guilt /gɪlt/ noun 1. the fact or state of having committed an offence or crime; grave culpability, as for some conscious violation of moral or penal law. 2. a feeling of responsibility or remorse for some crime, wrong etc., either real or imagined.
Sometimes I feel like if I could just do everything right my kids would grow up to be emotionally healthy people with no problems.
Sometimes I feel pulled in a million different directions.
Sometimes I worry that one child feels like they're not getting enough attention. I worry that I haven't fed another one enough vegetables. I worry that I didn't listen to one of their stories about Star Wars attentively enough. Or that I didn't drive one of them to sport practice so they had to catch the bus. Or that I didn't give one them a gracious cuddle when they were hanging off my leg and instead I was a bit grumpy and...oh.
That sounds like guilt right there, doesn't it?
Yet as the hilarious Em was interviewing Jen, Naomi and I, there was a big part of me that was thinking, I don't feel that guilty.
I mean, sure I did at that moment because it was the lady's meal and nap time and I was
But let's take a step back. What does guilt really mean? Back at home I flipped open my trusty Macquarie Dictionary and read that little definition and typed it out there at the top of this post.
Committed an offence or crime.
A feeling of responsibility or remorse for some crime/wrong...real or imagined.
Lunching with friends or providing less vegetables than is ideal is not a crime. Worrying about the kids and trying to be a conscientious parent are natural feelings and inclinations. Guilt is a natural feeling.
But you know what? I wouldn't call that mum guilt. I'd just call it guilt. Like, regular, run-of-the-mill guilt. Or, you know, ex-Catholic-school-kid guilt (another topic altogether there).
I guess what I'm really wondering is how helpful is it to use terms like 'mum guilt'? Is it possible that by bandying around a word like 'mum' and putting it together with a word like 'guilt' there develops in our cultural consciousness the expectation that we will feel it. That's it's inevitable. And worst of all; that we should feel that. That if we're being a good parent we will feel guilty. Especially if we're a mum.
Yes I feel guilty about my kids sometimes but I also feel guilty about a whole bunch of other things (see Catholic school reference above). That doesn't mean I am guilty.
If my kiddos are loved and cared for it really doesn't matter if one lunch time when they were 1 they cried. Or if they had to catch public transport to sport when they were a teenager. Or if they didn't eat enough greens when they were 5. That's not neglect. That's not a crime.
So that feeling I have that if I do everything right my kids will grow up to have no problems? That just isn’t true. That's not the human condition.
And feeling guilty about what I have and haven't done isn't going to change that one iota.
Yes, I’m still going to feel worried about them. And I’m going to keep trying my best.
But every day, after I’ve done that and I’ve put them to bed (or said good night, in the teen’s case) I’m going to try to let it all go.
I do my best. I’m pretty sure you do too.
That is good enough, I think.
What do you think? I’d love to hear.
p.s Another interesting article on the pros and cons of mum's feeling guilt, and another on why we mamas can stop feeling guilty.
p.p.s You can check out all the Mummy Diaries if you click through at the end of the video -- I loved hearing what the other mums had to say.