“Guilt” is My New Middle Name

Addicted to Photography, Ottawa, October 2013

Addicted to Pho­tog­ra­phy, Ottawa, Octo­ber 2013

My full name is “Juli­ette Éloïse Bossard-Giannesini” but you can just call me “guilt”—that’s my new mid­dle name since becom­ing a mother.

Mark was born at 11:04 a.m. I felt the first pang of “mom guilt” at 11:05 a.m., when some­one (a nurse?) announced that the baby was cold. “I’m sorry,” I said groggily.

I don’t even know why I apol­o­gized. I mean, I was busy get­ting stitched, it’s not like I was play­ing with the thermostat.

It all went down­hill from there.

Later that day, a nurse chas­tised me for not pick­ing up Mark fast enough: “When your baby is cry­ing, you must fig­ure out what he needs! So drop every­thing and attend to his needs.”

I bowed my head and accepted the scorn­ful look. Never mind that 1) I was in the bath­room try­ing to, ahem, clean up a bit (with­out get­ting too graphic, remem­ber that I had just given birth) 2) I hadn’t even real­ized Mark was cry­ing because there were four new­borns in the room and that I was still adjust­ing to the fact that I was no longer preg­nant, that our son was here with us.

Oh, and in case you were wondering—yes, I felt guilty about not dis­tin­guish­ing my son’s cries.

I don’t think I ever stopped feel­ing guilty.

A few days after Mark was born, we took him to the doc­tor for a rou­tine checkup. It was the first time we leav­ing the house together after com­ing back from the hos­pi­tal. We were run­ning late (of course, Mark had pooped right as we were about to leave), we were sleep-deprived and stressed out, like two new par­ents tak­ing their kid on a “long” twenty-minute drive.

I put Mark in the car­rier and walked to the car. Prob­lem: we couldn’t fig­ure out how to secure the car­rier to the built-in base anchored to the back seat. Feng tried, I tried and it just wouldn’t lock properly.

Do you know what we did at the end? That’s right: we didn’t lock the car seat to the base. I sat at the back and held the car­rier. Go ahead, call the police, call child pro­tec­tive services.

I was on the verge of cry­ing. I felt like I had screwed up my first “respon­si­ble mother test” even though we made it to the doc­tor just fine and fig­ured out how to secure the car seat prop­erly for the return trip.

In the past year, I have felt that “mom guilt” feel­ing at least sev­eral times a day. Run­ning late for Mark’s feed­ing? Guilty! Mark doesn’t eat? Guilty! Los­ing patience? Guilty! Los­ing con­trol of the sit­u­a­tion? Guilty! Mark is cranky? I must have done some­thing wrong!

I don’t sweat the lit­tle things. When Mark falls, bumps his head or eat sand at the play­ground, I shrug it off—meh, he is a kid, right? I don’t mind if Mark eats some choco­late or some fries. I don’t mind say­ing “no”. What’s stress­ing me out is not being good enough as a mother. Not being patient enough. Not being car­ing enough. Ever heard of the “impos­tor syn­drome” where peo­ple feel like a fraud even though they are per­fectly com­pe­tent? That’s how I feel as a mother.

Fuck. I’m feel­ing guilty right now for writ­ing this instead of play­ing with him. Never mind that if I have to look at him throw shoes down the stairs (he is appar­ently at the “wow, grav­ity is fun!” stage) I am going to lose my mind.

That’s it. Now I am def­i­nitely feel­ing guilty for even writ­ing this. I should love my son’s com­pany and I should cher­ish and trea­sure every sec­ond I spend with him… shouldn’t I?

The funny thing is, I am usu­ally a fairly bal­anced per­son. I don’t over­re­act much and I’m not exactly a drama-queen. I can even be described as “assertive” (or even “stub­born”, depend­ing on whom you ask).

I used to have my shit together.

I’m not sure why I always feel that other moth­ers do a bet­ter job than me. I don’t know why I am mak­ing my life more com­pli­cated by con­stantly refus­ing help or try­ing to do every­thing alone.

Do you ever feel guilty?” I asked Feng. “About what? Mark? Nope. Why should I? He looks fine, doesn’t he?”

Okay. So maybe it’s just me then.


About Author

French woman in English Canada. World citizen, new mom, traveler, translator, writer and photographer. Looking for comrades to start a new revolution.


  1. Long time, I have not commented.

    I am going to tell you a story. I had Paul a year ago (+1 week). I was pan­icked, in shock. Breast­feed­ing was a dis­as­ter (not enough milk, baby scream­ing, we gave him a bot­tle after 3 days…).
    I have now a per­fectly and lively tod­dler. But, “omg”, the 1st 6 months were rough, really rough. I had a screamer. He knew 3 stages: eat­ing, cry­ing and sleep­ing (mainly #2). We blamed Silent Reflux and milk intol­er­ance. We will never know because now he drinks and eat whole milk, yogurt and cheese.

    This week­end, I saw 2 babies, a 3 month old and a 5 month old. One was hang­ing out on the floor, happy… not a cry. He “fussed” for 30s (that would have been a coo for Paul). the Mom excused him, you under­stand he was hun­gry. The other one was no bet­ter, all smiles. and both of then slept through the night by week 6. I was watch­ing unicorns.

    And the guilt came back: it was my fault, I could not breast­feed (because?), I should I fed him on demand, or every 2hours. My 3 hour sched­ule totally messed him up, I am such a bad mom. I work 11 hours a day. I see him only 3 hours a day.
    Bad Mom… I some­times want some per­sonal time, read a book and not been both­ered. Bad mom… I live 5000 miles away from his grand-parents. I should give him his fam­ily closer. Bad mom. I am enjoy­ing too much my work in Hous­ton. I should quit and get another job in Den­ver so he can be raised in a bet­ter way. I am so self­ish. Bad Mom…

    But then, Paul said his 1st word “Chat” point­ing the cat and smiled at me.

    Then I remem­ber each kid comes with dif­fer­ent chal­lenges. We just have to try our best. Love them and pro­tect them of what is needed and we have, as a par­ent, to try to be happy ourselves.

    Who knows Paul might become some­one else’s Uni­corn one day.

    • Hi Car­o­line,

      Thank you so much for shar­ing. It means a lot to me because we don’t like to share the “neg­a­tive” side of moth­er­hood. I mean, when peo­ple ask, I invari­ably say I’m okay, he is okay, even though… well, we aren’t always okay.

      We all have to make choices. I didn’t want to stop work­ing first for finan­cial rea­sons and then because I love my job and work­ing makes me happy. That said, even though Mark doesn’t go to day­care and I see him a lot, he doesn’t always have my full atten­tion and some­time I am stressed out because of work, lack of time and all. So I know the feeling!

      See­ing “easy babies” made me real­ize that, well, Mark was not an easy baby. He is bright, fun and all but he was and is high-maintenance. Couldn’t put him down for two sec­onds, I had to carry him against me all the time dur­ing wak­ing hours, didn’t sleep much and all.

      Paul is most cer­tainly someone’s uni­corn! It’s all phases. Yes, maybe he was more demand­ing as a baby but it has noth­ing to do with what you did or didn’t do. You know that, right? 😉 But then, he may do other stuff ear­lier than other kids, have a great bond with you, etc.

      And you are a good mother. :-)

  2. Well, I’ve passed the same not one, but two times. And even now that my chil­dren are 8 and 10 some­times I think I should “do more”, “be more”, “give more”, etc. Any­way, I know I love them, and they know too, they also know that, even if I don’t play much with them, and I’m often “off lim­its” because of my work (I work from home too), I’m always there, when they really need me. Always. Noth­ing is more impor­tant than their real impor­tant needs (even an “urgent” hug can be one). And I think that this is what they need to know.
    And another thing that used to give a rest to my guilt feel­ings was that I knew what I would have been like, if I had spent myself entirely on their needs, even the small­est ones. I would have been a hor­ri­ble, unsmil­ing, unin­ten­tion­ally resent­ing mother. And that would have been bad for me and for them (and for my hus­band too). And I would have felt even more guilty than I usu­ally do.
    So be your­self, love him, and do what­ever you want to, as long as you are there when he really needs you, and nobody else :)

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