As it’s the school holidays and I’m currently overcoming my mommy guilt by spending a few days with my family I thought I would ask another excellent writer, Katherine Graham, to write a few guests posts for me…. The first topic is one I think ALL moms can relate to…
Being a mother is difficult. Nobody said it was going to be easy, right? The sleepless nights looking after a sick child, the whining and quarrels, answering business calls with screaming in the background, it’s all part of the package and we know it. But it’s not just what’s expected of us that can wear us out. It’s also the unwelcome “mommy guilt” that can attach itself to us so sneakily that sometimes we’re not even aware of it.
“I’m not spending enough time with my children,” you might think if you’ve been working hard lately. Or “I should have baked cupcakes for my daughter’s cake sale instead of buying them from Woolworths.” Or “I shouldn’t have reacted so angrily to my son when he disobeyed me.” Or “The reason my child is acting up in class is because I’m not a good enough mother.” Sound familiar?
Now let me share something that I’m not particularly proud of. Earlier this year, after taking my three-year-old son for his first dental checkup, I nipped into Pick n Pay to do some emergency pre-weekend shopping. I grabbed a small trolley (the kind with two plastic baskets stacked on top of each other) because it wasn’t going to be a big shop. Just as I was about to pay at the check-out, I remembered I’d forgotten to get an avo. I asked Matthew if he wouldn’t mind waiting with the cashier while I quickly got one. No, he insisted he came with me. So, going faster than I should have been going, I raced towards the fruit and veg section. Rounding the corner, the top basket my child was sitting in fell out – and in slow-motion horror, I watched as he fell full force on his head onto the tiled floor. To say it was a big fall is an understatement, especially if you’re a mother watching helplessly. He was screaming in a way that made it clear he was in a serious amount of pain. Two staff members came to my rescue, giving me a bag of ice to put on his forehead. And I had that sinking feeling you get when you know you’ve done something terribly, terribly wrong.
I won’t go into all the details of what happened afterwards – how he fell asleep in the car going home, woke up vomiting violently, the mad panic to get him to hospital, the CT scan, the nervous waiting. Suffice to say that I felt very to blame for the whole incident and found it difficult to stop chastising myself for what had happened. But then a wonderful thing happened. I’m not sure at what point it did, but I suddenly found myself in a pool of another quite different feeling, a warm, reassuring presence, and I knew then that everything was going to be okay, that Matthew would be fine.
The thing about guilt is it’s a pretty useless emotion. Not only does it make us feel yuck about ourselves, it also doesn’t accomplish anything. Perhaps you have been spending too many hours at work and not enough with your children. Perhaps your son’s nasty fall was your fault. But wallowing in guilt isn’t going to help.
And there’s something much more encouraging for us mothers to fall back on – grace. Grace which says you’re not going to get it right every time, grace which says “Learn from your mistakes and move on”, grace which urges us to look at the bigger picture and watch out for those magical moments when you feel affirmed as a mother.
I had one of those just the other day. I’d just finished reading CS Lewis’s The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe to my five-year-old son. He loved it, and it had been a real treat for me to read it aloud with him for several days. Then, looking at the list of other books in the series, he exclaimed with wonder: “There are other books about Narnia! This isn’t the only one.” He realised that his journeys into another imaginary world had only just begun.
It’s moments like these we need to grab hold of and remember as mothers when that sneaky little thief called guilt comes around trying to steal away our joy.