Being Jewish with Israeli parents of Polish decent, I grew up with a lot of guilt in my life. It was my parents go-to mantra for discipline. I grew up feeling guilty if I got 98% on a test and not 100%. Guilty for getting my car towed the first time I drove it downtown (for parking on the wrong side of the road between a certain time) after my parents made such a big deal about “downtown driving”. Even though I paid for the towing charges and the ticket and was punished for months afterward. Guilty for not spending more time with my grandmother before she passed away and not remembering details about her Holocaust stories. Guilty for not becoming a Doctor or Lawyer. Guilty for marrying a non-Jew and for wanting a Jewish wedding ceremony. And most recently, guilty for not appreciating my parents more when I was younger.
(Above: My parents and I in 1987; Below: My parents and I on my wedding day)
None of this guilt prepared me though for the guilt I feel as a mom. I have no idea where it comes from, since no one is making me feel guilty but me.
Two weeks after my son Kyle was born, I realized that I have latching issues. Not Kyle, not us, but just ME! As if the pain of my nipples being torn off wasn’t enough, I started feeling guilty about my next steps. I obviously couldn’t keep breast-feeding him like this and until I figured out the latching thing, I would have to pump and formula feed. The thought of both of these instead of breastfeeding made me cry. I mean, everyone tells you how important it is to breastfeed. I’m a terrible mother for not doing it, even if it’s just for 2 weeks. For g-d sakes, I felt guilty about pumping! Who am I? When did I get so crazy? I can’t tell you how many people I’ve met who formula feed who also felt guilty about it. It’s so ridiculous that we as mothers feel this way! There’s so many people and nurses and governments telling us that “breast is best” that we can’t help it I guess. I don’t even think I took any pictures of Kyle drinking from a bottle because I was “embarrassed” that someone might see it. It took me a few months to realize how stupid I was for feeling guilty about this. Everyone should just do what they have to do to feed their baby, no matter where the food source comes from.
During Kyle’s first year, I never went out during the week with friends (sans baby). I just felt too guilty. It’s not like Kyle needed me, especially after 7 months, when he generally slept through the night and especially after 9 months, when he was mostly drinking from a bottle all-together. I just couldn’t get my mind around leaving him home “alone” (even though my husband was home). Even on some weekends, when we had weddings to go to, and we left Kyle at home with either my parents or my in-laws, I couldn’t help but feel guilty. I just wanted to get back home to him, even though I trusted his care-givers and knew he was doing fine. I just felt like it should be me watching him – it was my responsibility and I wasn’t doing my job! It wasn’t until a few months ago that I finally felt “okay” to leave the house without Kyle. My mother-in-law was over during the day, and I decided to go out shopping (for me no less). I was out for over an hour when it hit me; I didn’t feel guilty for being out without Kyle. And then, I went out a month later, during the weekday, with a group of girls for dinner (again, sans Kyle) and I couldn’t wait to leave the house and just hang out with my friends without having to constantly tend to my son. Slowly, slowly, day by day, the guilt lifted and I started to do more of this. I was actually excited for some alone time, and it felt good!
When Kyle turned one year I felt guilty again. Kyle was colicky for the first 3 months of his life and I remembering how much I wanted those months to go by quickly. I was counting down each day until he stopped crying. One of my best friends had her baby this past July and she was just LOVING the first 3 months of her babe’s life. I realized just how precious those months really are and I longed for those days again. I felt guilty for not being more patient and understanding. I felt guilty for being selfish and rushing time.
The only good to come out of all of this guilt is that I’m able to see what I would change if I got to do it again. And with that, I swore to myself that I’ll be different with the next baby when the time comes around.
Even as I’m writing this, I feel guilty about the fact that Kyle might find this post one day since everything is public and lasts forever in the internet*. On that note, I better stop or I’ll never be able to blog again…
I’d love to hear from you and to know that I’m not alone. Have you ever felt guilty? And if so, what was it about and how did you get over it (or are you still experiencing that guilt)?
*This blog will self destruct in 10 seconds. Sorry in advance about blowing up your computer, I might have overreacted 😉
- Mia Redrick: How to Deal With Mother’s Guilt (huffingtonpost.com)
5 thoughts on “Feeling guilty. Also known as being a mother”
Maya, guilt is natural! Let’s say you are further ahead than me. To do this we have spent only 1 night away from the kids, and that was for this past xmas party. I feel it everytime I think of leaving the kids with anyone other than Judd or myself. Not that i dont trust other people, but for me it is ALWAYS the worst case scenerio going through my head. What if joshua cracks his head open? ( We all know he has done this 3 times now, so not unlikely.) What is someone gets deathly sick, what if there is a fire? What if….. Never stops in my head. – have realized this is all me! LOL. So…. I have decided I will not feel guilty leaving them for a while, but will always come home for the night. Maybe when they are in their 20’s i will fell less guilty. LOL.
I don’t think you’re at all alone in wishing those first few months away. I was literally counting half-weeks until 12 weeks, as I was awaiting that ‘miracle happy time’ that everyone kept talking about! I too feel guilty about many things as a mom, but I think we’re too hard on ourselves- especially at the beginning when we’re experiencing a combination of sleep deprivation, crazy hormones and the life-altering adjustment of being a first time mother!!
Great post Maya and so true in every sense!!! Although I loved my time with the little guy, I also ‘wished away time’ on a daily basis!!! Every day was a challenge but I also had you reminding me how precious it is (THANKS!!!). I feel like everyday I count down time until his next nap and worry about everything instead of just enjoying the moment. Guilt is part of the mama-gene…whether he’s too cold, whether I’m schlepping him all over town in his carseat is ruining his naps 😦 Guilt will never go away but I do thank my Chinese parents in preparing me for this!!! xo
Love it. I am catholic and my parents are from Cuba. Guilt is just part of our culture. Keep writing you are great.
I have heard that there are a lot of resemblance between catholic and Jewish parenting. I haven’t heard much about Cubans though. Thanks for your kind words 🙂