Sunday, October 14, 2007

Guilty again

Here's another hypothetical contest I have not yet won. If someone followed all the mamas around with cameras all day, the one who makes it to the end of the day without feeling guilty (not me) gets the million dollars.

Let me tell you why it won't be me. Because when I wake up, I'm already feeling guilty. If I'd gotten up earlier, I could have exercised, made breakfast, caught up on my email, started the laundry, removed the squashed bug guts from the wall, and swept the crumbs from the kitchen floor before the ants found them.

But I didn't, and so now I must pay the price. Oh, yes, there are many possibilities for penance. I might skip the shower this morning. If I take one, I might make my husband late for work because someone has to make sure the children don't give each other bloody noses while I'm showering and the dishwasher doesn't do very well with that one. That reminds me, I have two loads of dishes stacked in the sink. Why didn't I do them last night? Oh, yes, that would be because I was so exhausted after waking up with the baby (who used to sleep through the night) every two hours that I fell asleep on the couch at about 8:30.

With guilt, you can't win. For example, I feel guilty that I asked my husband to help with the dishes because I know he's tired from not getting much sleep (He was up with the baby, too. He doesn't have boobs so baby goes to sleep easier for him. But that's another blog). And he had to be up on time to go to work. But if I don't ask him to help with the dishes, then baby will toddle over to the dishwasher because why play with expensive, educational toys when there are sharp knives so readily available in the kitchen? And then I'll have to rescue him from cutting open vital organs, stick him in his high chair where he'll cry his baby heart out his tear ducts because I have, yet again, cruelly removed myself to a place more than six inches away. And then I'll feel guilty that the high chair is his baby-sitter, making me a neglectful mama for introducing "substitutes for adult interaction" (Note: This quotation comes from one of those pediatrician information sheets that recommends children don't watch television. It, like many other mama-censuring phrases, stuck itself into my brain and refused to leave. I will say, in protest, that sometimes the television is preferable to the adult hand interacting with their non-adult bottoms.) .

I'm not sure why we mamas feel so much guilt. But, of course, I have a few theories. One reason is all the pressure from child-care "experts" who stick their nose into their books and watch rugrats from behind two-way mirrors and think they are more knowledgeable than me about how to raise my children. The information and advice I can't avoid gets to me, but what's worse is the dire warnings they give out--as if we are children ourselves. If we don't provide enough activities (or too many activities) our children will turn into brainless balls of mush because their tender personalities are already formed before they're three months old. So, the implication is, you better not screw up or else your children will Not Be Well-Adjusted Adults and it will be All Your Fault.
Some of the "experts" should really be our closest allies--the other moms. We ask about each other's children and each other's choices in a friendly way, but sometimes there's a little malice underneath it. I don't think we judge each other out of spite. I think we're all terribly insecure because we don't want to admit that we really have no idea what we're doing.

We all need a little reassurance. But we don't have to compare ourselves (or even listen to anyone else's opinion) to get it. I think we ought to make a practice of telling one another that we're doing a good job on a regular basis. Feeling guilty has gotten a little old. So I'll start.
You go, mamas! Let me know when you win your hypothetical million.

1 comment:

Sara & Company said...

You are so creative with your thoughts. I end each night with a list of regrets and start each morning with an effort to do better, but I think the constant nagging and needing of children run you ragged by the end of the day....or 10:00 am some days...and you just do what you have to do to survive. And if Super Why gives you 30 minutes, then so be it.