Guilty!

Guilt heasd
I did not fully understand the true meaning of the word guilt until I had my daughter. It comes hand in hand with parenthood. It is as much a part of me now as my heart beating, my eyes blinking, or the love I feel when I look at Grace. It is sometimes hugely prevalent in the forefront of my mind and it is sometimes just lingering a little, very deep down, but it is always there.

Why?

I know at heart that I am not a bad parent. But none-the-less, guilt nips away at my heels like an incessant little gremlim, forever nagging at me that I “could be doing it better.” I look at my parent friends, or other bloggers, and there it is again . . . nip nip nip . . . “they’re doing it better than you.”

I asked other Mothers what they felt guilty about. I asked them to show me in the form of a photograph. I expected a mixture of responses, from the humorous/tongue-in-cheek, to the more heartfelt. The results shocked me: Partly because some of these women I know and deemed to be super-confident parents, surely with nothing to feel guilty about? Partly because some of these women I do not know, yet they welcomed the chance to bravely share things so deeply personal. And partly because I was surprised how many chose to be anonymous and not include their face in the shot.

There was a distinct lack of the humorous/tongue in cheek. I can’t help but wonder what this might imply. . . Maybe that we should never assume other Mums are doing a better job. We are all – for the most part – just doing our best, and that should be something to feel proud of, not guilty about. Maybe we have not “committed a wrong.” Maybe we have not “Failed in an obligation.”

So why do so many of us feel like we have?

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Perhaps this last photo sums it up . . .

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Is it time we started forgiving ourselves a little more? And if anyone knows exactly how you do that, please let me know.

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46 Comments

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46 responses to “Guilty!

  1. As a footnote, I would like to add that although there will always be exceptions from either sex – I did request pictures from Dads that I knew, as well as asking my husband about his issues. He couldn’t think of anything. I got nothing back from the other Dads either . . . maybe they have the right idea?

  2. Quite heart wrenching, somehow beautiful, and (in my opinion) the best piece you’ve ever done. I feel guilty that I don’t see my children everyday, and that the breakup of my marriage will one day have a profound and detrimental affect on them. But you’re right, we can all only do our best. From a daddy.

    • Oh bless you Chris. If a get a big enough male response, maybe I’ll do a Daddy one too. (And for the record, I know from experience that it has far more detrimental effect on children if they’re witness to an unhappy marriage for years. Big hugs xxx)

    • Oh Chris, this has really brought a tear to my eye. If you are determined, your marriae break up can have a different effect on your kids. My parents split when I was young and my dad never bothered with us at all. If you work at keeping yours close, they will one day understand xx

  3. Wow! I had no idea that parents go through this. I need to be more patient and tactful with my Mum when I’m chatting about being a kid and stuff that I wish was different. Now I feel guilty! 😳

  4. Amazing post, it just shows how being a parent is just full of guilt.

  5. Fab post! I used to feel guilty all the time, having 4 children and 2 with special needs means someone always misses out. I promised myself a while ago to stop concentrating on the guilt and what I cant do and concentrate on what I can, Which is giving my children the best upbringing I can, and letting them experience things I never did. If we spend too much time feeling guilty for what we cant do we miss out on precious time doing the things we can 🙂

  6. I LOVE this post is only wish if have seen your messages before as I have plenty of fodder! It’s a subject I’ve written about a few times on my blog x

  7. Oh Minty, I was doing ok until I got to your picture! I never ever want to leave my children and I do worry about it, I lose sleep at the thought of them living without me, yet I manage to live without mine, as hard as it is. We have to hope that all the love, cuddles, insights to life and GOOD parenting, helps them to become well rounded, warm and loving individuals. Guilt and regret is a waste of energy and we should never waste what is so precious! Here’s to being a good as we can be as often as we can xxx

  8. I wish I’d seen your request to submit a photo. I know exactly what mine would say…

    “I feel guilty because I didn’t protect you enough from the things you didn’t need to see”

  9. I do think that as women, many of us have an in-built tendency to compare ourselves to others, even though we know it’s pointless x

  10. Great post. I think as Mums we all feel guilt. What a really great idea with the photos – really loved this x

  11. i LOVE this post. mummy guilt starts the moment your child is born and im sure it stays with you forever! x

  12. WOW – what a brilliant post. I want to share this with EVERYBODY! I know so many great mums who are doing what we all do – the best we can – and they think they’re so bad. As a mum and a nana I’ve been through all the guilt stuff AND there are still some things I can’t think about for too long because they’ll make me sad but on the whole I believe I’m at an age and in a place where I think I did a flippin’ good job and did the best I could and can and still am!!! I just wish every other mum could feel the same way and appreciate themselves. Guilt definitely takes on a life of it’s own the very minute your baby is born. Thanks for sharing a brilliant idea for a post xxx

  13. Oh my I am totally humbled and in awe of this thought provoking post.
    Will have me thinking for quite a while.
    I am in the “everything” camp.
    Liska x

  14. Sue Fernandes

    Your blog has such impact and gives a voice to all these women about a topic that is usually ‘never’ openly discussed regarding an emotion that is generally felt by all parents from every type of religion, culture or background. Well done. Xxx ;0)

  15. stilettosstarsandrocknroll

    Oh my. This brought a tear. I’m off to cuddle my baby. It’s nice to know we’re not alone.

  16. stilettosstarsandrocknroll

    Reblogged this on Stilettos, Stars & Rock n' Roll and commented:
    I love this blog. Brought a tear to my eye & a lump to my throat. I want all mummy’s to read it.

  17. absolutly brilliant blog,im always feeling guilty about something and not good enough but even though i have been told im a fantastic mum i always feel i can do a lot more better and conpare myself to other people lol x x x thankyou for putting this up

  18. This is amazing. So amazing. It’s great to see other people feel guilty about similar things I do too. Thank you for the reassurance.

  19. I can echo most of those sentiments 😦

  20. Wonderful post, and I agree with so much of it. BUT… I have also decided, at various points, that it’s not right to feel so much guilt as a parent, and I have deliberately sought to root it out. Not always successfully. A couple of thoughts have helped, though.

    First, I think the guilt stems from some kind of idea (which we probably don’t assent to intellectually, but in some other way) that there is some perfect blueprint for our life, and for our child’s life, and that what we should be doing is to help them along that perfect path. We see disapointment and pain as deviations from that path, and feel that our aim should be to get back on the perfect path as quickly as possible. But we all know that life isn’t perfect. Can’t be perfect. Once we realise that helping our children learn how to deal with pain, sadness, frustration, disappointment, etc is part of being a good parent (and a darn good parent), then it becomes easier to drop the guilt. Their future will not be perfectly happy. So if their childhood has helped them prepare for that, then all to the good.

    Second, the more guilty you feel as a parent, the more you are modelling that for your child, so the more he/she is likely to feel the same when he/she is a parent. Someone has to try and break the cycle! I think part of this is the realisation that the more you look after yourself, the more you model that to your child. I’m not quite sure about the link, but I know that for myself, the more I am looking after myself, developing my own sense of self, not always putting myself down, then the more confident I feel, and the less guilty I feel (though intuitively, you might think this would work the other way).

    We can’t do more than our best. I think there is great wisdom in doing your best, and then letting go of the rest – easier said than done.

    • Thank you for such a thoughtful comment – I agree entirely. I was hoping that this post would go some way to highlight the futility/pointlessness of harbouring so much guilt. Hopefully with more comments like yours, people will start to try and turn it around. We are indeed our child’s inner voice – so it has to be as positive as possible. x

  21. Lovely post although so sad to see many of us feeling this way. Motherhood huh!

  22. Guilt is certainly the emotion I never understood fully until I had children. I feel guilty everyday that I do not play with them/ talk to them/ give them more even though I know I am doing my best. Never compare your inside to somebody else’s outside though – we never know their full story x

  23. I feel guilty to each of the 3 for different reasons
    JR – because I had pnd and instead of spending 1-2-1 time with him I took him to every playgroup going & also passed him to my mum as much as I could.
    TP – I didn’t get any special mom & baby time at the hospital as we didnt choose to stay in overnight
    LA – I feel guilt that I didn’t insist on being taken seriously when I 1st thought she had whooping cough and didnt take her back to the doctors early enough to prevent her being on oxygen,a drip & intravenous antibiotics.

  24. I think just about all of us asked to write about guilt would have come up with a similar (although probably less eloquent) blog as yours. Guilt is synonomous with motherhood. The two go hand in hand. Have i protected him enough? too much? Given him enough /not enough freedom? Been too strict/ not strict enough. Will my failings give him hangups? Should I have let him see me cry? Why didn’t/did I do…..
    Its all part of being a caring parent – i don’t regret it for a moment – but its tough nonetheless.My guilty secret – my teenager not wanting to tell me things that might worry me in case i become ‘sick’ again.

  25. I totally love this post. It comes on an evening when I feel horrendously guilty that my daughter screamed at bedtime as her eczema was bothering her too much so I made her wear her all-in-one suit so she doesn’t scratch and cause damage. It heartened me to read this. Thank you.

    • Thanks for the lovely comment – and I’m so glad! (That it heartened you, not that your daughter has eczema – sounds awful bless her). It was written to help make us all feel a little better about things x

  26. Wow, what a great idea for a post and wonderfully honest by everyone. Would agree with most of those above!!

  27. What a brilliant post – so sad that so many mothers don’t see the brilliant job they are doing and can find a way to love themselves as they are right here, right now doing that great job

  28. Great post! And thank you for encouraging me not to feel guilty for promising to join in then not having time 😉

    For me the guilt started as soon as I got pregnant and couldn’t keep anything down. It’s been non-stop ever since then. When I worked, when I didn’t, now I’m a WAHM…. Why do we do it to ourselves? Perhaps the Dads do have it right…xxx

  29. Can’t believe I haven’t commented yet, thank you for asking me to be a part of this; I’m so honoured.

  30. What a great post! So thought provoking and I agreed with nearly all of the ladies who sent in photos.

  31. So why do we as mums feel so much guilt? And why do they men folk not feel guilt? We must try and learn something from this. Great idea x

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