This is the dance I’ve been doing every year since my daughter was two: Eagerly embracing the return of the “school year” (which for us means affordable childcare). Then, wallowing in guilt when I drop them off.
I told the school supervisor today, that I’d feel sad if I didn’t send them because I wouldn’t get to work. But I feel sad for sending them because I’m leaving them to work.
She laughed and said, “Parents always cry harder than the kids.”
It’s true. I know it’s true. But its the same every year–the dance of parent guilt.
I feel guilty for sending them too activities or guilty for not signing them up for them. When my daughter was little she and I did everything from music lessons to story time and art classes. I felt guilty for not giving her unstructured playtime. Now, with my son, he has a lot of unstructured playtime, but I feel guilt for not giving him music class and art class.
Part of me is convinced this is a personal defect. Maybe I am just a waffler. Someone who overthinks and second guesses. I mean, you should see me trying to pick out a new brand of mustard. What is stone ground? Do they actually use stones? Are stones better? Does it taste like stone? What kind of stone? Because for $2.89 that better be ground by A-grade, pure cut granite.
But knowing I’m a serial pontificator doesn’t help. I met a mom today, who told me quite pointedly, “I have no guilt leaving my child” And then, I lit her on fire. RIP other mom.
There are a lot of articles about parenting guilt. Overcoming parenting guilt. Blaming other people and Pinterest for your parenting guilt. But look, I’ve tried to overcome my guilt but that just makes me guilty that I haven’t overcome it and it’s a vicious cycle and enough. I imagine Ma Ingalls felt parenting guilt. And you know those moms complaining that a vast government conspiracy caused the Black Plague felt it too. Maybe guilt is just part of the necessary dance we do to always be conscious of balancing our lives.
I’ve been thinking about this a lot in the context of faith and doubt and I’m wondering if doubt isn’t somehow a necessary motivator to keep us always thinking and learning and questioning. Guilt too is a facet of this. Of course, it has the potential for negativity, and pain, and hold on while I nail myself to this cross of motherhood. So, yes, fear the dark side. But everything has a darkside. Too much happiness and you are ignoring the realities of our world and all your friends have blocked you on Facebook for being annoying as hell. So, can’t guilt be good too? Can’t it be that little reminder to be more conscious? More aware.
I don’t know that I have something particularly wise to say here except that I’m tired of being told that this guilt, which seems like a natural part of the parenting journey, is so awful I have to expel it from me with holy water and some internet advice. Maybe, instead of wallowing, or fixing, maybe, I’ll just let it be there–my little reminder that I am not perfect, neither is my life. But it doesn’t have to be the best, just my best, which is all I am doing right now.