull myself round on a morning.
Wow, I didn’t actually realise the extend of my guilt until I started droning on about it.
I feel guilty because I’m a Mam. I feel guilty because I AM a good one, not just pretending after all. So, to all the Mams out there feeling the same as me, let’s stick our middle fingers up at Guilt and tell it to ‘do one’.
Oh, and to all those expecting first time Mams, get ready to board the guilt train. Destination – the best place you’ll ever go…but the journey is one long tedious guilt trip.