Mother’s guilt. It arrives the first week baby arrives. Guilt often feels like a very useless emotion and can lead to other feelings of flailing and then failing. I had it in bucket loads; despite being told “feeling guilty doesn’t help anyone especially the person feeling it”. During the newborn days it caused me to over think and question as we were finding our feet as parents. I ached with the heaviness of it and so I decided to do something about it. Now having reached the 2 year milestone as a first time parent I don’t recognise the person I am today.
More centred yet with more perspective; more relaxed and yet more driven, I reflect on the notion that there had been some purpose in experiencing a huge dose of mother’s guilt.
Guilt forced me to make choices. It was my compass when I was trying to do far too much. When I returned back to work 6 months after the birth of my first, I was juggling so many balls in the air I should have joined the circus. I didn’t have my village of grandparents or aunties and uncles around to help and I had a loving husband who travelled away for work 2 nights a week. I was isolated from family and dear friends who were a 4 hour drive away. I felt guilty for not being the mother I wanted to be and I felt guilty for not performing to my usual standard at work. I started to spiral and the pressure built where I couldn’t breathe and I couldn’t think rationally. I knew something had to give and I didn’t want it to be me or my family, so I made a choice.
(Image by Katharina Jung)
We made the choice to make a second move interstate in as many years and I left the job to focus on and experience and enjoy every facet of being a mother. In my mind, it would become the second half of my maternity leave, as taking the two halves would form a full year off. Absorbing these moments with my little one during the time he emerged as a toddler has been a blessing. I’ve witnessed all his developmental leaps. These days I still have work responsibilities, though I’m glad to say the balance is more in our family’s favour. I don’t believe I’m leaning out by Sheryl Sandberg‘s definition and I wholeheartedly respect her message. I’ve decided that for this critical chapter of my life and our little one, for once, I’m leaning in to family.
These days I’m feeling more creative, more efficient, more open-minded and more empathetic which I’m channelling through this blog and other pursuits.
Indeed I’m witnessing a movement where a league of mothers are re-writing what it means to work and have ambition, and it’s thrilling to be a part of this future. As an African proverb says, “if you want to go fast, go alone. If you want to go far, go together.” And while I didn’t have this on hand at the time, I think this motherhood manifesto is just sage advice.
On an end note, I don’t think that the guilt ever goes away but I never had it in that large dose again. I’m not suggesting to wallow in the guilt and please always talk to someone if it feels overwhelming. I’m just acknowledging that in my situation, it forced me to make a choice. It kept me in check and the positive is that I feel like I’ve since allowed myself to become a better parent rather than a perfect one. Finding our own rhythm, our parenting comes from trusting our intuition. The intuition that came with the confidence. The confidence that came from calm and clear thinking. The calm and clear thinking that came from rest and help and having our own space. From rest and help and space, finally came my grace as a mother.