Before I was pregnant, someone raised the idea of ‘mummy guilt’ in a kind of ‘you just wait’ type way. I have to admit, I was blissfully ignorant of the concept.
Now, I wish I still was, but in fact I seem to spend my whole, entire life feeling guilty about something or another.
My mummy guilt actually started before I was a mummy. I found out we were expecting (I am never sure if its incredibly irritating to say ‘we were pregnant’ or if it shows unity? Mr Teapot certainly got off lightly if we shared responsibility. From now on I’ll go with ‘I’). I found out I was pregnant on a Thursday. We had returned from our belated honeymoon the week before, been at a wedding on the Friday & went to a 30th birthday party on the Saturday. Both of these occasions involved an awful lot of alcohol (at the latter, we were drinking home made cocktails at 4 in the morning).
When I wee’d on the stick & two lines came up, my thoughts were as follows:
1) Wow, wow, wow, wow, wow! Shit; this changes everything.
2) I’ve pickled the child.
Now, I didn’t go on to have the best of pregnancies & in the far reaches of my brain, I couldn’t help but wonder if the two were in some way
At 36 weeks, we had a scan that showed Little Teapot hadn’t grown as much as hoped & so the consultant said they wanted to get him out at 37 weeks. He was also breech & they decided it would be too risky to try to turn him around, so I was booked in for a caesarian. Queue mummy guilt on a huge level that I hadn’t been able to grow him properly & now wouldn’t be able to experience a ‘proper’ birth. I also couldn’t pick him up for a while after the section, so I couldn’t do the simplest task of soothing him, without someone being there to help, which was torture if I had to listen to him cry until someone appeared. Once Little Teapot was here, I only got milk one side & Little Teapot lost too much of his weight, so we started to mix feed. Another reason to feel guilty: I couldn’t grow him inside of me & now I bloody well couldn’t outside of me either. Mr Teapot was brilliant throughout & – thankfully – we’d worked his paternity & annual leave so that he had a month off with us in total & I can honestly say that on the day we realised he would have gone back to work, had he only had the ‘standard 2 weeks, I think I would have cried from when he left to the moment he walked back in. I almost did after a month….
As Little Teapot grew, the guilt quietened for a while (or maybe I just didn’t notice it, as I was so knackered?!) as I marvelled at this little creature & how he changed every day, greedily watching him as he slept as I couldn’t get enough of him. This led to my next feeling of mummy guilt:
I never managed to ‘sleep while baby sleeps’ during maternity leave, as everyone tells you to, because I’d look around our little bomb-site & realise I needed to at least make sure it was hygenic to live in, if nothing else.
In the back of my mind, I had a vision of Mr Teapot arriving home from work to a gleaming house, a delicious dinner on the table, a washed, dressed & blow-dried wife (who had miraculously slimmed-down to a couple of stone lighter than her pre-pregnancy weight by doing the Insanity workout [or it’s 2 year-ago equivalent] while the baby napped) & a contented little baby cooing gorgeously for his daddy. The reality was that he quite often had the baby shoved in his face by this crazy-haired woman, still in her pyjamas before he’d put his bag down & then either ended up with something toast-based for tea, or something burnt, which I’d put in hours before, & forgotten to check on, as I’d been sicked on, poo’d over or similar. I actually had a bit of a melt down around this point & went to the GP, who said I was suffering from what he called ‘Super Woman Syndrome’ & I needed to slow down & accept that I couldn’t be all things to all people or I would combust (I don’t know if that’s medically possible, but you can see what he meant…).
As we approached weaning, I felt guilty that I had no bloody clue what I was supposed to be doing – surely now I was mum, I should innately know these things?!
I won’t even go in to how horrendously horrible it felt to leave him at nursery, aged just 9 months – he was still a baby & here I was ‘swanning back to work’ & leaving him with barely-out-of-their-teens strangers. How would they know what he likes & doesn’t like (despite the 4 sides of A4, I filled in detailing exactly that – I must’ve been a bloody nightmare for them!). I literally felt like I had left one of my arms in that building with all the smiley photos on the wall (I am now sure they are more for the desolate mummies than the children).
I’m sure by now you’ve got the idea & I won’t bore you with every incidence of mummy guilt from Little Teapot’s birth until the present day, as there aren’t enough hours in the day, but it doesn’t seem to be getting any easier to shove the mummy guilt aside – the focus just shifts. An example, here are some of the things I have had mummy guilt over in the last few weeks:
That I am at work:
We had a questionnaire sent through for Lilttle Teapot’s 2 & a half year check, which sent me into a spin, as I didn’t know if he could or couldn’t do some of the things on there, as I didn’t feel like I see him enough to be qualified to answer. (I ended up double-checking my answers with my parents, who have him 2 days a week & the child-minder). My mother-in-law genuinely thinks that I went back to work full-time out of choice, as I am such a career girl. The truth is, I’d give anything to be at home all day with Little Teapot & struggle not to feel envious of friends who can afford this luxury.
Little Teapot will pick up a remote control, iPod, mobile phone or similar & say ‘Hello Mummy’ in to it, as this is quite often how we say goodnight if I am away with work. This breaks my heart.
Despite me & Mr Teapot both working full time, I feel guilty that we cannot offer Little Teapot any sort of financial security, or the lives we grew up with. I grew up in a big house, with plenty of outside space in a lovely rural village & so did Mr Teapot. We live in a 3 bed semi with a 10ft square garden in a place my dad affectionately (I think) calls ‘The Ghetto’. There is no option of us moving towards the areas with better schools, as we have masses of credit card debt & loans from before he was born, much less him being privately educated, as I was from 15-18. I feel guilty about our financial choices – made years ago – maybe meaning that we can’t send him to university when the time comes. We are unable to consider giving him a brother or sister, purely because we could not afford 2 lots of childcare costs. This frustrates me, as I don’t feel like other members of society have to make this choice, but that’s a discussion for another day…
I don’t know how to get him to eat:
He seems to eat everything given to him at the child-minders, but when we feed the same to him, he’s having none of it!
His favourite meal is fish fingers. I really hoped it would be something more nutritious & vegetable-based, but sadly not. In fact, he was offered fish recently, as we had fish & chips (without batter) & said ‘That’s not fish, I want that fish’ – pointing to the fish with the batter still on. Fail.
I find him exhausting:
Now, don’t get me wrong, I love every minute I spend with him, but he is so demanding of time & needs constant entertaining & I often find going back to work is a rest, not to mention being able to have a wee without an audience & being able to actually reason with colleagues without them bursting in to tears! (Then, of course, I feel double guilt for even thinking such a thing!).
I don’t know how to get him to behave:
Whilst on holiday we have been out to eat a few times & I become hyper-aware that the other people dining in a restaurant have not come to hear Little Teapot doing his spontaneous rendition of Old MacDonald, at the top of his voice every ten minutes (which started off very cute, but is now getting less so…) & I also feel guilt that we are out, past bedtime & expecting him to behave. He is tired, so then gets fractious.
That I am the type of parent who blames tiredness for bad behaviour. Even worse, I have been known to utter the phrase ‘over-tired’ & then feel an overwhelming urge to slap myself.
That I have turned in to the mother I thought I’d never be & hand him the iPhone to distract him & keep him entertained in the situations described above.
Little Teapot has started hitting me occasionally & I can’t help but wonder if it’s because I abandon him every day to go to work & often overnight. Even when I am not working away, I can go for days without seeing him for more than a few minutes, if I get up before he’s awake & get home after bedtime. I hate this.
Our cleanliness (or perceived lack of it):
As I mentioned, I am realising I cannot be all things to all people & one area that suffers is the tidiness of our house. It’s not un-livably unclean, but it can – on occasion – be messy. This is a lose:lose situation, as if I spend my precious weekend cleaning I feel guilty that it’s time I should have spent with Little Teapot & if I don’t, I look around the house & realise it looks such a mess, I don’t know where to start! Our wedding present to each other was a cleaner & how I bloody miss her now we can’t afford her!
I do worry that perhaps I haven’t enjoyed Little Teapot’s life so far as much as I should have, as I’ve been constant worrying, second-guessing myself & feeling guilty for things I have or haven’t done.
We recently had a session on time management & stress at work & one thing I realised is that, as a perfectionist, I set impossibly high standards for myself & I feel like I have failed when I fall short. I am trying – a little at a time – to tell myself that my best is all I can hope for. Things don’t have to be perfect, as long as I have done my best – and do you know, I have done the best I can to be a mummy to Little Teapot & I actually think he’s pretty perfect (although I am massively biased, obvs), so maybe I should start enjoying this time, as I fear it will pass all too quickly.
I actually haven’t discussed this with anyone, as all of the other mummies I know seem to ‘just get on with things’, but I wonder if they feel like this behind closed doors, or if I am truly alone?