I don’t believe I’ve ever read a book, watched a television show, a movie, or even had a conversation about raising children that didn’t involve or suggest “maternal guilt.” If it wasn’t spoken, it was intended to be said, and if nobody blamed a mom outright for whatever was wrong, it is always implied.
Baby Sophia won’t sleep through the night? “Mmm, you must not be feeding her enough.” Jaxen is peeing everywhere except his potty? “Humph, you obviously don’t believe in discipline.” Even if you say “I’m letting go of this guilt” the FIRST words out of your mouth when anybody wails are “what’s the matter – Mommy can take care of it.” You probably even say that to your husband. Except his eyes light up when he hears it.
I’m not making light of something that is real in all of us. We are hard-wired to protect our children. Even to consider death if that would save our child. With emotions like these deep in our bones, and our brains, it’s no wonder it takes years (yes, years) to abandon all the guilt and live irresponsibly (in case you thought that could be in your life plan).
Here’s the thing. Guilt is a good emotion. It shows you have a conscience, which everyone agrees is the clearest sign of being highly evolved and civilized. Guilt motivates us to get things done, to set things right, even to launch the pre-emptive strike of being truly wonderful, so we can feel fully entitled to feeling “not guilty” when things go wrong with someone else.
I just finished a book called Good Enough is the New Perfect, a tome about mothering that rejects, the all-inclusive package called “Guilt.” It sits alongside several other titles, Sh*tty Mom, Scary Mommy, Bad Mother, and the Three Martini Playdate—that all aim to tame your inner critic and put guilt on “tilt.” You, the “new” good mother, can wrestle guilt into its rightful place—at the back, not the forefront of your mind.
Now, as has been documented in several blogs and a few news items, a fair number of moms seem to be drinking a little too much wine during the day, while tending to baby. This is not what I meant about guilt reduction. Babies thrive and learn from social interactions. In fact, language is developed using the “social gateway” to the brain. Chunky books like, First Book of Baby Farm Animals from Baby Einstein are great platforms for your word play and conversations with baby.
In the end, I am reminded of this quote from Madelyn Albright, former Secretary of State under President Clinton, when asked how she managed to have a career and successfully raise her two daughters. She said, “I did the best I could with what I had.” So can we all.