Thursday, 21 March 2013

Guilt

There's an emotion that assails you when your child draws its first breath and that emotion remains steadfast for as long as you draw your own. The feeling powers you through those hectic months of bonding, through the first wrench of schooldays and through the turmoil of teens. It requires of you sacrifices that your childless self would have quailed at and conjures spectres that appal you in the night hours. This feeling is inevitable, indestructible and all-consuming. It's called guilt.

There is no remedy, although you'll convince yourself that every other parent has found one. When you feed your kids sausages, you know that every other mother is serving organic ragout. When you terrorise them for tardiness on school days, you know that every other mother is cheerfully diffusing tension with a sing-along.

Other mothers never shout at their children, never feed them cheese strings, never leave their bed sheets on for five weeks and never harry them from the house so they can read Twitter or send them to school with a temperature so they can catch up on the garden. Other mothers listen raptly to their rambling tales from the school playground and never ever find their children boring.

Guilt at the hours your brood spend on their iPods prompts you to enrol them in drama and t'ai chi. Then, guiltily, you fear you're controlling. If they spurn their spinach and litter their rooms you feel guilt that you've spoiled them. When you demand instant digestion and a spring-clean you feel guilt that you're a nag. Should a teacher declare them talented, you beat yourself up for not having harried them through Homer. If the report shows room for improvement you blame yourself for those years of Enid Blyton.

At night when, well-fed, well-soaped and well read-to, they sleep on their soft-plumped pillows, their follies fade from memory and you recall only your own voice hectoring. And when, infrequently, they tell you you're the best mum in the world, the guilt is worst of all. Because you know that, however hard you strive, you'll never feel you deserve them.

What makes you feel guilty?


Nominations are now open for the Brilliance in Blogging Awards 2013. If you relish the thrill of voting, but are stumped for enough candidates, feel free to use my URL in one of the categories! Should I be shortlisted my 10-year-old will give anyone who voted for me a makeover.


25 comments:

  1. I was asked to describe what parenting was the other day and I said '90% guilt and 10% pleasure' Great post, as always!

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    1. Splendid answer! And there's me taking a whole page to say the same thing!

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  2. What makes me feel guilty? Bloody well everything. The only thing that stops me going mad is the thought that, throughout the land, behind closed doors, no parent is perfect and the majority are just as crap as us. Brilliant!

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    1. How come I only meet the perfect ones with snow white kitchens and homemade puff pastry.

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  3. Fabulous post - now I feel really, really guilty! What's wrong with cheese strings? You see - tight there - the pangs of guilt. But what makes me feel most guilt - time spent on my PC and reading blogs at teatime - which is what I'm doing now - Oh God, I feel guilty.

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    1. Oh me too! Cybertime is the guiltiest of guilts. Apart from when I put a two-day old sandwich in my 10yo's lunch box yesterday...

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  4. Today I made middle child cry not just once but twice. Okay the first time, was because she read a blog post of mine and knew immediately is was about her, thus tears. The second, okay, happy tears, hubby and I sent her a surprise package from the Easter Bunny (yes she's 20) but she can't come home for Easter this year.

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    1. My goodness, I dread the day mine discover my posts. Feel guilty just thinking about it!

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  5. I love this post. Really love. Shirley Conran said we had to get over the guilt. I'm still trying.

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    1. Why thank you! I would probably feel guilty if I managed to shed my motherly guilt.

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  6. And here I am thinking it's just me, everybody else seems to know what they're doing and how they should do it!!

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  7. I have blogged about this before, and concluded that "guilt" is the wrong word. I think "inadequacy" is a better one.

    I am trying really hard to drop it, and this is why. Because we model parenthood for our children. So if we feel guilt (or inadequacy) all the time, then that is what they will feel when they are parents. I don't want mine burdened with that. So now, I try and live with more of a deliberate awareness of all the ways I'm a great mother. (But of course I lapse quite a lot... because I'm so inadequate...)

    I think it's a form of neediness on our part. This generation of children have had more time/attention/thought/material goods than any other in history. Centuries of children have more or less brought themselves up, with the parent as a guiding hand. We are the parents who've chosen to run around like double-headed chickens, from activity to activity, reading book after book, talking endlessly to other parents. Why are we doing this? Why are we so needy?

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    1. Yes, but it's my inadequacy I feel guilty about. Your point is a fair one, but in truth my kids would be astounded to hear I feel guilt for it is so well disguised by my maternal indolence. Lazy parenting is still my guiding principle.

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  8. Hmmm. The following make me feel guilty. Going to work 4 days a week & not being there for the children. Being at home 1 day a week & not being there for my colleagues. Drinking too much wine, sneaking the occasional crafty fag. Fancying David Tennant.

    Oh sod it. Life is too short & precious to worry.
    (anon rach)

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    1. The solution is to feel guilty as Nature intended, but not to worry about it!

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    2. And fancying David Tennant is just normal.

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  9. Oh gosh, yes. I had no idea how much guilt would be involved. I feel like everyone else's child is having a more interesting time than mine is, always. I don't think there is a cure, really. Just like being back at school - Must Try Harder.

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    1. Your son definitely seems to have a more interesting time than mine from what I read on your blog!

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  10. With 2 under 2 I have yet to go through many of those situations, but I do feel guilty that wifey and I celebrate at the weekend if we manage to get both of them to nap at the same time so that we can have a coffee in peace.

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    1. That is something you should definitely not feel guilty about!

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  12. It's very true. Guilt comes with being a mum doesn't it, and it's one of those emotions we'll never lose, no matter how hard we try!

    CJ x

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    1. It's probably Nature's way of ensuring we keep our eye on the ball.

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  13. This week, it being Easter, I secretly chomped my way through my 3 year old's 'Minnie Mouse' Easter Egg. I often consider dobbing myself in to the emergency duty officer at social services ...




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