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.
Saturday, April 3, 2010
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.
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.
Posted by Menner at 21:04