Thursday, October 28, 2010

Guilty By Association

Over the past couple of days, I read two very interesting blog posts from two ladies that I have a great deal of respect for. The first was called "Losing My Community" by Liz at Mom 101 and the second was "Judgement Day" by the Stay At Home Babe.  After reading the posts, thoughts started to percolate in my head. I couldn't stop thinking about what had been said (and what had been echoed by the many readers' comments). The thing is, even though these posts were written from polar opposite perspectives (Liz is a working mom and the SAHB is well, a SAHB), the underlying sentiment is THE SAME:

The Mommy Wars may be over, but Mommy Guilt is alive and kicking. And punching. And delivering underhanded low-blows when you least expect it.

I hope that Liz and SAHB won't mind me quoting them here, but here are the two passages that really stuck with me:

From Mom 101:
"I take her to early drop-off, and I've yet to pick her up. I don't know the parents. I wouldn't recognize her classmates on the street. At night she tells me about her day, describing children I have never heard before. I feel oddly, uncomfortably detached from her world in a way that I couldn't have imagined.

It seems unfair somehow that she even has a world without me at all. She's three."
And from Stay At Home Babe:
"My Husband: She’s thirteen. She probably wants to be an astronaut.

Me: Yeah, right, ’cause that’s what people want to be when they’re kids, right? But you know what no one wants to be when they’re a kid? Let’s start a list. A prostitute, a shit shoveler, an envelope stuffer, a monkey-zit-popper, a housewife… Yeah, that’s an awesome list to be on."
The fact that Liz and SAHB posted back-to-back just reinforces the fact  that Mommy Guilt is a huuuuuge issue for mothers everywhere. And as SAHB wrote in response to my comment: "Mommy-guilt... there should be a diagnosis and treatment for it in some psychological handbook."

Word UP, sistah.

Reading these posts was like experiencing a one-two punch to my slightly-more-than-flabby mommy gut, two days in a row. It hurt. It hurt because I've been there. And you know what? I'm still there. And every mother I know is right there with me - whether we work full-time or part-time or stay at home or do something else entirely. Mommy Guilt is always our silent companion, always whispering that we're not doing enough, that we're not working enough, that we're not playing with the kids enough (Which is what happened to me yesterday when I tried to finish this post. The irony was certainly not lost on me.). We all constantly feel the same sense of guilt and regret when it comes to our choices regarding our children. Why are we like this? And why do we keep doing this to ourselves?

I don't know if it's the product of our society, or culture, or a bass-ackward system, that makes some mothers feel as though they aren't valued for the spit-up cleaning and bum-wiping and SO MUCH MORE that they do on a daily basis. But I also think that Mommy Guilt functions against working mothers as well, making them feel as if they operate somewhere on the periphery of their children's lives instead of truly connecting with them. Neither view (in my opinion) is true, but what I do believe is is true is that we, as mothers, are always the ones who have the hardest time coming to grips with our choices.

And in the end, it's almost as though any choice we make is the one that hurts us the most.

People have told me that the path to erasing Mommy Guilt involves finding balance. But that's always such an elusive concept, isn't it? As are concepts such as Not Comparing Yourself To Other Mothers and Knowing Your Limitations. What do those mantras even mean? Because every time I hear them I just feel guiltier for doing them in the first place (said the mom who stayed up late and ignored her husband all evening to make Halloween costumes - talk about not knowing my limitations).

Sometimes absolving Mommy Guilt seems so futile. And if there was a way to embrace it and just move on with my life I would be the first one to buy into the package with an ocean side view of cute cabana boys frolicking in the sun (I hope my mom doesn't read that last part. Guiltguiltguilt.). But alas, it's not meant to be. I think fighting The Guilt is a never-ending internal struggle. It's not a battle amongst mothers (and shame on those of us that engage in such nastiness!), it's about US coming to terms with OUR choices.

So while we may not be able to completely smother The Guilt, we can sure as hell try to soothe it's burn by knowing that we're all in this together.  We all feel this way - each and every day there is a mother somewhere who feels The Guilt. She might be your neighbor, she might be your co-worker, she might be you. You, my fellow companion, are not alone. I feel the burden of your struggle. I too feel your pain.

And when The Guilt gets too hard to bear, when I feel like it's soul-crushing and that I just can't do anything right for my children or for my family or for myself I try to remember one thing:

Mommy Guilt means that I care.

Tell me about the situations in which you feel The Guilt, and the things you do to help yourself get through it. Comment below, on Twitter, or on my Facebook page. I'd love to hear what you have to say.
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