Guilty as Charged
Today I would like to welcome Nicole, who has written a guest post on the sources of mama guilt. She is a mother of a beautiful son, a woman of color, and is crunchier than she ever expected to be. You can normally find Nicole over at Navelgazing, where she muses regularly about her experiences with new motherhood. Today, I have a guest post there. So, once you’re done reading Nicole’s thoughts on the sources of mama guilt, head on over to get some ideas on how to deal with and harness that mama guilt.
Those words led to me standing in the back of a university lecture hall inhaling every word that came out of the mouth of the most awesome midwife that ever awesomely midwifed.
To my relief, I wasn’t alone. Of the roughly 50 birth-minded women in the room, there were about four other mother-baby dyads present. We swayed side by side with our very attached babies wrapped snugly in ring slings. When the babies got fussy, we unabashedly lifted/unbuttoned/pulled down our shirts and nursed our babies. When the babies babbled a bit too loudly and excitedly, we slipped through the rear door, listened from the hallway until the babies calmed and then slipped back in to the lecture.
Eventually one of the mothers realized it was time for a diaper change so she sat on the floor with her little one and changed his cloth diaper.
I remember thinking that this environment made babies in cloth diapers seem so normal. I smiled and gazed at this scene. That’s when I realized I had not changed my own son’s diaper in a while. Then I remembered he was wearing a….disposable!
I slunk out the rear door, hushing and rocking my already calm infant and quickly changed him on a wooden bench in the empty hallway.
Before I became a mother I would sigh every time I saw or heard the term, “mommy guilt.” I was tempted to say that guilt was useless unless it motivated us to do better. In some ways I still feel that way, yet I haven’t escaped the guilt trap.
Why haven’t I escaped? I think guilt has become for many mothers an unavoidable part of motherhood. What we feel guilty about and the extent of our guilt depends on our own individual cultures, philosophies and personalities. However, I think the common thread of our guilty feelings is that we don’t want to be judged as “bad mothers.”
Mother disapproval is a national pastime. Sure, we pay lip service to the supposed sanctity of motherhood but we also love a good mother-bashing. Do any of these examples sound familiar?
Stay at home versus work outside of the home mother
Breast versus bottle
Those “mommy bloggers” who ignore their kids
Welfare queens with seventy-billion kids
We are bombarded with so many cultural messages about what makes a “good” mother. Is it then surprising that moms feel guilty over their own perceived imperfections?
I hesitated to agree to attend the Ina May Gaskin workshop because I didn’t want to be seen as “the one with the noisy baby who couldn’t figure out childcare.” Later, I briefly felt like a natural parenting failure because I thought the other mothers would think I was a big fraud. After all, I believe in the advantages of using cloth diapers. If they could figure out how to take their babies out in cloth diapers then why couldn’t I?
But why does it even matter what others, particularly other mothers, think? Most of us want emotionally and physically healthy children that grow into successful, emotionally and physically healthy adults. For many this is the proof of the quality of our mothering. Right or wrong, society will blame us and we will blame ourselves when our children turn out to be less than perfect. We will fear judgment from other mothers, because who better to judge us than someone who knows what mothering is like? And if they could figure out how not to screw up their kids, then what’s our excuse? In the midst of all of this judgment our harshest critics just might be ourselves.
The truth is that despite our best efforts or lack of efforts, our children will never be perfect. Whatever child-rearing technique we choose will attract judgment from someone. We can gather as much knowledge as possible about the “how to’s” of raising your children well and we’ll still fall short of our own expectations. What we can do is manage our own responses to the “just not good enough” thoughts that trouble us and then try to do better next time. If at the end of the day we’ve all survived and our kids still love us, then perhaps that’s all the proof we really need.
B&W Photo credit: jfg
12 Responses to:
"Guilty as Charged"
My Book Is Now Available!
For My Children: A Mother's Journal of Memories, Wishes and Wisdom
Click the cover to order now!
- When Sharing Sleep Is Tiring
- Parenting From the Inside Out
- Five Ideas to Keep Babies and Toddlers Safe from Choking
- Vote Now for Your Favorite Photos in NPN’s Flickr Contest: What Does Natural Parenting Really Look Like?
- May 2013 Carnival of Natural Parenting Call for Submissions: Emergency Preparedness
Forced Weaning Due to Pregnancy
101 Things To Do Instead of Yelling or Spanking
The Effects of Circumcision on Newborn Boys
Kardashian’s Call to Cover Up
- Mother’s Day Gift Set Giveaway from moksa organics and Zoe Organics
- Natural Parents Network Holiday Gift Guide
- Giveaway: 12×16 Custom Portrait from Destany Fenton Fine Art – $220 ARV CLOSED
- Giveaway: Story Starters Game from Mama May I – $25 ARV CLOSED
- Giveaway: $35 Gift Certificate to Earthslings – $35 ARV CLOSED
- Giveaway: $30 Gift Certificate from Dominna – $30 ARV CLOSED
- Giveaway: $20 Gift Certificate to Two Pink Hearts – $20 ARV CLOSED
- Giveaway: 3 Pairs of Earrings from Job Description Mommy – $45 ARV CLOSED
- Revisionary Parenting
- Giveaway: Qwirkle Game from SeriousShops.com – $25 ARV CLOSED