There is no gainsaying the fact that guilt is synonymous with mothers and it is an emotion that they can easily and instantly relate to. Feeling guilty and ruing our parenting mistakes or goof-ups come naturally to us. It’s as though we are programmed to feel guilty at the slightest sign of things being in disarray and going wrong. Worry lines and frowns adorn our once happy and infectious smiles and faces! Our not so long peaceful and carefree countenances are now replaced with a stiff and perpetually anxious demeanour as we unfailingly specialise in going on guilt trips at an alarming frequency. Some women may enjoy doing it solo while others conspire with their cohorts and take up joint vacations to visit the island of guilt as often as they can!
Even confident, experienced and successful mothers are not alien to this diabolical feeling that overpowers and incapacitates them from delivering their best and optimising positive associations and experiences. I am definitely no stranger to guilt. Some mothers experience guilt on an everyday basis in their parenting journey and like several of them I embark on my own unique guilt journeys! Overtime I noticed and recognised that guilt was no ordinary feeling but a powerful debilitating negative influence that can stop us on our tracks and blow our lives into smithereens.
As I watched closely and observed even more keenly and attentively, I realised guilt was something that was confined to mothers alone and not many dads were familiar with that feeling. As women, subconsciously we hang onto our guilt bodies clinging onto those moments of regret that causes untold misery and refuse to let go of those hurtful memories. Unconsciously we identify with these thoughts and let them get the better of us. Guilt doesn’t visit young girls but only those vulnerable women who have just entered the threshold of motherhood or are already suspended on the altars of it. Both new and experienced mothers fall victims to the ugly designs of guilt!
When Do Mothers Feel Guilty
Mothers experience guilt often in strange ways. Very often they feel regret for trivial reasons! A child falling sick would not just make a mother feel sad but would actually make her feel guilty and in some extreme cases hurl her into depression as though she was responsible for her child’s infection and sickness. If the breakfast isn’t fixed on time it is normal to see a homemaker admonishing herself for failing to wake up early in the morning to get the task done. If her husband is unable to find the matching or appropriate socks for his trousers and shoes, then it is definitely a reflection of her poor organisational skills and home management! Lacklustre and listless lunches for husbands is also a woman’s fault and if her children disappoint in their schools then obviously it is the woman of the house who is to be questioned, blamed and victimised. It is easy to find a scapegoat in mothers!
Mothers regret even if they are aware that they could have done nothing to stop the unfortunate event or an untoward incident from happening. They torture themselves to agonising thoughts everyday even though they are sure that negative experiences and painful incidents are always unsolicited and they are something that happen and befall them without their consent. Traumatic events mostly hit mothers without their knowledge and slightest inkling. Experiences which we dislike visit even the strongest of mothers to test their fortitude and wherewithal. Yet even the most influential of mothers succumb to the sinister traps of guilt for such is its power!
I vividly remember those toddler days of my daughter. The mischievous toddler that she was had a voracious hunger for playing pranks on me and just to see me twitching in pain would ironically cause waves of excitement in her. Not the one who was keen on entertaining her mischievous ways, I immediately devised strategies to curb her naughty streak, which invariably would send me on guilt trips!
It is without a doubt that guilt is counterproductive and unhealthy. It is only stating the obvious that guilt causes unhealthy patterns and dysfunctions in adults. Maternal guilt is always present even if mothers know for sure that they are doing exceptionally well in their roles. It is only normal for a mother to remark ‘if only I had taken good care of him, my son might not be having that awful fever! ‘If only I was better organised, my daughter would not have forgotten the date of her assignment submission’, so on and so forth. Mothers hold themselves responsible and accountable not just for their unwitting, inadvertent errors and omissions but also their child’s. We spend days in self-blame for things that were never even once in our control. Mothers feel guilty if their children fail them. The onus is on us when our kids misbehave socially, defy us publicly and disobey and disrespect us by paying no attention to our advice. If they perform badly in school, we beat ourselves up and if they fall sick too it is our fault!
Like with most mothers, guilt strikes me when I least expect it. Within minutes, it can possess us and take control of us making us feel small and hindering us from focusing on our immediate tasks. It has an uncanny ability to affect our concentration and disrupt our routine. Our self-confidence and self-worth take a beating. Guilt is definitely detrimental to our physical, mental and emotional well-being. Guilt is a debilitating and diabolical force and unhealthy to say the least. It needs to be vanquished entirely before it takes control of our minds and bodies. Overcoming guilt isn’t easy as it takes time and persistent personal efforts to annihilate its devious patterns. Forgiving ourselves and self-love are among other coping mechanisms to get over guilt.