I want to share with you a piece I wrote a few years ago about a mom's guilt. We all deal with it. Some of us struggle more than others. Luckily I have some wonderful children, yet the guilt is still present each day. I'd love to hear your thoughts.
It is fitting that I had this conversation with my son just recently since Mother’s Day is coming up. Often I hear other people tell me that being a parent means dealing with daily guilt and I suppose that is true. Since children don’t come with instruction manuals, we are on our own to know what we need to do to make them successful, happy, well-adjusted, and loved. “Did you give them enough attention? Did you listen to classical music while you were pregnant so that they will become the next Mozart?” “Were you too brisk with them when they brought you that snake as a gift?” Some of these things are easier than others and of course, there are times when all those things are very difficult. If you don’t believe me, just wait until your teenager tells you that they had a “small accident” in your new car!
As a divorced parent, you face even more guilt. No matter how wonderful the divorce is, or how necessary, your children’s lives are changed for good. You begin to question every decision that you made and wonder if you have somehow “damaged” your babies! “Is this house good enough?” “Should I get mad if they act out or is it because of the divorce?” If you are lucky enough to find someone who you love and want to spend time with... and are even more lucky to find someone who wants to be with you (kids and all), you face guilt over juggling this fresh romance with the needs of your children. You might as well build a new garage to house your guilt! “Am I spending too much time with my new boyfriend?” “Do my children feel that they have been replaced?”
Add to this mix, being a teacher and you have a treacherous situation! Teachers look at children all day long and question what the parents did or didn’t do to produce these little wonders or little terrors! We also worry about our progenies acting like some of our little challenges when our own children get to school! “Will my daughter act up in class?” “Will my son turn in his homework?” And with the worry comes the conviction that if the child is a tribulation, it must be because of the parents! Just shovel the guilt on our shoulders!
Finally, I decided to call my almost 17 year old son to ask him this one question that had been on my mind all day - “With all that you had gone through in life, how did you turn out so trustworthy?” I think he was a little shocked that I thought he was such a dependable and honorable young man because it isn’t something that we have talked about before. He was probably also a little stunned that I wanted to hear his thoughts. But I thought for sure he had the answer that would help me be a better teacher and give me some perfect insight into what I must have done right!
Let me tell you a little about my son. He has a wonderful sarcastic sense of humor which hides a very caring nature. He used to cry if he thought that you were upset or sad as a child. He faced his share of childhood illnesses and accidents, yet came away not too scared to keep trying. He looks up to his older sister and admits a little competitiveness to be better than her! Nonetheless, she was his closest confidant and staunchest supporter when he faced bullies in middle school. Finally my son has the nature of a miser and will not spend money on things if he feels that they are too expensive. He would rather give up certain items (or now that he is older-get his own job) because he doesn’t want to hurt us (his parents) financially.
So this was the guy that I went to for some help. One of the biggest things that he felt was important was the nagging that we did as parents. He said that he did hear it. So don’t give up on the million reminders to do your homework or to just walk away when you are being picked on!! They do hear you!! Another factor was his personal determination to be a success. He doesn’t have an exact day or event that caused this but around 8th or 9th grade; he realized that good grades were important to him and his future goals, career, and successes. And while the time and effort that he sometimes has to put into his school work is vast and the work that he has to do is tedious, the final outcome is worthwhile. My son’s final piece of advice was to have a good sense of humor, using this to be true to yourself and not let the world get you down. With humor, he has found that it is easier to stand up for yourself, avoid conflicts, and surround yourself with people who accept you as you are.
So after about an enjoyable hour on the phone, I thought, “Seems simple! Seems like something that we all can do!!” And I also was very glad that I had done something right throughout those almost 17 years! I have some pretty magnificent children! Even with all the things that we worry about and feel guilty over; our children really do appreciate what we have given them, the foundation that they need to become breathtaking adults.
Happy Mother’s Day! Laugh a lot, live well, and love unconditionally!