The email was followed up by a text; the kind that starts off with polite pleasantries about the weather and courteous queries about how I’ve been, only to make the awkward shift into, “So…while I’ve got your attention, I was wondering….” It’s the ever-popular approach of requesting a favour of someone or reminding them of a commitment they’ve made. In this case it was my commitment to writing for the school blog that prompted the delicate reminder.
But regardless of how gently and sweetly it was put, I found myself saddled beneath the all too familiar and relentless ride along: “GUILT.”
Hitchhiking my thoughts
He is a companion I’ve tried to kick to the curb countless times, but he rarely takes the hint and all too often I discover him hitching a ride and weighing me down.
We became chummy back when I was a kid and I had an overly keen sense of right and wrong, just and unjust. I remember leaving church catechism class with a quarter sized washer from my dad’s tool box clutched in my sweaty palm. I popped it into the vending machine across the parking lot and to my delight, out came a shiny red gumball. But my delight was short lived. Instead of blowing airy bubbles of strawberry gum, Guilt burst my ill-gotten bubble by parking squarely on my shoulders for the next week until I confessed during prayer time at catechism the following week.
He’s had his uses and though, during my youth we were acquaintances at most, a little dose of Guilt’s company was all I needed to smarten up. But it wasn’t till adulthood that he figured he might as well move on in and become part of the family. Along with the responsibilities of being an adult—a job, a husband, a home, and eventually a family, came a sway in my back from carrying around this unwanted burden of guilt. There was only so much of me to go around and always more that could be done. When you are a people-pleaser by nature, you find yourself regularly in the position of letting someone down.
And who loved to revel in my perceived failures? Guilt.
As I became more acquainted with the sensation, I discovered that Guilt takes on many forms. Wife guilt. Daughter guilt. Friend guilt. Employee guilt.
But the one that plagued me the most: Mom guilt.
If you are a mom, you probably know what I’m talking about. There’s the guilt over not spending enough time with your kids and the guilt about hovering too much. There’s the guilt over coming down too harshly and then the guilt about letting them get away with too much. There’s the guilt when you see that baby album, untouched in the “to do” pile, and realize you are 18 years too late. There’s the guilt over field trips and whether to disappoint your kid or risk disappointing your boss. There’s the guilt you feel when forcing your child, complaining of a tummy ache, to finish their breakfast and the absolute horror mixed with guilt when you get the phone call from school saying your son just threw up.
Loved no matter what
When Caleb turned one, I threw an elaborate birthday party, inviting all our friends and family. Caleb was dressed in his Sunday best, there was a teddy bear cake lovingly made by mom, balloons and streamers, gifts aplenty, and Caleb’s first taste of cake was recorded for all to see and remember. By the time the third kid came along, all Aiden got was a mom in panic mode when she realized that in all the Christmas festivities, she’d forgotten to make a cake or buy a present. And so, Aiden’s first birthday was marked with a quick singing of Happy Birthday to a little boy in his pjs, with a candle stuck in a hastily baked, frozen pie.
And yet, when I look back, I remember both parties equally. Caleb was adorable in his little red sweater, happy as a clam, banging his spoon on his highchair, surround by those he loved. Aiden was just as cute in his little yellow pjs, bouncing with joy on his wobbly legs next to the coffee table, surrounded by a meager few, but just as loved.
It has taken years to learn but Guilt no longer gets the free ride it used to. I’m learning not to compare, to be content and to accept my limitations. When Guilt climbs on my shoulders, I’m quicker to stop short and send him packing. And though I stand a little taller and I’m no longer flattened by his heavy bulk, from time to time he still knows how to give me a swift kick to the backside. I’m still smarting from the last one.
Another blog ready to be posted? Check!