Where does all the guilt come from? Everyone seems to have tremendous guilt all the time. Well, actually, that's probably not true. I don't think men have even close to the guilt women put on themselves. More specifically, moms. Men, fathers, they don't seem to stop and think about whether they should do this or that. They just do or don't do and it's not a thing. Moms are second guessing every little move as if they're being audited as a parent by the IRS. I try to write as little about parenting as possible for a few reasons. There are enough mommy bloggers. I don't think anyone really cares about other people's opinions on parenting. I've just read too many instances of guilt driven posting and it's driving me mad. Mad, I say.
In just the past few days, I've seen the following on message boards or Facebook groups I'm in. Someone asked what people do with their kids while they're getting ready in the morning. Her kid watches tv for like forty-five minutes or an hour. She wonders if there is a better use of her kid's time. GUILT.
Another one wanted to know about play date reciprocation. A mom friend does elaborate themed play dates for four year old girls, and she can't do the same. Or doesn't want to. GUILT! Then, there's one who runs. For mental and physical health. She works full time and wants forty-five minutes a few times a week to run. Her husband gives her a hard time about it, pretty much every single time she leaves the house. She wanted to know if she's selfish for feeling the need to run.
Dude. You should be running. Anywhere, but back home.
|Me sitting next to an open flame. Rita: Guilt-free, circa 1975|
Trust me, it's not that I put Rita up as the paragon of healthy parenting. But as kids, we just did. No one's mom was arranging play dates. We picked up the receiver to our Princess phone or we walked or rode bikes over to someone's house and just asked if they could play. And then we would take off. Maybe some of the time would be spent riding around the neighborhood. Some would be spent at one house, and then maybe a switch to the other. There was no tit for tat or reciprocation issues. There was always someone's home that was more of the "home base". Where everyone tended to hang out more. No one kept score though. No one's mom came with them extending a fruit or crudite platter.
Parental planning of our time with our friends was non-existent. I'm just trying to imagine Rita planning out a dress-up play date and I can't even conjure up an image. I doubt she even knew who was in our house half the time. I would just introduce a kid she'd never seen, she'd say hi, and then return to whatever she was doing. Or watching- Ryan's Hope, Days of Our Lives, Another World, General Hospital...
I remember once, it had to be like first grade, and I told Marissa P. to walk home (WHAT?! Walk?! Call DYFS! is what we'd hear now) with me and we'd just call her mom later to tell her where she was. FIRST GRADE. My point is- our parents didn't manage our time. They didn't even think about it. There wasn't this formality, itinerary, or parental etiquette to playing. By extension, no guilt. I would go around the corner to Sara's and play Barbies until we got sick of each other. I don't remember even seeing parents that often. Our parents didn't entertain us and they didn't feel anything about it.
I guess people would say it's because of working. A lot of moms are working now and many of our moms didn't work. That excuse doesn't fly for me. I work outside the house. I love, love, love what I do. There are plenty of us out there. For most moms I see on message boards though, that work outside the house, they work because they have to add to their household income. Not just because they're doing something they have a passion for. This is where the saying "it is what it is" makes sense. You have to work. End of story. Your kids have to adapt to that and they WILL. Whatever you do- work or stay home- that is your kids version of normal. There is no use for guilt. It's just life. It's your way of life. If you can't be there for every little event or milestone, you'll all get through it.
In this world of everyone gets a trophy, instead of guilt, you should be happy to send some adversity your kid's way. They certainly aren't getting any adversity organically. All of us adults got our coping skills and/or street smarts and even some of our humor, from whatever it is what it is situations we grew up with as our normal. Remember- when your kids are in therapy in twenty years, it will be about the stuff you're sure you did right, versus what you think you did wrong.
Like with the tv- if having your kid watch tv for an hour while you get ready allows you to get ready, then why do you have guilt? Why do you need validation that it's okay to do? Does it work for you? Then it's fine. It is what it is. No one is Supermom. Although, having the confidence that you are could really benefit those that question every little decision. Have your hills to die on, and the rest you let go. Any scenario you post for other moms is going to earn you judgement from at least one or two other ones. THAT YOU DON'T KNOW. Realistically- why would you care what they think anyway?
The other night in a FB group, a mom asked: "Does anyone ever take their sitter on vacation with them and what and how do you pay them?". The first, FIRST, response was: "Never on a family vacation because they're not needed". Well thank you very much, biotch. THAT'S NOT WHAT SHE ASKED. Then the original poster clarified that she's helping her elderly mother clean out her home and needs someone capable to watch and entertain her toddler while she helps her mom. THAT, then made it "okay" in Mrs Judgy McJudgerson's eyes.
Now, I would say that I suppose that's where the guilt comes from- other people's judgements. No, no. It comes from YOU. You have to allow a stranger's voice to get in your head. It's on you to take ownership of your choices. We all make choices- some good and some not-so-much. But they're ours. Once they're made, that's it. Most of the time you can't turn back time or change your choice, so the guilt is worthless. Most of the time, these are not life shattering decisions either. Letting your kid watch tv for an hour or not wanting to play Julie, the cruise director to your child's princess play date is not a cause for guilt. Leave your child at the store by mistake- ok. Take some guilt. Give your child fetal alcohol syndrome - sure, grab that guilt. Your daily, run of the mill, parenting decisions? No. Guilt should get the goodbye kick in the ass.
Obviously, not all the seventies and eighties parenting choices need to make a replay. We're better off with seat belts and car seats. I haven't seen a kid eat Wonder white, bologna & Miracle Whip for lunch in years. I'm sure we're all better for that too. But our parents did that stuff and it didn't even occur to them to feel guilty about any of it. From expecting us to make our own breakfast (cereal) in the morning while they sleep, to kicking us out to play until dark, there was no guilt. Parents expected us to revolve around them, not the other way around.
How did we get to the point where we, as parents, bend over backwards for our kids, yet there is still this enormous amount of guilt for never being good enough? Not doing enough. Not making things grander, bigger, more awesome. Buying more, giving more. Entertaining more. It's CUCKOO. It's. Bunk.
Stop comparing yourself to the next mom over. She may write child theater for play dates but maybe her kids eat Cheese Doodles and drink Capri Sun for dinner. She may have the kids over her house more, but maybe because she can't bear to cut the cord even for a play date. Maybe her kid annoys the living snot out of her and your kid provides a distraction for a few hours. Maybe she just likes to be around other people's children. Maybe she has a better house for play dates where children don't need to be seen or heard. Maybe she just thinks you look like you could use the down time. Maybe you've just done such a great job in child rearing that you have an exceptionally polite & easy child to have over. In that case- don't feel guilty- just buy her some cupcakes as a thank you one day when you're running errands. And your kid is at her house. Again.
I will never craft anything, put gold coins in the toilet for St.Patrick's Day, nor do I want to be up in the school volunteering for...anything. More power to the ones who do it and love it. I do make my son perfect, PERFECT, peanut butter & jelly sandwiches, I teach him 80's, 90's & today pop culture, and I shuttle him around all week to his nine thousand activities like I have a CDL license. Amongst all the other, regular stuff I do as a mom. Do I do the same as another mom? I have no flippin' idea. Because I don't care. I'm doing more than just drinking a Tab, smoking cigarettes & telling him to drink water from the garden hose, that's for damn sure.
As far as I'm concerned, we're all mothers of the year these days just by getting more than that done. Next time you feel that guilt creeping over you for not being everything to your kid, just ask yourself what your mom would've done. I guarantee, most of you, will feel infinitely better.
PS- I stole this photo from the internet. I don't feel guilty. But I left their website on the bottom anyway. Kid Accupuncture sounds like a good idea.