It’s been said that the only people who don’t have doubts are frauds and the only people who don’t struggle with guilt are sociopaths. Well, if that’s true, then I am the least fraudulent and least sociopathic mother who ever cried into her glass of Target-bought boxed wine.
I have been wrestling the greased pig of guilt more than usual these days. Guilt is a furtive, insidious little fuck that always seems to find ways to ruin decisions, stall out momentum, and generally make you feel as though the Parenting Police is going to break down your door and haul your giant, please-don’t-judge-me-because-I-still-haven’t-lost-the-baby-weight ass to the clink. (Hey, Parenting Police? You didn’t have to break down the door. I forgot to lock it last night. As you were.)
The thing about New Mother Guilt is that she never rubs her bitchy little snout in the big stuff. It’s the myriad tiny decisions that fill the trough. Consider the following internal dialogue I had not too long ago:
Should I feed the baby? Yes. Should I feed the baby cereal? Um, yeah, sure. Is it time for cereal? I think so. I didn’t buy organic, should I go back to the store? Um, well, no, that doesn’t make sense. Does it? Should I? He’s rubbing his nose, is he allergic to this cereal? Uhhh, well, probably not. He’s probably just got an itchy nose. Probably. Can a baby be allergic to non-organic? Well, if he can, I bet he is. Am I poisoning my son? Yes. YES! Because you are terrible at this! If I were a better mother I would have gotten organic. Well, this poor kid has the worst mother in the world, so how much more damage could non-organic rice cereal do, really?
And that’s just breakfast. It’s only 7:00 in the morning and I’m already a guilt-ridden failure. An entire day of decisions lays before me like the poppy field suburbia of The Emerald City. I’m exhausted. And going nine rounds (with a voice inside my own head for eff’s sake!) over rice cereal is just ridiculous. It’s time to slaughter that guilt pig and fry up some pride bacon!
So, in an effort to overcome the oink, I am going to turn my attention to the things I know I am doing right* instead of the things I think I’m doing wrong. Here are a few:
1. I am proud (and grateful) that I am staying home with my son. It’s the most challenging, exhausting thing I have ever done, but I am doing it. My son’s days are filled with me and mine with him and I think we’re both extremely lucky to have each other.
2. I am proud that I make Boyo’s food. It’s not a huge deal, really. I just boil up fruits and veggies and then puree them in a food processor. But, I’m reducing the packaging that I bring into our home and put out with the garbage, I’m saving us money, and I have the reassurance of knowing EXACTLY what he’s eating because I made it myself.
3. I am proud that I am learning where my limits are. I know what the end of my rope feels like I am getting much better about tying a knot and hanging on instead of tying a noose and slipping it over my head. I reach out. I call my mother, I text my girlfriends, I step outside, I breathe. Then I write about it, get rid of it, release it.
4. I am proud that I know in my bones that perfection is unachievable and what I need and want to strive for instead is excellence. This one’s easier for me because I have never been a perfectionist. Know why? Because my mother knows it in her bones, too.
5. I am proud that I remember to take care of myself. When I know what I need, I ask for it. And I am lucky enough that I get it when I do.
6. I am proud that my husband and I are still cheesy, mushy lovebirds. When we got engaged, we joked that our goal would be to make everyone we know throw-up a little bit over how cute we are. We did. We do. We will. I put handwritten notes in my husband’s homemade lunch. He tells me all the time that he still can’t believe that it’s me, his childhood crush, sleeping in his bed. We still turn each other on. He loves my boobs. I love his butt. We make out. We make love. We always greet each other at the door. We are husband and wife before we are Mommy and Daddy. And we are better parents for it.
7. I am proud that we have not turned our home over to our son. There is no doubt that a baby lives here, but our home is not overrun with baby things. One of the best decisions I ever made was forgoing a baby registry and asking for gift cards instead. (This decision was not without drama. A couple of relatives got really pissed and thought that I was extremely rude and even ungrateful for robbing them of the opportunity to shop for my baby. Weird, but true.) That allowed us to determine and purchase what we actually needed and kept our tiny apartment from bursting at the seams with toys and apparatus that we never used. Every single baby related item in our house is used almost every day. Boyo has one smallish basket of toys, but it’s mostly filled with kitchen utensils and books. He has a jumper, but we packed away his little gym before we put it out. Instead of an expensive, space hogging high chair, we have a $25 Fisher Price baby seat that attaches to the kitchen chairs we already have. Everything has a home, a place where it belongs, and because we aren’t drowning in an ocean of stuff, we are able to pack most of it away every night. Although the “Just Wait-ers” would have me believe that this will not last forever, I am very proud that it’s true today.
8. I am proud that I have committed to telling the truth about motherhood. I think I’m helping people in doing so and I know I’m helping myself and my child by not pretending this isn’t the hardest goddamn thing in the world.
9. I am proud that when I’ve had enough of feeling bad, I find a way to feel good. I hope to pass this on my boy.
10. I am proud that when I am not at all proud of myself, I am lifted up by family and friends (and even strangers!) who are.
Although I have yet to experience the rarity of heading to bed thinking, “Man, I really nailed today!” I am equally as certain that I do have solid moments of “I’m doing this right” as I am that feeling as though you nailed an entire day is probably reserved for the fraudulent sociopaths. Lucky bastards.
*Gentle readers, It’s important to note that if what I think I am doing right is the opposite of what you think you are doing right, we are both right. I do not judge. Not you, anyway.