Friday, 19 February 2010

Guilt Trips. Take two...

I don't know if this is true for anyone else, but I have a tendency to write slightly obsessively. If I'm working on a post that has real meaning for me, I will often spend hours crafting it, tweaking it, reading it through - wanting it to be exactly right. Finally happy with what I've written, I will then publish it, only to read it again a week or two later and groan. I won't like it anymore, what I had previously thought flowed, will now read awkwardly and stumblingly, and I will be able to see a million ways in which I could have made my point more eloquently.

We (as in myself and my children) have just come to the end of a rather lovely half-term holiday. The first half they spent with their fathers, so I was able to go and stay with friends in another city, sans kids. I had whole uninterrupted conversations with people and everything. For the second half we all went together to stay with another friend (with whom I had years of catching up to do) and her family. A thoroughly enjoyable break from the usual routine was had by all I think. I am feeling quite refreshed. The kids are tired but happy.

It has meant though, that I've had very little time to devote to my blog, and that I've done next to no writing recently. So rather than not post for ages, what I've decided to do is dig around in my archives, pull out one of the rare posts that I still actually like, and re-publish it. It was published before I had any readers anyway, and it fits in well with some of the other issues I've been writing about of late. So without further ado, or almost any tweaking, I give you: Guilt Trips. Not literally of course.... that's just the name of the post.

Mothers feel guilty. An awful lot of the time. It's a fact of life.

I have a friend who feels guilty if the vegetables she feeds her children have been bought from the supermarket, and not lovingly hand plucked from her own organic garden. I'm not joking. Being around her makes me feel guilty for not feeling guilty enough.

Fear of being labelled a 'Bad Mother' is enough to drive the most confident of us into a pit of self-doubt. It is the worst thing we can be called. Why? Because we love our children and want to be seen to be doing our best for them? Well yes of course. But also because deep down, despite all the progress that's been made in terms of womens rights and equality, there still exists a belief that this is what women are for. That motherhood is our only true purpose. So if we can't cope/don't like it much/fail to persuade our little darlings to eat ten different types of green vegetable a day; then we have failed utterly in our duty as human beings. And that's a bloody big guilt trip...

The trouble is, we can't win. It begins before a woman has even had her pregnancy confirmed. A few too many tequila slammers before you got your positive test result? Perhaps you forgot to take your folic acid? Then shame on you, you Bad Mother you. And it goes on through every stage of pregnancy. Still enjoying regular exercise? Puts the baby at risk that. Sitting around all day? You'll get swollen ankles; and besides, nobody wants a mother with a fat arse you know.

And after the baby's born... well. Lord help you if you need to go to work to earn a crust. Or because, god forbid, your work is actually really important to you. Because if you choose to bottle feed and put your baby into child care facilities, you may just as well proclaim your membership to a sadistic satan worshipping cult and have done with it. But then on the other hand... you've got these stay at home mothers. Boring, sponging, brainless amoebas with nothing better to do than give their children serious dependency issues.

You're a Bad Mother if you don't breastfeed. You're a Bad Mother if you breastfeed too long (a lack of consensus on how long might be too long making doubly sure that breastfeeding mothers don't escape their share of guilt). And if you breastfeed openly in public you're a shameless hussy, putting everyone off their lunch. When I was breastfeeding, I had the idea of writing a weekly magazine column, which was to be imaginatively entitled: 'Places I Have Breastfed'. My list was long:

1. In a tipi.
2. In the Liverpool Museum.
3. In the queue at the dole office.
4. In a Working Mens Club. I swear this is true. I'd love to be able to say I was being deliberately provocative, but actually there was an acoustic band playing and there were loads of women there.
5. In the back seat of a moving car, contorting painfully in order to feed the baby who was safely strapped in his car seat. Highly illegal, and probably not to be recommended, but I (or should I say the baby) was desperate.

There's plenty more where that came from, but you get the gist. I am a completely shameless hussy. And a terrible mother. But I feel endlessly guilty about it, so that's o.k. then.


  1. Good post for me today, guilt-ridden as it has been. I was a terrible mother today for caring more about the fact that I was going to have to sacrifice my rare afternoon off, than about the fact that Kai was sick. AGAIN. I was pissed off actually, how dare he!

    At least we're all terrible mothers together hey? Far less lonely that way. And actually? I don't really trust the 'good' ones. They're far too shiny for their own good...

    Glad you enjoyed your break x

  2. OMG....I'm grinning away wondering how the hell you contorted enough to breast feed a baby strapped in a car seat!! That deserves an award!

  3. I've been feeling guilty about not feeling about only bathing the child once a week. Seriously! And the one time I do bathe him is the night before he goes to daycare in case it's really not okay and they report me to DOCS for it. Why don't I feel about about this? Clearly there's a part of me that feels I ought to.

    I love your well crafted posts.


  4. You aren't kidding about guilt. I also wrote about the guilt involved in breastfeeding in my blog ( I had to wean my daughter for both our sanity, and yet I still feel guilty every time I see a mother breastfeed in public. I feel like I'll be judged both ways--I'll make people uncomfortable if they see my breast or nursing cover, or they'll think I'm horrible for dumping that powder into tap water and giving it to her. Either way, I lose. And it's just not fair. (My husband feels none of this. None!)