Sunday, 18 October 2015

The guilt mission

Guilt and I go back a long way.  From the legitimate (emptying my childhood savings account to fund  my student Smirnoff habit) to the absurd (bursting into tears when I had to throw out a mini Victoria sponge that had gone out of date), I'm not one to brush off my minor transgressions and move on when I have the option of letting them forever fester in a cranny of my conscience instead.

I probably should have called time on this uneasy relationship before I became a mum.  In those first, fraught weeks of new parenthood, not a day went by when I didn't find something to feel guilty about.  Guilty when I watched my daughter gulp down the measly amount of milk I'd managed to express and motion she wanted more of the "good stuff" rather than the full bottle of formula I'd lined up next for her.  Guilty when, in sleep deprived desperation, I tried to snooze a little longer when I knew she was stirring.  Guilty that a decision to drink in rather than take away when we went out for a restorative coffee meant she was in a dirty nappy for five minutes longer than she might otherwise have been.  Guilty when that first, terrifying nailtrim resulted in a minuscule nick on a tiny fingertip.  Guilty for relishing time away from the baby when I grabbed a shower, and eventually graduated on to an hour out by myself.

The above are episodes that should strike a chord with other new parents, and exemplify how, whether projected by society or self, guilt can go all out to eat you up inside as you stumble through those early weeks.  If you're not careful, you can constantly question the choices you make or find fault with your parenting skills, from the big decisions (breast or bottle, stay at home or back to work) to minor everyday mishaps.  Or you might let big business babyhood get the better of you, and feel bad that your child's wardrobe is mainly bobbly hand-me-downs or you can't afford to fill his or her schedule with sensory classes and high-tech toys.

It's only as I near that three-month mark that I realise that I, along with so many others in my position, need to cut myself some serious slack.  My daughter is well-fed and clothed, with somewhere safe and warm to sleep when she feels so inclined (although she's currently sleeping in her preferred bed - my arms - as I write this).  Her parents may not always get it right, but they comfort her when she cries, spoil her with cuddles and sing, gurn and dance like idiots if it means raising one precious smile.  Guilt and I are parting ways, hello (mother's) pride.