So you’ve just had a baby. Congratulations! No doubt it’s already been quite a trying time. Those first few weeks will basically seem like a giant blur. Like you’re swimming under water, or in a constant fog. But I can assure you that the fog will lift and you will start feeling a range of emotions again. You’ll start to feel like yourself again. Normal again. It’s so relieving, finally settling into a routine and getting into the swing of things. And that, my friends, is when the mummy guilt will start to set in. And I’m afraid this feeling is now going to be with you FOR THE REST OF YOUR LIFE. Every decision you make, you question whether this is the best thing for you child. Do I read to them too much or not enough? Am I letting them watch too much TV? Am I paying them enough attention? Am I spoiling them and giving them too much of my time? Should I let them do things more for themselves? Do I give them too much freedom? Am I being too rigid? Am I letting them be a child enough? Am I enforcing gender stereotypes on them? The list is endless. And inevitably, every time you answer your own questions you will still believe you are WRONG WRONG WRONG!
I lay awake in bed at night, thinking about the day and how I interacted with my son, wondering what type of person he’s going to be when he grows up. And generally I only ever think of worse case scenarios. “He’s going to grow up into an over privileged, entitled, misogynist who believes the world owes him everything, that women are objects to be controlled, and he’ll blame all his insecurities and short comings on me and will hate me for ever!” As you can see, overthought and ridiculous over the top fears.
After you’ve finished feeling guilty about how you raise you child, you suddenly realise the guilt doesn’t stop there. It starts to creep into every day life. You can’t just go out and visit with your friends and family alone anymore, as suddenly there’s this overwhelming desire to bring your child with you because you know your friends and loved ones have this expectation to “see the baby”. That when you go out alone, you can sense their disappointment that you didn’t bring your child with you. “Where’s Stormy today?” “Oh I decided to leave him at home with his dad, I really needed a break”. You can hear the disappointment in their voices, “Oh, that’s alright, it just would have been really nice to see him…” So the next time you decide to bring him along, and then he can’t sit still, or leave the table cutlery alone, and cry the whole time, and basically just bug everyone around him. So now you feel guilty that he’s making a scene and ruining everyone’s peaceful morning.
You feel guilty because you talk about him non stop in conversations with everyone you know. You feel guilty because you have nothing to add to said conversations except things like “Oh so I know we’re talking about the state of the budget, but it reminded me of this totally adorable thing that Stormaggedon did this morning…” You feel guilty because you want to brag about how wonderful and happy your child is, but feel you can’t because you have friends who are struggling with their own children’s behavioural issues. You want to boast how your child is FINALLY sleeping through the night, or self feeding, or wearing shoes now, or toilet training, but again feel guilty because some of friends’ kids of the same age or older are still struggling to master these things. You feel guilty for your child’s mere existence because you have friends who are struggling to conceive and you remember just how awful it felt when it seemed like the entire world was falling pregnant and you were failing to do so. You feel guilty for returning to work, because apparently you can’t afford to pay your mortgage and keep up with the general cost of living even though your expenses are actually relatively low in comparison to the average home owner, and you simply can’t work out how ANYONE can only live off only one wage (I mean seriously, WTF). You feel guilty because you really need that moment to yourself so you sneak some time before doing the grocery shopping to sit in a cafe with a coffee and piece of cake you technically can’t afford, and then worry you should have spent that money on something more worthwhile like the groceries, clothes for your child or a credit card bill. You feel guilty for not cleaning the house enough, but then feel guilty that you’re spending time you know you should be spending with your child in order to clean it.
You feel guilty because you pour every ounce of love inside you into this child and you still feel it’s not enough. And you feel guilty because there’s nothing left for anyone else.
By now the guilt is just so oppressive it’s weighing you down to the point you might collapse in a gibbering heap underneath it all. So here’s what you do. Find a mirror. Look at yourself in it. Really look at yourself. Deep into your own eyes, and repeat after me: “I am a good parent. I am doing the best I can. My child will turn out fine. I don’t need to feel guilty. People will always judge, and they have that right. But remember you don’t have to feed into those judgements. You don’t need to let them affect you. They do not matter. All that matters is that you know you are doing a good job. That’s all that matters.”
And after you have repeated this mantra over a few times, remember that it’s ok to save some of your love for others. Love is important, and vital to share. And when our children see us share our love with the world, they in turn will want to share theirs.
Now if you excuse me, I’d better go spend some time with my husband. I feel pretty guilty for neglecting him lately…