Tuesday, February 7, 2012

Moms in the City - Getting Beyond the Guilt

Here is the latest installment of my column, Moms in the City.  It runs monthy in the Portsmouth Herald.

Last Saturday morning when I woke up, I wasn't right. I felt like a freight train ran over me and while I was down a Mack truck backed up over me twice and then a sea gull pooped on me. I could barely get out of bed and I hobbled into the bathroom thinking that a steaming hot shower would help. I kept on repeating in my head, "I cannot be sick. It is Saturday. I have stuff to do. I have stuff to do. Cliff and I have a date. I will be better. I cannot be sick. I went to bed feeling great. I cannot be sick."

As I was drying off I whacked my wrist on the towel rack — I whacked it hard. And that is when I just started crying. It was like a bad scene out of a chick flick — wet floppy hair, sick (did I mention that I was hormonal? Or can you tell?) And to top it all off I felt the ever hovering feeling of — guilt. Yes, a heaping dose of guilt. I sat on the toilet in my bathroom, which was on my list of things to clean for the weekend and sobbed. I was mad and hurting and hormonal and disappointed. And I felt mothering guilt.

I felt guilty that I wasn't cleaning and organizing and following through on my plan for the day. I am convinced that evil elves sneak into my home while we are out or asleep and turn the place upside down, sprinkling crumbs on the floor and making piles everywhere. I felt guilty because my sweet and amazing husband had the girls the previous weekend so I could enjoy time away with my girlfriends in New York and Boston. I had tremendous guilt that he was again "on duty" and I was going to be holed up in bed for the day. I had plans for taking Sophie and Katie out for a good chunk of Saturday afternoon and giving Cliff a little time off to do whatever he wanted to do. I wanted to take care of him. That was not happening. I could barely shuffle down the hall to get some ginger ale. And Cliff was actually fetching that bubbling goodness to my parched self.

The Merriam-Webster dictionary defines guilt as, "A feeling of responsibility for wrong doing." Here's why guilt is the worthless, empty calorie of emotions — I didn't do anything wrong. I didn't plan on getting sick on Saturday. It is not wrong to be human and get sick. At other times when I feel mothering guilt about not signing them up for enough after-school programs or raising my voice when they are back-talking brats, I am not doing anything wrong. I am a woman, trying her best, working very hard everyday. There I was, legitimately sick, sour stomach and all, feeling guilty — as if I was doing something wrong. And that is not right.

I thought about all of this as I sat weeping in the bathroom and I hear a gentle knocking on the door, followed by, "Momma? Are you OK?" Katie peers in, her face sweet and concerned. "No honey, Momma is not OK. I hurt my wrist and I am sad and I don't feel good. I just need to cry a little and unravel my feelings."

Katie approaches me and wipes my tears and kisses me on the cheek. She then says to me the best words that can ever be said to a sick, hormonal, crying girl. "Momma, you look beautiful. Go lay down. We'll bring you ginger ale." Then Sophie comes into the bathroom and hugs me too and at this point we really look like a scene out of a chick flick, my girls hugging me and taking care of me and telling me how pretty I am. There is no point or place for guilt when I am loved by my girls.

I shuffle down the hall to bed, and they run to the kitchen to fix me ginger ale with bread and butter. Cliff gently approaches me (he's a smart man — this isn't the first time I have been sick and hormonal). I blubber a little more my feelings of guilt and frustration at not being able to do what I planned. He says to me, "Get rid of the guilt babe. It is pointless. Get better. Take care of yourself. We need you — but please, don't waste another moment, ever, feeling guilty."

I can't wave a magic wand and from now on wipe away all of those pointless guilty feelings — but I certainly will try. I do know that Cliff has some time off coming to him. And I think we really need to get a male animal in this house soon to keep Cliff company.

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