Friday, April 10, 2009

Guilt

We all know guilt. Especially those of us who are religious. Some of this guilt is deserved, and even healthy. It can be a catalyst for necessary change. But sometimes unwarranted guilt is placed upon us by other people: parents, peers, neighbors... as an attempt to placate their own self-doubt by judging the choices of others.

Nowhere is this more potent than in the silent War of the Moms. The working mom versus the stay at home mom. Since becoming pregnant, I have heard it from both sides. When learning that I decided not to go back to work, those who are pro-home have said, "How wonderful. It would be so hard to have to put your child in (gasp) day care." And friends who plan to continue working after having children have said, "I don't know how you do it. I think I would go crazy if I had to stay home with snotty kids all day." Okay, I added the snotty part. But I've wondered why the judgement... And I am convinced that it is because most of us want it all. We want to experience the joy and fulfillment of having children AND stay connected to our former pre-spawn life. We want to accomplish things and contribute to our communities and spend time with our men and our girlfriends and our manicurists, but we also want to give ourselves fully to guiding and teaching and nurturing our very own child. But, despite our desire for having it all, it is almost impossible to keep 13 balls in the air without dropping 7 or 8 or 12 of them. So we make a choice. We either give up our sassy skirts and Starbucks hot chocolate breakfasts to spend every waking hour with our punks, or we entrust the munchkins with someone who will take care of them while we spend our days working to bring home the bacon. Either way, we sacrifice something. So to fill that void, whether large or small, we look at the woman who made the opposite choice, and we judge. We stick a pin in our "stay at home mom" or "working mom" voodoo doll. And we think we are smarter for making the choice she didn't.

What's with the judgment? What's with the guilt? We are too hard on each other because we are too hard on ourselves. We expect perfection. Maybe not the perfection that Victoria's Secret expects, but our very own, personal brand of perfection. But we need to give ourselves and each other a break. If it were possible to have it all, I would be able to train for a marathon, earn the blue ribbon for my homemade chocolate chip cookies (while never eating any), spend 10 hours every day reading and singing to my baby and teaching him to perfect his golf swing, banish dust from the house, and become Salt Lake City's Erin Brockovich without the trashy clothes, but with the fantastic legs.

8 comments:

Heather B said...

Well said. I agree.

Angie said...

Yes! We need to be supportive and compassionate toward each other. If we had more sincere help and support we would feel more rejuvenated- exhaustion just leads to doubting ourselves as moms. I don't believe motherhood to be a sacrifice (this is merely a perception)- just different. You can choose to embrace change. Kids truly do have a way of teaching you to live in the moment (not a lot of time for reflection when you have 2 kids 2 and under!)

I think a lot of moms really don't realize how much we are indeed changed. We fight it.
With all of the information and choices we have available I think many moms agonize over whether the ones you are choosing are the right ones. This causes us to become defensive and judgmental.
There are so many expectations (from society in general) we are expected to do it all- they make breast pump car adapters for God's sake! So in our minds if we are not living up to this expectation guilt can set in.
Really we need to follow our heart and do what is right for our unique family. Take care of ourselves as moms, continue to nurture our own creativity as well as our children.
Don't let others insecurity become your own. You may find if you look into the lives of the people who are doing the critiquing- they may not be fulfilled, or they may just be envious of your lifestyle!

Bretzing Fam said...

I think you hit the nail right on the head with this post! I wish it didn't go on but it does!

Heather said...

True true. Unfortunately guilt is something that doesn't seem to go away. There is always something eating away at us because we are too hard on ourselves. Perhaps we judge and put others down because we aren't truly happy with the decisions that we have made in life, whatever they may be. Deep thoughts, thanks!

Brit said...

great post, Mei. As voiced by some of the other comments here, I always find that I'm feeling the most judged and criticized when I'm doing the judging and criticizing of others. When I steer the focus off of others and their decisions, and turn the spotlight on my family and what I know will be best for them, my confidence grows and I can forget others' opinions.

My undergrad cello professor said to me one day, "you do what you do, and if others don't like it, to hell with them." Those words totally changed my life; and I use them as a mother, a teacher, a performer, and a person...

And it also doesn't hurt that I've got great friends who are supportive and non-judgmental of my choices...as I am of theirs. :)

ps thanks for coming last week; Aliya is already asking for another date!

Agent Pepper said...

I think its a personal choice. With looking at my future and trying to decide what I want to do...I think I'm going to do both of them.

I'm following in a self employment path. I'm going to be a stay at home mom while trying to manage some business at home...I don't know yet though. We'll see. : )

Sally said...

I was thinking about this today... How I wish I could have it all. I'm often feeling sad about being at work, and dreaming of giving it up. Or, I'm at home with Daniel, exhausted and wishing I had more time to work.

But how lucky are we to live at this time, in this place? We have more options and opportunities than any women before us to live our lives in the way we choose. The challenge then becomes to define what that means to each of us. And I think the multitude of options we have can end up isolating us. What's up with that?? Isn't it supposed to make things easier??

Nice post, Meili. I'm waiting for us all to get to that "I'm okay, you're okay" stage!

Sarah said...

Meili not-Johnson... this post is why I love your blog. I mean, I love posts about buying hats at the store, or about spring being here (it totally is)... but this post is noteworthy, it's true and it makes you think.

I think with this issue, either option you choose there is guilt, and to feel better about the guilt we mock the other (to make it less-desirable). But, girlses, let's just all be friends.

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