As a new mother, I’m surprised at how often I find myself feeling guilty about something related to my son. It began early in pregnancy when it seemed like every drop of caffeine would be dripped directly into my unborn child, and then it peaked at 38 weeks when I developed pre-eclampsia and was convinced that one wrong move during my required bedrest would inevitably damage my child forever. And now that my son is here, there’s a slew of other things to feel guilty about – the two bottles of formula I fed him in the hospital haunt me; the cold he got from daycare because I have to be a working mother, the TV that is on in the background of home movies I take, the rash he got the day I forgot to rinse the diapers that last rinse.
I try to remind myself that there is always something to feel guilty about and that this simple fact should indicate to me that no parenting decision is absolutely perfect. I try to remind myself that I am not the first person to make these choices, and that in my journey of parenthood there are always going to be decisions I could make differently. What matters most in the end, I believe, is that we are all making the best decisions we can for our families given our circumstances. There should be nothing to feel guilty about then, right?
I can’t help but feel alone sometimes, even though I know I’m not, and watching threads at various sites has done two things: one, it’s convinced me that there is a lot of guilt-tripping that takes place between mothers, inadvertantly; and two, if we supported one another in our decisions, whether we agree with them for our own families or not, we’d all be better off. We’ve all seen them – the formula bashing threads, the anti-circumcism comments, the bashing of working mothers, those who admonish cry-it-out families, the snide comments about disposible diaper users.
No one purposefully sets out to make parenting mistakes, but of course they happen. Society seems to encourage these feelings of guilt everywhere you go, covertly pressuring parents into being dissapointed in themselves. At the end of the day, though, we are all doing our best and giving whatever we can. No one’s perfect, and that’ll be one lesson I’m sure to teach my son AND myself.