Wednesday, August 10, 2011

Mother Guilt

This post is inspired by my sister-in-law's recent post on breastfeeding. She is a new mom and the post is very well written about her experience and lack of joy in breastfeeding. She decided to give it up and be a happy mom and therefore have a happy baby. Good decision!! Do what is best for you child, right? But the post is dripping with guilt. The very thing she is trying to talk herself out of, find justification for. I am not judging, I get it. I have guilt all the time, the guilt that only mothers can have.

She writes, "I understand that breastfeeding is the absolute best nutrition you can offer your child. It is a miracle really. That my body can create life juice for another human being is just amazing and obviously something that is natural and how God intended for things to be. So I understand that breastfeeding is best. But what if you were like me....what if you hated every minute of it????"

After my first child, I was confident I would breastfeed. I took the class, watched the video, yada yada. Well, it was hard. Really really hard. And painful (don't get me started on the correct latch business). After about one week, I wanted to quit. I was tired and stressed about knowing if he was getting enough. BUT, the alternative was formula and we couldn't afford it. We were already at a two hundred dollar deficit every month and I knew if I wanted to use formula I would have to apply for WIC to get it. I just could not bring myself to fill out the paper work. I was too prideful. So, I made myself breastfeed. I worked everyday to figure it out and most days I cried. By the time Miles (my son) was three months old, I had the hang of it. Yes, it was still hard, still awkward, still binding, but I was committed. By the time Miles was five months old, I was skinny. Like twenty pounds smaller than when I found out I was pregnant. My doctor told me it was the breastfeeding, it can often do that to women. I was hooked. I loved being skinny. So, I breastfed my son until he was 11 months old. Was I sad the day he weaned? Sort of, I also felt free. Pride made me breastfeed and vanity kept me going. Is that what "God intended"? Probably not.

My point is that every mom has mother guilt, of some kind. Just this morning, my children were standing up in the cart at Wal-Mart, eating a nasty donut, I think Lucy had taken her shoes off, Miles had a snotty nose that he was wiping on the cart, one of them started crying, and I started yelling and threatening to spank with the kitchen spoon. Does the American Academy of Pediatrics recommend any of these things? No, but I have to get groceries!

Last week, I found Lucy (my middle child) asleep on the kitchen floor next to her glass of milk. I had not had time to put her down for a nap yet. Looking at the milk reminded me that she probably had not had enough for the day and oh, fruits and vegetables, how can I fit it all in? If I let it, the guilt will eat me up. I will be paralyzed by standards that are told to me by "experts." Is breastfeeding best, sure. Is it natural or easy? No. Is giving your kids 9 fruits and vegetables a day best? Yes. Is there any way I can realistically make that happen?(Juice Plus people, I've tried it!) No. I do my best, continually strive to do better, beg for grace.

These are small issues, but let's not kid ourselves, it is the big ones that keep us up at night blogging. These are the seeds that sprout the life sucking mother guilt that we may never escape. Questions such as, do my children know I love them? Will they remember the time I left them in their bed crying because I couldn't handle it? Will they know that God loves them and choose to love him back? Will they learn to love people or only learn how to yell at them while driving? Am I teaching them to love their neighbor? Are they learning to make good decisions on their own or are they just afraid of my kitchen spoon? Do my fits of yelling or my spankings create deep seeded anxiety that will one day shape or alter their personality? Will they evolve into fine men and women someday? I could go on...

I know a mom who just buried her 30-year-old son. He died of a drug over dose, alone in his Ft. Worth apartment. He had money, a loving family, two sisters. He was given a good education, the best rehab experiences in the country, but couldn't kick his habit. He was thirty, a man, responsible for his own life decisions, but I can not imagine the guilt that haunts his mother.

Being a mother is anything but easy. It is often lonely (a person only has one mother after all) and I would wager it is the most challenging thing a woman ever does. But the rewards, both earthly and heavenly are intense. Tough, scary football linemen cry on national television when saying hi to their mom (not typically their dad). As mothers we have the opportunity to instill values, create traditions, pray fervently, offer encouragement, and introduce our children to the one true creator. This is big stuff and naturally creates big doubt about ourselves and the job we are doing with our little people.

So don't judge yourself. You are a good mom for caring so much and striving for the "best" to offer your child. You are unique and beautiful and exactly what your child needs because God knit him or her in YOUR womb. Yes, I am talking to myself.

Remember that people when you see me in Target with my hair tangled, eyes crazy, and my kitchen spoon hanging out of my purse so my crazy kids can fear it.