Since I became a mom, everyday and at least once per day, I go on a guilt trip. Everyday at least once, these words cross my mind « you could be a better mother ». It can happen anytime. In the kitchen, yesterday, for example. The inner voice mutters slowly as I chew my food : « You could cook Maya. For the sake of your daughter. » While I swallow the last bite, Tulsi has reached the last stairs and from the top is looking at me her mouth full of chocolate. Her look is precious. She is pressing one chocolate bar in her left hand, agitating the other chocolate bar in her right hand. I should probably stop her but she looks so happy, crowned with glory. My happiness if of short term. I now remember the words I once heard « sugar is bad for kids ». I stand up ready to confiscate the chocolate and show the example. I can’t explain though why I don’t do so and just step back. I can’t. I just can’t. Her face is too much. I know I’m guilty.
I don’t cook. I never cooked. And on top of this, i give sugar.
Now other thoughs are crossing my mind. I remind myself that I’m lucky to have someone cooking for me. I then remember having heard somewhere a mother stating out loud « I cook, I clean, I do everything and I’m great » and how it made me feel so awkard because I don’t cook, I don’t clean and I’m not feeling great.
I’m quite tired actually.
I check some mums groups online sharing their worries. I feel compassion and I realize how most of them are worried when I’ve never really shown so much concern about my daughter’s health. Not that I’m not aware at all, I have myself a healthy diet and lifestyle but I’m not over concerned. I give her simple food, the food I eat myself, and I keep on breastfeeding. I cuddle her, when she’s sick i stay with her. That’s it. I’ve rarely done any elaborated researches on each fruit and vegetable or ideal diet for a child her age.
Scrolling the computer, I give it a thought and tell myself : why am I so relaxed ? If I were a good mother, I wouldn’t be relaxed. I’d be doing researches, I’d be worrying, I would be caring ! And I hear the voice muttering again : you’re a bad mother…
Then there are these moments when I’m with my daughter and I just let her do her things and I do my owns. I’m happy, she’s happy. Her little dog toy with no name is happy. She’s dragging him behind her. Everything is fine. But then out of a sudden, a feeling overtakes me into a sea of doubts and remorses. The feeling that I could be with her « more ».
So I grab a book, start to read it to her but nope she’s not interested. I grab another book, thinking this one might work – not interested. And then I wonder, and I even tell myself, maybe it’s my fault if she’s not interested. I must be lacking in method that some mothers may have developed to make their kids absorbed when they read to them. I remember once a mother told me that she’d read for more than half an hour to her daughter the same age of mine every night. « And she adores it ! » she cried out with a satisfied look. I starred at her, motionless, wondering why I was not able to share the same experience with my daughter.
Everyday, I think about my life, about how lucky I am. I don’t need to work from morning to night, I have a supportive husband, I have a wonderful woman at home helping with everything from cooking to taking care of Tulsi. Compared to many mums, I’m truly blessed.
Yet, with all this, I’m still feeling tired. I’m still not sleeping through the night, I still struggle sometimes with being a mom. My precious free time still doesn’t seem enough to me. I’ve always been a free bird and having a kid in a way stops me from flying. What am I, some kind of freak or a desperate case ?
I’ve been thinking about this a lot to tell you the truth. I’ve been thinking about why I’m feeling guilty.
And then I reconsidered my thoughts. I’ve had this call that maybe guilt was not just a bad thing. Maybe the urge to get rid of it immeditately as if it didn’t matter wasn’t my only option. I though that if it did exist, it could be for a good and valid reason. It’s not just about the pressure of society (yet society indeed pressures us), it might also be something related to our biology which urges us to take care of our progeniture the best way possible. I though that I was indeed lucky to come to such realisation. Intellectualizing it didn’t erase the feeling of course but rather made it visible. And what is visible can become a friend rather than an enemy.
Our worst ennemies are not visible.
So now that I had established that i felt guilty for a reason, how could I live with this guilt everyday ? How could I make guilt something more meaningful than the remorseful state it leaves in me ? How could the guilt become constructive ?
Pondering on it, I’ve though of specific situations of guilt, such as the fact that I don’t cook and I don’t talk much to my daughter. I’ve tried to come back to my intuition. If I’m not able to talk a lot to my daughter, is it because I don’t love her or is it because I show my love differently ? I looked up for the positive things I did for my daughter and tried to enumerate them. I’ve done a list. I breastfeed her on demand which takes a lot of my energy, I buy her books practicaly every week which means I think of her future as a reader, I cuddle her at night, I might not cook for her but I make sure someone is doing it. As I was enumerating the positive aspects of my kind of parenting, I also tried to remember who I was. I never was someone who loved to cook, I always liked to be busy all the times, have plenty of projects, realize myself artistically, I realized that this was me, and the projection of the perfect mother I was desperatly trying to follow just didn’t look like me. Why would someone want to be someone else ? I mean, why would someone,in the name of a perfect mother image, change his true nature ? I like to draw, I like to put my creativity into drawing and writting. So I though, this is me. I’m the mom who draws. This is what Tulsi has. A mother who likes to draw because drawing makes her feel good, because it gives meaning to her daily life. And by giving meaning to my life, I can surrender the pain for example of not being able to sleep at night because I breastfeed and havent night weaned yet.
This realisation made me feel amazing. First, I got rid of a lot of guilt, I acknowledge that we human beings are unique in our ways and that we shouldn’t change just to please dogmas or theories of what things should be like, I realized that this love that I had for my daughter was expressing itself in its unique way, and that our relationship was unique, with it flaws of course. But is any relationship perfect ? I also realized that my daughter would have to live with her mother who is not only her mother but a woman, with her idiosyncrasies, and that, if I gave her enough love, she would understand and accept me as I am, and if she didn’t, she would have to do the work to accept me, because becoming adults and grown-ups is also about accepting our parents for who they are and their part in the play of life.
If we use guilt in a good way, it can become empowering. Those two words seem contradictory I know, but aren’t things just so paradoxal and do we have to choose between two extremes or rather understand the roots of the guilt trip to be able to manage it ?
When I realized how I felt, i started to organize myself, to believe in my capacities. It’s really funny how from a negative feeling you can build something better for yourself and your surrounding, if you just can change your perspective on things.
This empowerement, this liberation that was caused by the realization that we are unique human beings doing our best in being who we are, in being happy with ourselves first in order to serve others, really saved me. It doesn’t matter if we fit or not to the ideals that society impose on us, what matters is that we are happy to wake up, happy to participate in this crazy world, in our own terms. I remembered how when I was a little girl, I had so many dreams, and I thought I still want to be that little girl, and I want my daughter to see a woman who loves life and communicate it to others.
Cooking food can wait. Happiness can’t.