...as grapes are to wine. (Fay Weldon)
When I think of motherhood in the abstract, I think of love, joy, and tenderness. Yet too often the feeling that has defined my short time as a mother is guilt. Which in turn, makes me feel even more guilty.
Why is motherhood laced with guilt?
Motherhood is more than a relationship between mother and child, it’s also the foundation of a community between women. While the companionship between mothers gives women much needed support for the difficulties of motherhood, it is also the source of guilt. Guilt when I can’t do for my child what other mothers do for theirs. But also guilt when I can do something for my little one that another mother can’t.
I had a perfectly healthy pregnancy and a natural, intervention-free delivery. This is something I rejoice in, for which I thank the Lord, yet when I think about it, I also experience a twinge of guilt because there are so many women who suffer complicated pregnancies and births.
Breastfeeding also came easy to me and Lucia, and seven months in we have still escaped even the slightest issue. Other mothers have asked me for advice or recounted their difficulties and I’m ashamed to tell them that I had no problems. I don’t want to be the salt in their wounds, perhaps reminding them that they were unable to nourish their child as well as they had intended. I know how it is to be on the receiving end, to wonder why motherhood doesn’t come as naturally to me, if there is something innately wrong with my ability to mother.
I feel guilt that I sometimes desire to escape from my daughter, to have a few minutes wholly to myself. Sometimes, when she cries, I want to just leave the apartment and walk away until I can’t walk any further. It doesn’t help that I don’t do these things, that I hold her and comfort her until she stops crying, just the thought is enough to make me feel guilty.
I know that I am a good mother. I love my daughter greatly and care for her needs. I cannot control what other mothers can do for their children and I can only concentrate on doing my best with mine. I remind myself of these truths when the guilt becomes overwhelming, but I can’t help wonder if there is a greater solution to maternal guilt.