Saturday, April 3, 2010


Is it a motherly trait or just a female one to feel an inordinate amount of guilt? Perhaps it runs throughout the fairer sex, but is intensified by motherhood. All I know is I feel a lot of guilt a lot of the time and my husband feels relatively none.

A man does something that warrants an apology or does something insufficiently. He either feels no guilt because he recognizes that he did the best he could, or perhaps recognizes no wrong. Or he feels just enough pricking to either spur him to rectify the situation or just move on.

A woman worries. A woman obsesses. A woman cries. A woman frets. Guilt, guilt, guilt.

What I feel most guilt about is anywhere I am less than I think I ought to be. I am not patient enough with my three-year-old. I don't have enough energy, time, limbs, you name it, to simultaneously soothe my infant and keep dinner from burning, or even make dinner at all.

Something has always got to give. And I always feel guilty for not doing whatever it is that had to give.

Since becoming a mother of more than one child, lots of things give that I truly wish didn't have to.

The laundry can give. I can live with the guilt I feel about being an ineffective housekeeper.

Delicious and inventive dinners can give. Brent can feed himself. Macaroni and cheese will keep you alive.

But my children's needs?

I feel guilt about not savoring James's infancy like I did Jenny's. I feel guilt about not taking as many photos and video footage of him. I feel guilty about not reading him stories. I feel guilty whenever my pain or schedule or toddler prevents me from holding him whenever he shrieks for my attention.

He's at that stage where he wants Mama and no one else. He will be perfectly content and happy playing with something or someone. I walk by the room and he cries for me. He hears my voice and he cries for me. The instant he realizes that he is not with Mama is the same moment he recognizes that his life is incomplete and horrible and he needs me NOW!

Needless to say, he cries for me a lot. I can't always go to him. I do as soon as I can. And of course when I do I feel guilt about whatever it is I'm putting down to pick him up. Usually it's Jenny. Often it's something I ought to be cleaning or packing in order to meet our moving deadline.

I can't do it all.

Nobody can.

And so I am extremely grateful for the little things that make my multitasking easier. In particular, James's sleeping habits.

He is a gold-medalist in sleeping. The kid is a champion napper. At night time I can read him a story or nurse him for a few minutes, then lay him down awake, exit the room, and shut the door and he makes nary a peep. He just relaxes, lays his head to the side, and sleeps.

It is one of the great pleasures of my life to put that kid to sleep. It then frees me to be sufficient. In that moment I can simultaneously do the right thing for my baby (give him sleep) and also attend to whatever needs attending to the most.

Lately James has been teething. He doesn't want to fall asleep in bed. He wants to fall asleep in my arms. Once he has fallen asleep he doesn't want to sleep in his bed. He wants to sleep in my arms.

Last night after my third attempt to lay him down and his third refusal to accept sleep and his third time plugging up his nostrils with baby slime from his crying, I just held him. I didn't nurse him, or sing to him, or bounce him. He just nestled in my arms as I sat in my rocking chair. There he fell asleep. I held him for a long time.

Brent was putting Jenny to bed.
I let myself forget about the laundry, the vacuuming, the packing, the dusting, the clutter, the painting, the MESS MESS MESS that surrounds me and that I need to tame as quick as possible so we can sell our house.

I just let it all go and held my baby.

I gazed at him until the tiny sliver of light that comes in his window had faded to nothing. I listened to him breathe. I watched his eyelids flutter. I felt his tiny fingers pull at my neckline until he could feel my skin. I felt his warmth against my chest.

I held him and he held me and in that moment I felt complete. In that moment I was enough. I was all he needed and all he wanted. For him, right then, I was enough. Enough.

I need more moments like that.


shelley said...

I could have written this. I get it. But somehow reading it from someone else's perspective makes me see how unhelpful those thoughts can be. All I want to do is tell you how you are always enough. And in that moment for James you were more than enough. You were everything.

Jenn said...

When I finished reading your post I thought of a card I got from my sister years ago. It had a picture of a baby chick sitting fat and peaceful cradled in a gently cupped hand. The quote under the photo said,

"We give comfort and receive comfort, sometimes at the same time."

I think we all have moments of crazy-thinking. Then we're given brief interludes of peace and realize how blessed we are just as we are.

I have very perfectionist tenancies in some areas. When I'd start to stress over my weaknesses, my mom would remind me that we have all eternity to practice perfection. We don't have to be perfect right now.

Thank goodness.

JaeReg said...

A woman's ability to recognize (over, and over, and over) where she is not enough tends to break us even while we are giving all we have.

Why can we not lie down at night and think "I did so well today"? I accomplished 40% of the ridiculously long list of things I intended to do. I was even patient once or twice, my kids are alive, and my husband still loves me.

I lie down at night and if I don't read myself to sleep, immersed in someone else's words, I fill my head with my "not enough", which fills my stomach with anxiety and a total inability to sleep.

Your moment of "enough" with James is representative of what keeps us able to carry on. It is more than money could ever be for a mother.

I believe that is the moment where we understand that we are what God wants us to be. We feel His love through our own love for our children.