Is guilt a prerequisite for parenting? I was ignorant of this key criteria in the job description before signing up. I discovered quickly that if I didn’t possess enough guilt in my parenting skills, there were plenty of other people who were happy to help develop it.
Everything from birthing my babies to feeding, settling and stimulating them attracted unsolicited comments and reasons to question myself, ultimately coating my experience in a thick layer of guilt.
However the topic worthy of the densest crust of guilt is the big “return to work” question. It’s still unfathomable to some critics, that as individuals we have different needs in diverse circumstances. What works for you, doesn’t necessarily work for me. Seems obvious. Simple, even.
I loved being home with babies. Initially, I didn’t feel like my brain turned to mush or that I’d discarded my career. My approach seemed foreign to many commentators. Questions like “But what do you do all day?” and “Don’t you want to get back to doing something more interesting?” were thrown at me by total strangers. One particularly fascinating individual asked me what I did before I was a mother and when I answered, his response was “what a waste that you’re now just a mum”.
Yet, when I flipped the coin and discussed the idea of returning to work, I was met with new disapproval. I felt I had to justify my decision by saying “but it won’t be full time” or “they’ll only be in childcare one day a week”.
Do the parenting critics ever disappear? When does the self-questioning stop?
I’m 12 years on from those insecure first days of parenting. Anyone else’s negative interpretation of our personal situation bounces off like a four-year-old at a trampolining party.
Now, I’m running my own business where I can work around my children. Despite the flexibility, I still have deadlines to meet and therefore events I miss.
My youngest starts school next year and her transition visits fall on one of my work days. I shifted things around to go to the first session only to sit around pasting and colouring with her for an hour. I’m not sure she’ll remember in ten years that I was there. I hope she doesn’t recall my distraction as I tried my best not to think about all the work I could have achieved in that hour. I felt bad for not being focused, despite pasting and colouring not being my strong suit, but resisted the guilty feelings creeping in.
We do the best we know how with the information, experience and resources we have. I have four children, I run a chaotic household and a successful business. I can’t be everything to everyone all the time. I don’t believe that’s something to feel guilty about.
It’d be superb if the words “just” (as in “just” a mum) and “should” were deleted from the dictionary. These are possibly the two greatest guilt-inducing words in the English language. While they’re editing, they could probably get rid of “pasting” too.
About Kylie Orr, Kylie Orr
Her dream of becoming a back up dancer for Janet Jackson was quashed by a distinct lack of talent, forcing Kylie Orr into a day job of writing. She has four children and one husband to fuel her inspiration.
After eight years writing for Essential Baby, Kylie was keen to broaden into genres outside parenting. She found the murky waters and the swell of rejection in this cut-throat freelance writing business overwhelming. But 2015 is her year. She’s determined she will be successful, she will conquer the writing world and make enough money to eat more than 2 minute noodles.