Thursday, May 7, 2009


: feelings of culpability especially for imagined offenses or from a sense of inadequacy : self-reproach

Motherhood brings many things - joy beyond what you can imagine before experiencing it, a sense of urgency to do the best job possible of parenting your children, a new way of looking at the world, and, for almost every mother I know, guilt. Lots of guilt, over little and big things. Over actual offenses and imagined ones.

I read two things today that created an interesting juxtaposition on parenting. A friend posted on her job as a stay-at-home mom and I read Anna Quindlen's piece from a few weeks ago. I had different reactions to each one.

Quindlen's article affirmed me. It reminded me that I am not the only mother who fails her children, even though I try desperately not to do so. It also reminded me that I have many advantages poorer mothers might not have - I can call friends who are mothers, I have time to talk in the school yard at pick-up time because I don't work full-time, I can afford to have some time for myself when I am not working and not actively parenting. All of these things help me be a little bit better as a mother than I might otherwise be.

But it does NOT come natural to me. Parenting is hard work for me and of all the jobs I've had in my life, it's the one where I fail the most regularly. It's humbling beyond belief... and sometimes terribly discouraging.

So, a few years ago, a post like my friend's would have induced waves of guilt. Because I did miss my job. I felt adrift and I never really loved staying at home full-time with my children, even though it was necessary for our family for a while. I don't know how we would have retained our sanity as a family with J working 70 hour weeks if I hadn't been a full time caregiver. But it was a very hard season for me. Thankfully, I have matured as a mom and an individual and I don't feel guilt about this any more. I believe I was given a certain set of gifts and if work allows me to use the gifts I have, that is cause for celebration, not guilt over the gifts that aren't in my package.

I don't want to give the impression that I don't love my daughters. I do love them very much and I love being with them. But being a mother is hard work for me and, like Anna Quindlen, I think we shouldn't pretend it's easy - at least for those of us who do have to work at it. I think if more of us would be honest about parenting's pitfalls, challenges and flat-out failures, there would be a lot less guilt to go around.

1 comment:

Chocolate, Vanilla and Caramel said...

Honestly, I think that so many more moms feel that way than they would ever freely share. I didn't at all feel like a "natural" mom. I didn't even want kids at all for many years when I was single. Even now, it's hard for me. Sometimes I long to just be by myself and have some peace and quiet, to be able to think without getting interrupted by dirty diapers, incessant chatter and other duties. My husband and I recently had a conversation where I said it would sure be nice to go to work like he does -- to drive in a QUIET car, so go the gym and work out, to get ready without any interruptions, etc. He said he would love to stay home with the kids and interact with them throughout the day, not just for an hour before they go to bed. :) I guess the grass is always greener on the other side of the fence!