A Mummy-friend of mine said recently that she now knows how to spell motherhood - G-U-I-L-T-T-R-I-P.
Ouch? But so true...I want her to know that she's not alone...we all feel the same way... am I doing the best? The question really should be - am I doing MY best...
I'm a working Mum, I work full-time - sometimes from home, but it's still full-time. I love my (new) job and sometimes I feel guilty for that. This is just ONE of the MANY things that I feel guilty about, but as a slightly less new Mum, who is sloooowly getting the hang of it, I realise that I am going to feel guilty about EVERYTHING. It appears to be part of the job description and I've quickly made peace with the guilt thing. Its not that I don't feel guilty anymore, it's just that I get over it more quickly now.
When I was a brand new Mum - I'm talking about the first nine months - I was a full-time, coffee-drinking, play-date going, stay-home kind of Mum. And you know what, I loved that. I loved the baby gym, yoga, massage, rhythm and rhyme sessions, I loved it all. The walks in the park, the ONE trip on the bus, just to see if I could roll with the serious Mums (I can't!)...But in honesty, a part of me wanted to work ... at that point of course, I felt guilty , I felt guilty for even thinking about it! Now, I'm at work and sometimes I feel guilty about being back at work! It's actually ridiculous.
It appears you can't win. The phrase 'you're damned if you do and you're damned if you don't' pretty much sums up
G-U-I-L-T-T-R-I-P oops I mean motherhood for me....
The simple fact is that a lot of the time, there is no right or wrong answer. Sure there are books filled with 'the right answers', but I don't read them! I don't really like the idea of being 'told' what to do - I'm a taurean and can be incredibly stubborn sometimes. There is only one series of parenting books that I find even remotely sensible and that's the 'what to expect' range by Heidi Murkoff. Controversial I know, but I was given the 'what to expect in the first year' book, as a baby shower gift and loved it so much that when dd ('dear daughter' - for the uninitated) turned one - I rushed out and bought the toddler version! I think this book is fantastic and will be buying copies for all my friends when they start popping!
I digress - in my two-year experience, I've realised that this is a full-time job, regardless of whatever paid employment you do alongside motherhood. It's a life-time contract, but I'm assured that whilst the first 10 years are 24/7/365, and the first 18 years are full-time, you have the option to go part-time or even do flexi-time once they reach 18! I figured that in 18+ years, I'm bound to make a mistake... so I decided to just let go of my mistakes, learn from them and get on with it... I'm only human after all - I'm not perfect by any means - and perfection is boring anyway!
I often reminisce about my experience with my own Mother and think about the way she approached
G-U-I-L-T-T-R-I-P motherhood, and realise now, that she just parented us based on what she felt was best at that split second in time. Largely, she left the rest to God. My Mum is such a wise woman! She was also smart enough to know that she couldn't map out or predetermine everything - she also just had to wing it. I think that's what most Mums do - wing it - day after day.
My message to Mums is - when you feel that ache of guilt (which you will), try these questions:
- is this safe?
- is baby/toddler/child happy? (If not, will they get over it as soon as you leave the room?)
- am I comfortable with this?
- is it likely to cause irreversible damage?!
I look for the answers yes, yes, yes and no (for the last one).... then I just do it. Like I said, until we get magic-8 balls with our post-natal packs,we can only do what we feel is best at the time and wing it.
So, your child is eating a chocolate bar in the vegetable aisle in TESCO! Big deal?! Perhaps this is a crucial part of your plan to get the shopping done in 30 minutes after work, so that you don't get stuck in traffic and so that you can make it home in time to welcome Daddy with a freshly cooked meal, full of meat and two veg! Should you feel guilty for that? Do you think it's better to withhold the chocolate bar, force the child to eat yet another yoghurt covered raison (or worse, teach them 'not to snack!'), deal with the tantrum, take 1 hour to do the shopping, come home to a hungry and grumpy husband, with a teary eyed toddler, with no food ready for any of them... I think not...
I guess all I'm saying - is go easy on ourselves (and each other) - there is no reason to be perfect and certainly no reason to feel guilty over not being perfect! Remember, perfection is over-rated anyway, trust me!
Sometimes when guests come, I don't cook - I order in! Sometimes I ask my daughter to eat a packet of crisps and watch nonsensical TV...sometimes I even let her whinge for a few minutes so that I can take a shower/cook her lunch etc...
Mums - I haved vowed to myself NOT to strive for perfection - it takes up way too much energy! and you know what, I'm SO much happier this way...
Have a great weekend!