I think as a society we have largely moved on from the idea that a woman’s place is in the kitchen. Instead it seems we have moved on to the idea that a woman’s role is feeling guilty. It seems that we are now pretty much expected to feel guilty about pretty much every decision we make, whether and when we decide to have children, how we birth those children, how we feed them, how we parent them and how we afford them.
In the past 24 hours I have read two very good articles about guilt, and found myself struggling to identify with either. The first written by the wonderful Robyn Wilder discusses the guilt involved in a second pregnancy. The guilt that she is failing her first child by having another, and the guilt that she won’t be able to love a second child as much as she loves her son. I can totally understand that sentiment, but it was genuinely not something that I ever felt. I always felt completely confident that there was no limits to the amount of love I could feel. I knew that that space in my heart would just grow. Loving my son, my second child, turned out to be the very easiest thing I have ever done. Despite my tricky relationship with my own sibling, I genuinely thought that having one of her own would be a good thing for my daughter. I realised it may not be easy, but was sure that overall it would be positive. It turned out to be the kindest thing I have done for her. She is so much more settled in herself since becoming a big sister. I realise it is not always this way, but for some reason I did not share that sense of guilt. My My second pregnancy was not without it’s emotional turmoil, and I spent most of it wondering how the hell I could survive having two children, but guilt played little part.
The second article concerns one of those ultimate mother guilts we are all supposed to feel. The Working Mummy Predicament. I absolutely do not feel guilty for being a full time working mother. Not at all. Admittedly we have found a work situation which, on the whole, has worked really well for us. We have made choices, that I will work full time while my husband is the full time at home parent. I have put off training and exams and moving around the country and hopes of becoming a consultant in favour of a lower paid, lower respected job where I have long term job security in one place. I work long shifts, nights and weekends so that I get to be around for my children all the other times. So that I get to do my share of the school runs. So that I can spend lazy days at home lounging around in PJs with my boy before he enters the world of school himself. So that as the sole earner we can afford to pay the mortgage and have one parent home full time. I realise that a life in emergency medicine seems about as family unfriendly as they come, but it works for us. Obviously there are days when the kids are poorly and I have to leave them, and yup, I feel pretty sad then, but I don’t feel guilty. I accept the choices that I have consciously made, and accept the consequences of those choices. It’s not perfect, but overall it works for us all.
Don’t worry, before it seems that I am neglecting my duty as a woman to spend my whole time wallowing in guilt. In fact this morning I managed to work myself into a right tizz, feeling guilty about not feeling guilty about these things. Does that make me a terrible mother? Do I not love my children enough to feel guilty about working? I am a terrible doctor for not feeling guilty about my lack of ambition? And now I’m wondering if I should even post this blog? Am I guilty of being an annoying smug mother? Ugh, if I spent less time worrying about how I should be feeling just think of all that extra time I could be spending gardening!!