We all feel that way. Some of us way too much. Okay, some parents waaaaaay too little!
But you, my friend, know what I am talking about. You were up with the baby six times last night and have let your toddler watch PBS all morning and handed them a box (gasp) of cookies (gasp) for breakfast, feeling mostly like a zombie but also, dun dun dun – guilty.
Like the time my three-year-old had such a gigantic fit, and I was sooooo pissed and nothing I did seemed to be working to guide this child into a human (let alone productive citizen) that I screamed right back in his face as loud as I could. GUILT.
Guilt is remorse’s ugly cousin. Remorse is different. It is more along the lines of “If I had that information at the time I would have chosen another course of action.” I know a lot of mothers who didn’t breastfeed their first baby and have breastfed subsequent children who have remorse about their decision with their oldest. Remorse is the old saying “hindsight is 20/20.” It is NOT guilt. Guilt is that fake, extraordinarily mean, whispering-behind-your-back, spreading nasty rumors about you in high school kind of girl.
But we all know how to deal with that bitch, right?
Avoid her when you can, confront her when you have to. Nothing will shut her up faster than laughing at her. Be the bigger person, let her know she does not have power over you and you refuse to befriend her to buy her kindness. There is no such thing as kindness with control freaks like guilt! You either end up being her slave or you master her.
I think motherhood guilt does have its place. There have been so many nights I have gone to bed thinking I should probably get a job outside of our farm so my kids could go to daycare. I figured maybe the daycare providers knew better what they were doing because I seemed to be the blind leading the blind at my house. I would review the day and lay awake with guilt at the times I lost my temper, did something childish, yelled (too much). I was full of anger and uncertainty anyway and guilt seemed to naturally follow.
So I turned over a new leaf. I would go to bed saying “tomorrow will be better.” Sometimes it was only a little better, but I would still feel like I was climbing a little farther up that mountain. I used guilt to change my actions. I stopped letting it control my emotions and started using it as a tool. That is where guilt belongs. Sometimes you have to get along with guilt because she is on your basketball team, so you put aside your feelings for her and play the game. Once you step off the court, leave her behind.
We all make mistakes. Guilt is about making the same mistake over and over again, feeling unable to change your actions that you know are harming yourself or someone else. I chose to change them slowly over time, and most especially to forgive myself. Guilt has gone from following me down the hallways to making an occasional appearance as I walk by. She has shown me who my true friends are: forgiveness, change and my best (which is close enough).
What about all of you? What are some parenting issues you have had major guilt over? Have you been able to let it go, and if so how?