Monday, November 16, 2015

Oy, the Guilt

(With thanks to Abbi for her edits and "you're not totally crazy" reassurance.)

One of my best friends has been getting a bad rap lately: Guilt, specifically of the "mom guilt" variety. I am here to put in a good word for her. (We're good buds.)

From various comments, Facebook posts and blogs, it seems that if you're an Empowered Woman, "mom guilt" is a bad thing. To prove this, we denounce it roundly and heartily.

Moms have mucho opportunity for guilt in their lives. Remember those English classes where you learned about different kind of conflicts? Man vs. man, man vs. self, man vs nature, man vs. piles of crap, man vs. leftover Shabbat babka. (Spoiler alert: POCs and babka always win).There may have been more examples; I think I was reading Sweet Valley High books under my desk that day.

So, too, there are lots of different kinds of guilt we can feel, when all the things in our life come into conflict and we can't give everything the attention we want to:

Kids vs. spouse
Kids vs job
Job vs. housework
Kids vs. other kids
Housework vs. kids
Sanity vs. everything
Kids vs. babk--actually, kids, sohelpyou if you get near that babka

However, expressing such guilt (especially of the "job vs. children" variety) is seen as anti-feminist, a stain on our working mom cred and generally a bad thing. "Why should we feel guilt?" we demand of our ourselves and others? Get rid of the guilt! We are good enough, we are smart enough and goshdarnit, our family likes us 87% of the time! Buh-bye guilt!

Here are two things I want to say about that:

1. It's not so easy to "get rid" of an emotion, just stamp it out like that [insert finger snap].  Like those saggy stretch marks, it's a part of you. I don't agree with or like the underlying sentiment: "Error 404. Guilt feeling not valid." Because guilt is a valid emotion, like any of the thousands of emotions we feel each day, from the rage we experience when all the peanut butter cups are gone from the Ben & Jerry's ice cream, to the ecstacy we feel when we discover there is, in fact, one last well-hidden chunk. Telling someone the emotion they are feeling is "bad" or "invalid" isn't going to make them feel better. They'll just feel guilty about feeling guilty! And who's got time for that??

2. Let's say we could just get rid of our guilt. Why should we? Guilt is just an expression of wanting to be there for all of our things all of the time and feeling sad when we can't. Feeling some distress or guilt when we leave a sick kid with the babysitter, or get home too late at night to see the baby, or  let them watch too much TV because we're exhausted, or just having that tug of "I need to be here but also there" is okay.

Should we let guilt consume us? No. Should we engage in nonstop beratement of our fine selves? Of course not. Should we dwell on the guilt, unable to move on and lie facedown in the pile of babka crumbs? Obviously no. (There are no crumbs left anyway; we consumed them.)

But it's better to acknowledge the feeling, know it's there and move on than try to crush it because we're supposed to be - I don't know, past that? Better than that? It's a feeling; it's not good or bad, and it certainly doesn't make us a better or worse woman or mom.

[Disclaimer: And of course, if you are a mom that doesn't have guilt - guess what? Awesome! Don't go saying that ABA is promoting mom guilt. Just that if you do have it, it's okay.] 

So to sum up:

1. Feel guilty - is ok
2. Not feel guilty - is ok
3. Feel guilty about feeling guilty or not feeling guilty - is not ok

Now I can't think/write/say guilty anymore. It's starting to look funny.


OneTiredEma said...

I'm sorry, can we go back to the candy pieces in the Ben & Jerry's?

Leila said...

Glad to see you're really back!


So - DON'T feel guilty that I didn't check ABA until just now and see that my daughter had written something pretty profound and of course I haven't said anything to her yet...

You're right. Guilt is OK. Sorry that I didn't read this yet Gils. Love ya.

Debby said...

Mazel Tov!

charles said...

Nobody can reject the info you have given in the blogs, this is actually a great work.
cerebral palsy