I originally wrote this essay for a project that was cancelled, and I didn’t want to just file it away – so here you go!
This is supposed to be a more guilt-free way of parenting… counting to three before giving a time out. No yelling. No arguing. He knows what happens at three, and he has until three to calm down. The rules are simple.
And, today, all of this is over something as simple as getting dressed in the morning. That’s our latest problem. In fact, recently I brought my son to daycare wearing only a ski hat, tee shirt, and underwear on school picture day, because he refused to put on clothes. It was the most guilt-free way to go, except of course, until I arrived at school and he STILL refused to wear clothes. The other moms looked at me kind of funny and the pictures were never taken. So, now I have school pictures of one kid, but not the other…
“…two and a half… Two and three-quarters….”
“Come on honey, if mommy says three, you are getting a time out. You don’t want a time out, do you? You understand, right?
Okay, I’ll start again…. One, two.”
No one told me about the type of guilt I’d experience when I became a mom, or how long it would take me to realize how there’s almost nothing I can do to avoid the guilt. Do you know how many kinds of mom guilt exist in the world? It starts from the day you get pregnant, and goes away … hmmm, maybe it never goes away.
While I’ve experienced just about every kind of mom guilt imaginable, these are my personal favorites. Some of these guilt trips are self-inflicted, but others involve in-laws, random strangers, co-workers, and spouses.
“Did you realize you are pregnant?” guilt
Everyone else in the world is a bigger expert at your pregnancy than you are. Didn’t you know that? You are bigger than a whale, can’t tie your own shoes, and decide to maybe, just maybe treat yourself to some polished nails. Then your male co-worker says to you “You paint your nails while pregnant? I never let my wife wear nail polish when pregnant”.
Great, I’ve hurt my unborn fetus with nail polish…
“Stop stressing, you’re stressing out your baby” guilt
You are trying to breastfeed, because of course we all know that’s best for baby. Your baby, because she’s premature, is having a hard time with the sucking reflex. So you stress out. To which the “helpful” maternity nurse says, “Stop stressing out, you are stressing out your baby”. Which, by the way, causes more stress…
“The baby products you bought are now dangerous” guilt
You can’t win. You do every bit of research possible on every imaginable baby product out there. Then, after your baby is about a year old, you find out the baby bottles you’ve been using for the past year – the bottles that are so incredibly highly rated, and expensive to boot, are filled with BPA, which you’ve now heard may be bad. Too bad that you had to go back to work, or you wouldn’t have had to use bottles at all. Yep, it’s all your fault mom.
“Your kid is the first one at daycare” guilt
You are standing at the door, right when daycare opens at 7am. Of course, you aren’t the only mom – there are one or two others with full-time jobs and a long commute into the city who are also there when the door opens. The teachers are still drinking their morning coffee when you hand them your child’s breakfast (because who has time to get yourself and the baby ready, and feed her breakfast) and you are racing around to drop everything off, so that you don’t miss the commuter rail, which will put you at work, hmm…. right after everyone else in your group. And that’s if it’s on time. Which it only is when you are running late.
“You have to leave ‘early’ to get your baby?” guilt
Daycare closes at 6:oo pm, so you have to leave work by 5:00 pm to get there in time. Of course, your child-less co-workers (or those with nannies or stay-at-home spouses) hate when you leave ‘early’. You can feel the glares at your back as you race out, and you may even have heard a co-worker utter, “I should get a kid so I can leave early”.
“Your kid is the last one picked up today” guilt
… and, after feeling super-guilty for leaving work early, guess what? Your kid is the last one picked up at daycare….Talk about guilt. Any work-related guilt takes a total backseat to seeing your lonely child waiting with a teacher who understandably just wants to go home.
“Oops, I completely forgot to take any pictures of my second child” guilt
With your first child, you took pictures of every single moment of their life. Pregnancy belly pictures for every stage of your pregnancy. Baby being born pictures. Baby being burped pictures. Baby being held by every member of your family. Baby smiling. Baby swaddled. Baby being fed carrots.
Then baby #2 comes along. And instead of gloriously pregnant, you just feel gigantic. So, you don’t take any pictures. And then you flat-out forget to take any pictures of those fun little moments once the baby is born, because you are tired, and stressed, and barely functioning.
Then one day, your little one is old enough to ask, “Hey, where are the pictures of me?” Oops!
“You dared to take a bathroom break” guilt
You’re a stay-at-home mom, and you’ve been watching the kids all morning. The little one is clingy, sitting in your lap for hours, and let’s face it, your bladder isn’t what it used to be. So, you finally have to go. For a bit of privacy, you lock the door. Then, tragedy ensues. The natives are restless. There’s screaming, crying, lots of “Mom – eeeeee!!!!!”. You’re frustrated, so you say, “There had better be blood out there!”
Which is really not what you mean to say. You just want to pee in peace without the drama and tragedy.
“You’re home all day and the house is still a mess” guilt
I’m ashamed to admit that when I was a work-outside-of-the-home mom, I really wondered why stay-at-home moms complained about getting things done. If I just could stay home, the house would be spotless, and the kids would be well behaved.
Then I started staying at home. And, the house? It’s still a mess. If you are a stay-at-home mom, you totally understand why. And if you aren’t? You’ll never understand.
“My kids know every word to the Phineas and Ferb songs” guilt
Before I had kids, I was self-righteous. My kids wouldn’t watch TV, ever, except as a special treat. And, now? They know every single word to every song of every show on television, including Phineas and Ferb. Which isn’t even age appropriate.
But those little guys sure have some catchy tunes. And how else am I expected to get anything done around here?
I don’t think the guilt is going to get better after all, my kids are only five and three. And, I can only imagine the type of guilt I’ll feel when they get older -All of my friends have a cell phone guilt, Why won’t you buy me a car guilt, Why can’t I go to Cancun for spring break guilt…
I guess I’ll just learn to live with it!