I had a beer Saturday night with one of my best friends, S. S and I met in the hospital birth-prep class we took while we were pregnant with our first babies. Her son is a week younger than N, and has been his friend since birth. We’ve gone together through all of the issues that come with first-time motherhood, and now we’re talking each other through the completely different issues of second-time motherhood.
Last night, S asked me if I ever just cry at night over worry about my kids. My reassurance that I do, frequently, cry with worry over everything involving my kids led to a conversation topic most moms are very familiar with: guilt. S said she she doesn’t think most moms worry like that. I said she need only look at the blogosphere or ask her other mommy friends, and I am positive she will find a huge amount of guilt out there. More than we can possibly carry in diaper bags already overflowing with worry, insecurity, inadequacy and fear. In fact, when I googled “mommy guilt”, it took less than a second to come up with 160,000 results.
So there you go, S, we’re far from alone. Mommy guilt is this thing we all struggle with, sometimes alone, sometimes with friends. Is it healthy? Probably not. Is it the norm? Definitely. We spend nights beating ourselves up over the things we should have done, should not have said, should have heard better. The ways we are screwing our kids up for life, be it by treating our second children differently or coddling the first too much. We read book after book about the “right” way to parent, adding with every turn of the page yet another thing we could do better.
This “I could do better” attitude of inadequacy is at the center of guilt. Of mine, at least. I am willing to bet it’s at the center of a lot of mothers’ guilt. How we tell that constant feeling inadequacy to f**k off is beyond me. It’s a level of spiritual work I will strive toward for a long, long time. Probably until the end of my life, when I will look back and hopefully not wonder too long what I could have done better.