Parental Guilt

Little is nine months old soon. Once, for two hours, he was cared for by my parents. Every other minute of his life has been spent with his mum or dad.* We haven’t gone out together without him. Three times I have left him with his dad, again for all of two hours. I didn’t want to leave him. He needed me. What if he got hungry? Thirsty? Upset? Tired? I was very much a mum that needs to be with her baby. I felt guilty if I wasn’t with him.

Not only did I have to be with him, I had to be doing the right thing when I was with him. Was I playing enough games with him? Giving him enough independant exploration time? Reading enough? Singing enough? Socialising with other babies enough? Feeding him the right solids? Were they too lumpy or too pureed for this stage or that? Did we get enough fresh air? On it goes, doing my head in.

Music time

Music time

Then something happened. Some kind of unforseen corner was turned at the eight month mark. I needed to get away all of a sudden. I needed real me time, not a longer shower on a saturday morning, but a few hours, even half a day or an evening to myself. I needed to feel like me, Roxanne, Rocky, Roxi, Rox, not mum. It hasn’t even happened yet, the half a day, but I already have pangs of guilt just for wanting it.

Add to this my impending return to work. I’m returning two days a week because we need the money. I’ve had a year off work, and consider myself incredibly lucky to have been able to do this, but maternity leave, long service leave and Paid Parental leave are all running out. Again the guilt builds up.

Incredibly it has often been other mums who have added to my guilt. I have been openly questioned by some on my need to return to work. Did we really need the money? Can’t my partner take time off? Can we both go part time? What if Little needed me? Attitudes like ‘why have a baby if you’re not prepared to look after it?’ Even the head of a child care centre felt the need to tell me they didn’t believe mums should go back to work full time. Surely we all know that peoples circumstances differ. There isn’t a one size fits all model. Soon after Little’s birth my partner was made redundant. We had to consider the neccesity of me going back full time and soon. It terrified me and reduced me to tears many times. Fortunately he found a great new job, but to be judged by other mums and child care workers as less of a mum would have been the straw on this camels back. If you could and wanted to stay home for X amount of years good for you! That’s two big things right there, could and want. Not many can afford that luxury. Yes people struggle to keep one partner home, and that’s admiable, but some of us wouldn’t struggle so much as drown. Some want to stay home everyday, some feel they are a better parent if they have time away.

What really annoys me though is my guilty reaction to all of this. I know every parent and every baby is different. Every parent does what they need to do to get through the day or night, and with only some sad exceptions, do well. I know that my son is happy, healthy and developing beautifully. So I’m going to take a step back from this whole guilt trip. I’m going to suspend any judgements I may have once had based on parenting as I thought I knew it. I’m going to remind myself that the fact I even care if Little’s had enough exploration/play/books/singing makes me a good mum. This will at least get me to the frist day of child care. Lets see how I go then.

Got to be doing something right!

Got to be doing something right!

*Since I wrote this post Little’s dad and I had a night out together for a friends birthday, leaving him in the very capable hands of his aunt and cousin. He didn’t even know we were gone, sleeping right through the night! I was like an excited kid in a lolly shop, but also a little manic with worry. This culminated in me talking very fast at people, grasping my phone in one hand a glass of wine in the other and treating both like a lifeline. Practically running from one person to another in my excitment to be out with them and showing everyone way to many photos and videos of our Little. I both wanted to socialise, drink and eat fast and get out of there and home to him and never wanted to leave this adult world that at times I had missed. The next day Little got a cold and I felt so guilty I had gone out the night before. His big green snot candelabras taunting me, saying “we’re your fault mummy, you went out”. So as lovely as it was I just dont know if I can be bothered doing it again for all the guilt. So much for taking a step back from the guilt trips.
let’s try that again shall we?


About Roxanne P-CH

Partner, mum, passionate teacher, lover of the outdoors and all things snow. Tapping at keys and scrawling on paper. Having words my way.
This entry was posted in My Woffle, On me, Parenting stuff and tagged , . Bookmark the permalink.

10 Responses to Parental Guilt

  1. Lindy says:

    Well roxanne that is parent hood and you know what they grow and no matter how old they are its mum what should I do. Or mum can i come stay with you for a while they will always want and need mum not quite as much as little at the moment. I think you are doing an amazing job with him. Lovely conntented smile and he appears very happy. Just always remember we have them for such a short time they grow they mature they make their own mistakes in this world and mum picks them up and sets them on the right road again xoxoxo

    • Roxanne P-CH says:

      I hope he always feels he can come to me and his dad and never stops, no matter how grown up he gets. If he didn’t I’d feel guilty I’d done something wrong!!!
      Seriously though, I’m loving being a parent, just simply saying I get parental guilt. But not surprising when I have always had a strong sense of guilt. As a kid if I stuffed up mum and dad would go relatively easy on me as they knew my sense of guilt would eat away at me more than any punishment they could deliver.

  2. Naomi says:

    Pffft. That’s what I say. In a perfect world we’d be a bit like Denmark and a bit like Finland. We’d have more forrest kindergartens and paid parental leave for both parents. We’d have a better social system where childcare was more affordable and we wouldn’t call it child care, because it is early education. We’d be damn sure to call the people in those centres educators too. We’d pay early childhood educators decent wages and support families in their choices.

    Perhaps the director has a point in a way, imagine if we had more flexible work places for parents, so children could spend more time in the care of their parents and family. And in all honesty, full time early care is not what I would want for my children. Imagine of there was more job sharing and more real role sharing in child raising. If fathers in this country were able to also have flexible work and spend a day a week – or more- with their child/children while their partner was working?

    Yes, I am off on a tangent… again!

    As for guilt. I don’t have it. My kids know I work and so does their dad, they see us share roles and responsibilities. It is the way it is. And without working and getting away from the kids (especially when they were younger) I’d not have been a very happy person.

    • Roxanne P-CH says:

      I shall refrain from using the words child care in your presence again. Ah crap, I just did. Tangent away, I agree with all you have said. I wish both S and I could have spent time at home with Little. He had to use two weeks of his holidays and that was it. I would love to see a system like the one you have spoken of here. I agree that for me full time work whilst Little is pre-school aged is not for me, a couple of days a week is all we need to get by financially and I’m still with him the majority of the time which I think is best for him. That may be what the director meant but if I was returning full time I would have been angered by that comment. I also love that my child will grow up seeing both mum and dad working in professions of their choice.
      I just struggle with feeling guilty. It’s just me. I think it’s best if I acknowledge that and try to get over it.

      • Lisa B says:

        Naomi says wise words. The flexible workplaces stands out to me because my kids are 11 and 8 and I’ve worked from home since the oldest was 1 purely because of that flexibility. What to do for 13 weeks of school holidays a year when you’re working. I see so many families having to take separate leave just to cover it and never holidaying together. And if you have no parental support, then it’s worse. Just lately, I’ve been thinking I’d LOVE to go back into the ‘real’ world and work outside the home but again, who would care for my kids during those holidays. If my partner had flexible working arrangements and I did as well, it would make our lives so much easier. Education for the workplaces is the key – and it’s getting better.

        As for the guilt, well if there is any more wasted emotion than guilt I don’t know what it is!! It sounds clichéd but we are still people with our own needs when we become parents. Self care (whatever form that takes) is critical to the health of the mother in a child’s early life (and later in their lives). Critical. If you’re not feeling okay, then it’s difficult to parent your child. And don’t ever feel the need to explain what you’re doing to other people. Be comfortable with your choices, because – you know – they’re yours, not anyone else’s.

  3. Enid Bite'Em says:

    I think there are two types of guilt (that applies to the parental guilt, and the other type) … the first is when you know you’ve done something wrong … the second is that you know you are doing the right thing for you and your family, and you’ve discussed it with your partner (if you have one) but you still find yourself explaining it to others (gah!) … this is the one I suffer from, I’m comfortable with my choices, we’ve analysed them to death to provide the ‘best’ but I still find myself explaining, lest other people see only part of my choice and judge me (how ridiculous is that?!) Yet you only have to read half-a-dozen judgmental blogs to know the judgers are out there. I think my friends who are single parents find it the hardest … all choices and no daily sounding board, is how one put it.

  4. dawn says:

    I wish people who are forthright with their comments which are really judgments, would learn to be so forth coming with positive comments. Where is the solidarity of women and in particular mothers. It saddens me as a mother and granny to be aware of thoughtless comments by mothers of other mothers.
    Guilt is a waste of energy, unless as the above comment points out some thing has actually been done to cause harm, then put that feeling aside. Practise the art of putting it aside.

  5. Never feel guilty of going out for just a little time to yourself! There are really bad parents out there, believe me, you are not one of them! You are amazing xo

    • Roxanne P-CH says:

      Aw thanks! I really like the comments above about guilt being a useless emotion when it is not waranted. Going to keep reminding myself of that and move on from it. Thanks for your lovely comment.

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