Motherhood is pretty much synonymous with guilt. And unfortunately, this is something you do not realise until you’re already neck deep in it 24X7. And though difficult, it is still possible to deal with the other side effects of being a mother, be it lack of sleep, interrupted meals, a sore body, extreme hair loss (that too of the expensive straightened variety), the guilt, not so much.
It starts fairly early, much before the squirmy little thing is brought to you in a bundle and presented, and you respond with a dazed smile, unsure of how much of this is true, and how much is induced by the anaesthesia, the pain killers and the bright lights of the room. It starts the moment the faint pink line confirms that you now house another being, and in certain OCD cases, even before, because you know, you never know.
This guilt takes numerous forms, it might be in that one sip of coffee you took from The Dude’s mug, because seriously, caffeine when pregnant, do you know nothing? Or that one day you forgot the thyroid medication, because you know how important thyroid is for the baby’s development? Or that last movie you watched in the cinema hall in the 6th month even after reading that the baby can now hear, but you still choose your fun over the baby’s comfort. And in that doctor prescribed medicine you took once in a while when the nausea was unbearable, because some random people said they would harm the baby.
It obviously gets worse when the little one is out in the big bad world. Every gram of weight-loss makes you feel like that you’re just not fit for this. Every time the baby cries, and your mother says ‘She must be hungry’ and the first thought that comes to your head is not ‘Oh, my poor baby’, but ‘But I just fed her!’. Every time, you give yourself that extra minute before getting up to console a bawling baby in the middle of the night, fervently hoping she would go back to sleep.
Once the basic routine is in place, you think this is now going to get better. You think. In reality, the list grows. God forbid if you’re a working mom, there is yet another angle to it. Now you feel guilty for every moment you spend away from the baby. Which is understandable. But the fun part is when you start feeling even worse for every moment that you spend away from the baby, the reason not being work. Because you see, you’re already this heartless mom who chooses to work over spending precious time with her baby. And on top of that, you want time to yourself too! I mean seriously, how un-motherly can you be?
So you work your ass off, trying to do justice to this role that you so willingly took up, and spend quality time with the little one. It is fun, the baby’s happy and you feel better about yourself. But then, the body has it’s limitations, and you feel tired, and while playing with her, you let yourself think ‘ Wouldn’t it be good if she could sleep for a while’ and Bam! There it is! All that teeny weeny amount of good feeling you just garnered, replaced by a truckload of guilt. Yes, just like that, in one second. That’s how seriously the guilt takes its job of ‘being around’.
The funny bit is, I doubt things would have been any better had I been a stay-at-home-mom taking care of the baby the whole day. Because then, technically I would be being a good, dedicated mom, but I am dead sure that once in a while, frustration would hit me. And then when it does, I would then feel guilty about that. Yes, about being frustrated with having to take care of my baby. A decision that I took out of my own choice.
So you end up justifying everything that you do, which you think isn’t what an awesome mother would do. You tell yourself that you have a life, and everyone needs time off, and that the baby would want you to do this for yourself. And you do it all the time, in your head, over and over again, when it strikes you that the very fact that you’re having to justify anything, even to yourself, makes you pretty pathetic anyway. Like I told you, there’s no way out.
Which is why I know for a fact that this is an unavoidable deal. This whole feeling inadequate, irresponsible, not-good-enough business. And I know this is mutually exclusive of the scenario, not at all situation dependent. As in, accept it, you’re a mother, guilt is your forte. It is going to be there, no matter what.
And looks like this is for the long run. I mean, I can already see myself. Feeling bad for the class she missed because I had a close, or the question she could have answered had I taught her a little more, or that movie all her friends’ parents took them to, but I didn’t, because the weekend was just so busy. And I am not sure if I am mentally prepared for it at all.
Or perhaps I am just over-analysing things, and in reality, things do get better eventually. Considering who would have thought that it was possible to sustain on 6 hours of broken sleep, or eat with a baby in one hand, the plate in another, or decipher the dialogues of the movie over and above the shrieking and sounds of the bowl being banged on the steel cupboard, but it did happen. And in the same way, one fine day, you will wake up with all the guilt gone, with the confidence and a true belief that you’re doing the best you can, and that it couldn’t get better for your child.
And while at it, perhaps also find that pot of gold at the end of the rainbow, you know, the one being guarded by a Unicorn.