The G Word
Are you guilt-ridden that you couldn’t cook five different cuisines for your family of four? Or that you weren’t 100% attentive when your toddler was babbling? Oh my god! (Janice style) Now he is going to grow up to be an attention seeking adult! Or are you guilty that you chose to relax instead of cleaning that spot under the kitchen sink that nobody really cares about? Does your parlor seat feel like an electric chair charged with high voltage guilt because you are “troubling” your husband on a weekend by leaving your sleeping baby with him? Are you guilty as charged by your toddler’s tantrums because you messed up the sugar levels in her milk? How can you not know what your child wants? Well, I am guilty of letting my sick (just a common cold (eye roll)) husband look after the house and kids while I am working on this article, right now.
Welcome to the Island of Guilt. An island surrounded by infinite salty waters formed by your tears of self-pity. On this island the spotlight is on you, the others are almost invisible errrr…. actually they are non-existent. The more you live on this island the more you grow larger like Alice in Wonderland. The “best” part of the trip is it’s a mother’s only trip! Because men are busy watching sports, sleeping or getting on with life. And didn’t you want to take a trip alone?
Guilt makes us human, guilt to the power of infinity makes us a woman. When a woman feels guilty, she holds herself responsible for the end of the world. The world as she knows it. There is no way back for her. She must drown in it, suffocate herself, and her husband if possible, and then after almost killing herself a trillion times in her head, she raises like a phoenix, well it’s a painfully slow process.
Picture this, you have had the most hectic day at work, meetings after meetings, pressure of appraisal, followed by the most maddening ride back home. If usually, the traffic was bad, today was the mother of all days, because some fool decided to get married lavishly! All you want to do when you get home is kick back and relax. But that’s the last thing you CAN do. You need to get dinner ready, help kids with their homework, sort things out for tomorrow and find your floor under the toys. Well, if you are still going to kick back, sit and relax in front of the TV, chances are you are a man. Okay, there are exceptions to the case, but I am sorry this article isn’t about them, not today at least.
So, you “freshen up” psst…like that’s even possible you are running in minus here, I know. Everybody knows but who cares you have to soldier on. You enter the one place you dread the most because here one thing leads to another and before you know it two hours have gone by, the kitchen. Hubby wants chapatti, elder one demands rice and your younger one? No comments. Actually, he prefers eating your head, because eating food is so passé especially when it is his duty to set up the floor for an obstacle race.
After toiling in the kitchen for a good one hour you come out with a simple dish, not to mention the 15 minutes you dozed off on the countertop. You applaud yourself for saving your family from junk food but instead of cheers and claps you hear groans and complaints – “This again?” “We just had this the day before!” You look around and notice your hubby eating in silence, (wise men always choose peace over food), but your children love to smack you hard with their honesty. You are not sure if you want to kick yourself for teaching them to be honest or to be proud. Tired you choose peace over snapping and shut down. It’s been an hour since you hit the bed but you can’t shut down, some programs are still running in the back of your head.
Who is there?
And, just like that, you are on board the plane to the Island of Guilt. You land head first and your brain falls apart so now you can’t think practically or logically. Guilt shines on you from up above like the sun and you lie there absorbing all the vitamin – G. Then off you go to the Sea of Self-Pity, and as you swim you realize, you don’t want to get out. Or rather you don’t know how to get out. You hear the mermaids whisper – You are not good enough! How can you feed them the same thing twice in a week? You are their mother, they are supposed to be your priority, so what if you are tired? Did your mother ever compromise in spite of raising two extra children? Your drowning, your dying, you give up and you see the light.
Nah! That’s just the bathroom light, your guilt-free hubby just went in to relieve himself.
For men, guilt is an unheard emotion. In his head, forgot to change the baby’s diaper. No worries, the baby is still alive and pooping. Forgot to inform you that he has invited friends over. No worries, friends are family, they can help do the dishes. Forgot to dry the laundry last night, no worries will steam iron the shirt for today. You see men hardly waste time feeling guilty, especially when there is no visible or moral damage done. They just identify the issue, resolve it and get back to living life. Simple!
If it was up to your hubby that night, he would have fed them pizza and felt proud for not letting them sleep on an empty stomach, or he would have let them sleep and patted himself for giving them a good 12 hours of sleep. No matter what he did he would have been proud of himself for just being there for them, more importantly, guilt-free.
Guilt is a strong emotion. It is probably the only feeling that distinguishes us from psychopaths, rapists, murderers, molesters etc. It helps us to be responsible and empathetic towards other human beings. Feeling guilty for actions that are ethically wrong is healthy and constructive. And, very much the need of the hour. But, a mother’s guilt is relatively negligible and counter-productive. As far as your child is not deprived of love, attention, and food you don’t have to feel guilty.
It is completely acceptable if you want to prioritize your needs over your family’s at times. Sleep that extra hour, take off on a trip once in a while, splurge on yourself, make that appointment at the parlor you have been putting off, get that new dress, go for a movie you like, order that cuisine that only you like, allow your hubby to help more often (yes allow, they do a good job when you’re not breathing down their neck), let your hair loose and enjoy motherhood, guilt-free. It’s okay if you can’t cook that dish your children asked for today, you can always make it the next day or the day after that or whenever it is that you can, or even better teach them to make it for themselves. After all, guilt-free parents make independent children, and adults.
Remember it is impossible to satisfy everyone. So, don’t beat yourself over trivial things and most importantly don’t give others permission to make you feel guilty about inconsequential things. Try to look at the larger picture or at your hubby. As far as you provide the bare essentials, your little world will survive and once in a while, it is okay to take the world off your shoulders and rest it down. Even mother nature relaxes at times of need. And we are mere mothers.
However, there will be times where you will be ethically wrong, times when you will be at fault and feel guilty. Like when you are pre-occupied, stressed out and end up screaming at your little one who is nowhere in the wrong. Her eyes well up and the damage is done. You can literally hear her heart cracking. After all, we are human. Nobody is perfect and there is no such thing as perfection. It is relative, what is perfect for your toddler might seem like hogwash to you. At those times, it is okay to make a quick visit to the island. It is better to accept it, embrace it, correct it and then just let it go!
In times of guilt, I always hum this song, hope it helps you too.
Let it go, let it go,
Don't hold guilt back anymore,
Let it go, let it go,
Turn away and slam the door,
I don't care what they're going to say,
Let the storm rage on,
The guilt never bothered me anyway.