R’s Mom tagged me some time ago:
1.Write about 2 instances where you have put yourself before your child/ children… been a wee bit selfish.
2.How did you feel? Did you feel a pang of guilt or were you comfortable?
3.Tag 2 more moms
I decided to wait on that till I had done my big reveal so I could write openly what I wanted to. I won’t cite two instances because I actually can’t think of two instances. Not because I’m such a paragon of virtue that I never put myself before my child but because I do so too many times to count. Some examples:
1. I go out to work not because I have to but because I want to. I enjoy the space, being among adults, getting out of the house and yes, the time away from my baby. I would have preferred shorter working hours but given the choice between no work and working an 8-hour day I chose the 8-hour day. As a family we could have afforded for me to stay home full-time but I have a husband who does not like being the pressure of being sole breadwinner. I could have fought him if I really wanted to. But I didn’t. I wanted to go out to work.
2. On weekends, we do go out and leave Benji with our helper. I try to time it when I know he’ll be napping but that’s not always the case. I may also take a nap during the day and leave Benji with my helper.
3. When I was on maternity leave, I’d step out at least once a day and leave Benji with my helper.
There are probably many more instances of my selfishness. Do I feel guilty? No.
The reason – I went through a rough tough in the first couple of months after Benji was born. He had reflux and it was suggested to me that I modify my diet. I started cutting out things until it came to a point where I was eating only congee with a few pieces of boiled chicken in it (and then someone suggested chicken could also cause problems). Every meal became traumatic as I agonized over what I should put in my mouth. The problem was that there was no consensus about whether Benji was getting better or not as a result of my efforts. My mum or V would say: “He seems a little better” or “maybe you should just not eat this” and the confusion would start again. I felt guilty every bite I ate. I was terribly unhappy, tired and stressed out, and because Benji was unhappy due to the reflux, I hated to leave him – besides when you’re breastfeeding on demand, you’re kind of chained to the baby. I got barely any sleep because at nights he was a nightmare to put down and in the day, if I heard him whimper, I’d be up. I imprisoned myself in the house in my PJs. Finally I decided I had to go for a walk every day. I felt liberated and guilty at once.
Then the time to go back to work drew near. I found myself looking forward to it. Benji was getting better and it seemed that my helper could handle him, better than me if I was honest.
My first day back at work was great. I thought about Benji a lot but I also thought about other things. And I realised that this was the best arrangement for me. This is who I am and I can only be the best that I can be. In that first week of work, I threw away mommy guilt for the large part. When I get occasional twinges about certain things, I examine them to see if there is something there to consider and then I either shake them off or do something about it. If I slept in and didn’t go right out to Benji, I don’t beat myself up. I try to make sure that it isn’t affecting him and if it’s going to affect our long-term bonding, it doesn’t happen too often.
I know I am not the best mother out there. There are women whose mothering skills and commitment to their children I really admire, especially those that are stay-at-home. But I’m ok with not being a best mother. I just try to be a decent mother, to enjoy my son and to do anything that will scar him for life.
The guilt resurfaced when I got pregnant again. I felt ill and was falling back on time with Benji in a big way. There were days when I practically did nothing with him. Even for me, this was too much. My helper and V stepped up in a big way and Benji was oblivious to my absence which also made me sad. One day, when I came home from work V had got there first and was carrying him. I put out my arms to Benji but he turned away towards V. That is the first time he’s ever done that – normally he’s very democratic between V, my helper and me and happy to be passed along as it means being carried a bit longer. And I felt like crap. I felt the allegiances had been drawn and I had lost my son.
Well the worst of the nausea has passed and I am able to do much more with Benji now. His turning towards V turned out to be a one-time thing; he remained V’s fan for a while but now he’s my little beamer. Two weeks ago, he turned away from V and towards me. So there!
The bottom line. I feel very little mommy guilt. I have almost successfully turned that switch off. I probably come across as a coldhearted bitch to many. But I know not to my son which is all that matters to me. The end.
Dipali, because I want to know if this malaise affected moms in a different generation from mine.