The other day, I was telling my mum about how intense the days are. “I remember!” she replied. “When the three of you were little, I used to look forward to putting you to bed to finally get some ‘me’ time and relax.”
She paused for a second and quickly added: “I loved you, of course, and you were great kids! It’s just that… you know.”
“I know you love us,” I replied. “There is nothing wrong with needing ‘me’ time. I feel the same with Mark. Sometime, I just need to be alone.”
I have a great relationship with my parents and my family in general. We were (and still are!) loved and my parent raised three happy and healthy kids. I’m lucky, really. I mean, I’m sure our family is dysfunctional on some level—every single family is—but I never doubted my parents’ love for us and they are always here when we need it.
So why does my mother, almost 30 years after giving birth to me, still seems to feel bad about needing some ‘me’ time when we were young? Why does she need to sound apologetic?
Goddamn guilt. That’s what it is.
I know where she comes from now. I feel the same.
Some days, Mark is inexplicably cranky, needy or fussy and I can’t help feeling like a failure. If I snap or can’t fix whatever is wrong in a timely manner, I even downgrade myself to the “pretty shitty human being” level.
“Surely, other mothers have things under control,” I sigh. “What’s wrong with me? Why can’t devote all my time to him and just put my own needs aside, you know, for the next twenty years or so?”
This kind of thinking is usually followed by big sobs and an overwhelming feeling that 1) I just can’t take it anymore 2) I’m a complete failure as a mother and as a person 3) I’m doing everything wrong.
I’m a mother and I chose to be. I shouldn’t need to pee, eat, sleep, wax my legs, go out for a coffee or enjoy a hug with Feng. I shouldn’t need to relax alone and I certainly shouldn’t complain about having to hold Mark and cuddle with him. I should be entirely devoted to this little 65-centimeter long creature. Because, as the world likes to remind me, “they grow up sooo fast…!” and “soon he won’t be needing mommy anymore!”
Will Mark remember the day when, exhausted and stressed, I didn’t burp him well and he had hiccup for twenty minutes? Will he blame me for speeding up yet another feeding because I hadn’t had diner yet and was hungry? Will he develop an unhealthy relationship with clothes shopping because I didn’t change yet another milk-stained pyjama fast enough? Will he be a sociopath because I didn’t smile back enough to him the nights I was tired? Will he resent me because I handed him to Feng to be able to get some work done?
I told Feng about the gigantic glaring red “FAIL” button in my head that blinks each time I feel I didn’t do enough.
He said I was crazy. “Why are you being so hard on yourself?” he asked.
“I don’t know. I wish I could… be a better mother. A better partner. A better person.”
“He’s fine! We are doing fine! Look, he is smiling.”
Damn kid was grinning. It made me cry even louder. I felt guilty for feeling guilty.
Why do we, women, feel guilty all the time?
I can see plenty of women around me burying their head in shame when they really shouldn’t. Those who left unhealthy relationships and yet blame themselves for not being “good enough” when the guy was clearly a huge jerk. Those who are feeling the pressure to conceive and feel guilty because it doesn’t happen fast enough or easily enough. Those who manage to have a career and a family and yet think they aren’t doing enough even though they are Wonderwomen.
To each and every single one of them, I want to say “good job! You are a great person and I admire you.” But somehow, a lot of women don’t hear the praise and focus on the negative, the “should have” “could have”.
Why are we being so hard on ourselves?
I don’t know. I wish we could shake off the ever-present guilt feeling and hug each other. Because really, we are doing the best we can—and we are doing pretty damn good.