Here’s a gift we mothers should all give yourselves this Mother’s Day week: guilt-free parenting!
If only it were that easy. On one hand we have experts, television pundits, the Supernanny, and advice magazines burdening us with restrictions and caveats far beyond what our parents could have imagined. Then, just when we think we’ve covered all our bases with PABA-free sunscreen, anti-porn computer software and cutting our grapes in half to prevent a choking hazard, other bloggers and pundits use the snotty term “helicopter parent” and mock our best intentions.
Wait a second! Who’s in charge here? Why am I letting a TV show make me feel like a bad mom for not slipping squash puree into my children’s brownies? Why do I let someone on a radio talk show make me feel embarassed that I want to keep my child safe?
That said, I’m not going to pretend every mother is a Hallmark card.
I just watched an episode of the A&E addiction documentary “Intervention.” My heart broke for Janet’s 8-year-old daughter who related to a nest of orphaned baby birds because her mom was not around, either. Janet was constantly drunk. Not just tipsy, but fall-down, vomit, pass-out drunk. They used subtitles on her drunken slurring. It seemed the producers could not catch one single sober moment of Janet on camera.
One could reasonably argue that Janet had every reason to feel guilty, and in fact she should have felt guilty for the toll her drinking took on her children.
I would disagree. I watched the anguish on her face as her children, during the intervention, were honest about what they’d endured. I believe she had been feeling plenty guilty. But guilt for what she’d already done only led her to drink more, feeling worthless for all the sins she’d committed and could never undo. Janet needed action; and guilt only sucked her in deeper.
Guilt is hopeless because we can’t change what’s done. Guilt keeps us knotted up in the past when our children want us here, now, not mired in yesterday when we roared like a mountain lion over a spilled bowl of cereal.
Ah ha, but should we now feel guilty for feeling guilty? Of course not. Guilt is human. We couldn’t shut it off like a spigot any more than we could switch off any emotion we’d rather not have: anger, spite, jealousy. It’s all human, all normal.
But we can – we must — stop beating ourselves up. Let’s enjoy our children in this moment, right now, because it’s the only moment that matters.
p.s. Happy Anniversary, honey! Happy to still be in love with you even though it’s been long enough now I have to stop and do the math when someone asks how many years… And Happy Mother’s Day to my own awesome mom and my “bonus mom” mother-in-law.
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