Tuesday, January 09, 2007
The Twin Guilts of Motherhood
I imagine the women among my readers who have children will be either nodding their head in knowing understanding on the subject of this post. Either that, or I am uniquely disturbed. Come to think of it, that wouldn't surprise me either.

The subject of this post are the twin guilts of motherhood. They may have a more clinical term that is widely accepted by mental health professionals, but this is what I call it. It is a classic catch-22.

Let me explain. I am a type-A, over-achieving control-freak. Do you have any idea how bizarre and freaky I can be? I seriously doubt it. You'll just have to take my word for it. You should also know that I also come from a long line of workaholics. The giveup in me is very difficult to find.

Motherhood, of course, posed complications for these foibles and personality tics of mine. At first, I was plagued by the location and cleanliness of the pacifiers and their caps. And baby socks, which seem to go missing as though they are AWOL from some onerous duty. And let's not forget all of the other baby gear! Bottles have four parts and I insist that they be hand-washed. Blankets must be clean. Laundry and burp cloths and baby's stuff must all be in its place. Even baby's bath had a method and procedure.

Today I have relaxed on a lot of this. No, it's true. I really have relaxed quite a lot. I still demand certain things concerning cleanliness, but if a stray sock goes walkabout for a week, I'm not likely to call out a search party.

Even so, I am still in big trouble from a mental standpoint. Moreover, I know that this is self-imposed craziness, not that that helps all that much....

I speak of the catch-22 that happens when my child falls ill. It doesn't matter what the illness is, I am compelled to stay home and be with her in her suffering, over the succor that only mommy can. If she needs to be held, I want to be there. If she needs to sit in my lap and cuddle while she plays, that, too, is what I want to be doing, what I feel I need to be doing. And, so I do it. But then, as we are quietly convalescing, I begin to feel guilty anew.

I should be at work, I tell myself. I have responsibilities, obligations. I am part of something important and I don't want to be the weak link. I am a professional. I expect myself to perform up to (if not exceed) expectations of my co-workers and boss, not to mention my own.

Do you see what I am talking about? If I don't stay home with my sick child, I damn myself in my own mind, and if I do stay home, I am again damned.

I know what you are going to say. Of course my child must be my priority. And she is. But that doesn't remove the guilt on the flip side. Nor does it lessen the guilt I feel when she is back to the sitter's house with a sniffle and a cough. I still feel guilty. It is something, I believe, that I'm just going to have to learn to cope with.


posted by Phoenix | 8:48 AM


At 10:10 PM, Anonymous Yucky Mummy said...

This is a really tough one. And I know what you mean. Little kids just want to be with their Mums when they're not well. But this is pretty hard, especially in winter, when they seem to get sick so often. And most male bosses aren't that understanding.
I've just taken on a fulltime job from next month and I am crossing my fingers my boy never gets sick again!


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