The other day I wrote a blog post about feeling guilty as a wife, mother and friend. It got quite a varied response, with one friend telling me she felt exactly the same a lot of the time and then a different friend asking me why I was letting so much guilt in when this should be the “happiest time of your life”.
At first my response was that these past two years have been the most stressful of my life in many, many ways. I suffered from Hyperemesis Gravidarum during pregnancy, then I started having problems with nausea and then Endo pains pretty soon after having Little Man, and now my husband has just been told that he most likely has small fibre neuropathy. That’s a lot of health issues to cope with when you have a young child taking up so much of your time and energy!
But it struck me as interesting that within my group of friends there was such a wide gap between the one who told me that she too struggled with guilt and the one who told me that this guilt was unhealthy and that my focus was all wrong. I have a lovely husband and a beautiful son, how could I be letting guilt ruin what should be the happiest time of my life? It seems especially important to ask this when I spent many years of my life looking forward to this exact moment. Am I simply ungrateful for what I have, or did I completely underestimate how hard this would all be?
I wanted to see what other parents thought to this, so I asked a few other bloggers for their thoughts. Here are their responses:
“I’m with you on this one. I can now see that I had no idea what it was like to be a parent until I had my own children. One minute it can be utter bliss and then in an instant everything can be total s**t (literally). Parenting is constant, I’d like to meet anyone who can be happy every minute of the day when they are always on duty!! I just look forward to the days when my friends have children and I shall just smile knowingly to myself.” – Ginger Bisquite
“Parenting is like a roller coaster, looking on at the people screaming and arms in the air it looks like loads of fun, but when you’re on it there’s the mixed feeling of nerves, elations and slight terror as you navigate the track. No one can fully understand how it feels until you’re on the ride. And it’s a ride you can’t get off. There are always going to be moments that are overwhelming and you can burst into tears in the street and there can be times where your heart is so full full of love it feels like a dream. The one thing it most definitely is? Hard work, a relationship that is constantly challenging you. To all the mums out there I take my hat off to you.” – Wild & Grizzly
“To me, this kind of response just adds something else to feel guilty about – not enjoying every moment! I regularly feel as though I’m the only who isn’t enjoying every moment and that there must be something wrong with me! Reality is that parenting is blummin’ hard work. FACT!” – 3 Children and It
“To me, the happiest time in my life doesn’t exist anyway. I find life mostly hard work and stress with the odd good day, you know, every decade or so …..”
“I get so angry at those type of comments (enjoy it, they won’t be like this forever etc.) – some days I can’t wait for my boys to be old enough to blow their own noses and be left alone for 20 minutes without risk of them destroying the house, or each other! Parenthood is a rollercoaster (and at times, bloody hard work, especially with pre-schoolers). This myth of it being permanently wonderful isn’t helping anyone…” – Hodge Podge Craft
*edited – in respone to Hodge Podge’s comment* “I find those things are a reminder for me when the kids do tire me out and I feel like I have no energy, am too stressed etc. I do feel like I will miss this stage once it is over and it helps me to remind myself of that at times when it feels challenging. As for happiest times of your life, I think that’s probably way too broad and way too individual for anyone to make these kind of sweeping statements.” – In The Playroom
“I keep having these thoughts. I know it is a blessing to have my little one, and I am eternally grateful for it, but we are humans too. We are allowed our mood-swings and meltdowns. I have written about this here” – Rambling Through Parenthood
Reading these comments back, I am reminded that parenting is hard work and that’s a fact! And yet we put all this pressure on ourselves to have the most perfect life ever.
We see, hear and read about people “having it all”. We believe we should be able to do all these things and still have time and energy to spare, but that is just nuts. So often the only things we share are the good bits, the bits which we want people to see. We hide the exhaustion, frustration and anger we feel because it doesn’t seem right to share these. Everybody else seems to have it all under control, and so we feel bad about the fact that we don’t. What is wrong with us? Why can’t we be like everybody else?
But the truth is everybody has these moments in life when it all gets too much. And by hiding this we make it harder for ourselves and others to ever admit that. We get caught up in trying to keep up with an impossible ideal and it is that which leads us down the path of guilt.
When I first received the comment about this being the happiest time of my life I reacted strongly… with guilt, go figure! But why should I? This is where my thinking is all wrong… these past few years have been the most challenging but they have been brightened by the wonderful parts of being a parent. However, when I fall into the trap of believing my life isn’t perfect without being able to do and be everything I want to be (or feel I need to be) I lose that balance entirely.
With that in mind I am making a few changes around here. The things I feel guilty about are the things my heart yearns for the most. Guilt can be a very helpful emotion so long as you use it as an indicator to what is wrong, rather than believing there is nothing you can do about it. I am choosing to use it as a measure of what needs to change in my life.
These days may be the happiest of my life, but they are also some of the most stressful – and that’s okay!