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Thursday, August 18, 2005

One giant guilt trip

During the past year I have written about my personal journey with parental guilt.

There is guilt because I send Toddler in Chief off to the sitter's a couple of times a week. There is guilt because I'm not spending enough quality time with him. There is guilt because I haven't been able to find meaningful part-time work. There's guilt because I feel like I must not be trying hard enough. There is guilt because I'm not continuing my education. There's guilt for not doing enough dusting or laundry. No matter what part of my life I examine, there seems to be guilt sprinkled around all of my decisions, regardless how large or small they seem.

Mirium over at Playground Revolution wrote an interesting piece last month about working moms and guilt. She wrote:
Working Mothers Should Not Feel Guilty. We should feel, and rightfully, mad, frustrated, tired, torn in many directions, ambivalent, and all sorts of other emotions. But we should not feel guilty. Working dads don't feel guilty. Guilt does not help.
What about the at-home moms? Or maybe we carry enough guilt for all the moms, working or not. Maybe I need to step back and think about those comments. Does Father in Chief feel guilty about anything? Or is this guilt-thing tied strictly to motherhood? Is it just hardwired into our personas, like nurturing or a milk let-down whenever a lactating mother hears a baby cry, even if it's not her own?

Maybe my guilt is just a personal problem, something I need to endure like sharp teeth on a sore nipple? So I try and step back and determine what those underlying issues are so that I can fix them or work on them in therapy so that I can go on living my life as a parent sans guilt.

Perhaps, I'm confusing other feelings I'm experiencing with feelings of guilt. I'm definitely torn over what I should do with my life professionally and personally. But when I'm focusing on one facet--like with my freelance writing--I was feeling guilty for "neglecting" the other part of my life, aka my son. I think it's hard to feel torn without feelings of guilt.

We all know the saying: with every choice we have to give something up. TIC was not neglected when he was having a play date with the sitter, but escaping those feelings are a skill I haven't yet mastered.


  1. I have spent the entire first two years of my daugther's life in a ongoing state of guilt over anything, everything... I've come to realize that it's just part of motherhood. When you are perfecting a new skill performance anxiety makes you better. Since mothering is "perpetually mastering a new skill" since kids grow - the guilt might be an evolutionary response built into women to make them better mothers.

    I know my guilt makes me much more "thoughtful" about my decisions -- so maybe it's not a bad thing all in all.

  2. Well, let me tell you that you are NORMAL! NORMAL! NORMAL! I've got a book out about parenting and guilt (Mommy Guilt: Learn To Worry Less, Focus On what Matters Most and Raise Happier Kids). In our survey of over 1300 parents, we found that 96% of em said they felt guilt associated with parenting. And you are also correct that guilt gets jumbled up with the other negative feelings, this is why in our book we say that ALL the negative feelings that parents can experience could be called "Mommy Guilt". However, we think that "Daddy Guilt" comes off more like frustration. It appears that moms have a more globalized feeling of crappiness. And as Mamabalaya(love that name!) pointed out, guilt does have a reason to exist, it can be a self-regulation device too. Being able to figure out when to turn it up or turn it down, or even turn it off is the most difficult when we are stressed out in our life. Come visit Aviva and me, and find Parentopia!