Mother’s Guilt and The Mindfuck Caused by Parenting

Anyone worked out ‘parenting’ yet?

When you do, you will inbox me, won’t you?

The great thing about these summer holidays is that they have given me lots of time to reflect, focus, over-analyse and privately condemn my parenting skills.

Again.

Family relationships have been tested and redefined this holiday.

Indian Drum
Indian Drum by Agelakis at http://www.flickr.com

It’s not all been bad, but I have come to the conclusion that ‘Parenting’ is the root of more stress and anxiety than any other job, so if you have personally survived the experience, send me a few pointers, discounting murder of course – (already been there and decided that I wouldn’t survive prison either).

My main problem with parenting is the perpetual guilt. Mother’s guilt.

I think that ‘guilt’ has been at the core of my parenting makeup since I had NC. There could be many reasons for that, of course. It might have something to do with losing my own mother when I was a teenager, which inspired this ridiculous innate desire to be perfect in the role of motherhood when I had my own children, or it may simply be that I’m just not a ‘natural’ mother and I feel guilty about that.

If you work as a barista and your coffee sucks you can always try another job; but if you have kids and suck at being a mum, there’s no way out.

So what do you do?

Do you do what I’ve done for the past nineteen years and consume parenting manual after parenting manual, irritate your best mates for advice – (those ones who seem to be tolerating their spawn better than you, even though you know they will make you feel even more guilty) – or do you head straight for therapy?

There should be some extra training available for those mothers who don’t quite cut it, shouldn’t there?

The old man and I should be tentatively celebrating by now. With one child at uni, we’re nearly at the end of the parenting tunnel, in theory; if you accept the premise that the kids should be thinking about leaving home sometime after eighteen. (I know that a lot of you will tell me to rethink that theory more along the lines of wishful thinking).

So why do I still feel so much pressure from parenting?

Because if I’m honest, I still never know if I’m doing the right thing by my kids. Because I always feel torn when I make a decision for them, and they are the only people in my little world who can still tie my stomach up into painful knots of self-loathing and anxiety.

And, of course, the old man has this wonderful knack of making me feel guilty about feeling guilty about the kids.

I’m finally coming to the realisation that everyone was right when they told me that you never stop worrying about your kids.

We honestly believed when we had survived NC’s drunken forays into the city and had gone through the nightly cross-examination of ‘who are you staying with’, ‘have you been drinking’ and ‘I can smell smoke’, that we would be professionals at parenting by the time it came to Kurt.

But, before she boarded that plane to Thailand, I was still at it. I couldn’t help myself and asked her what she would do if the tide suddenly went out on the beach! When what I should have been doing was feigning excitement for her at the airport (like a good mother would do), and concealed my irrational fears.

Not passed on my own pathetic anxieties!

And then there’s the albino recluse who dwells at the top of our house, who now communicates with us in drumbeats, like some native American emo. Three hits of the bass drum is toast with peanut butter (please), a steady crescendo means it’s a good day, and crashing of the cymbals means he still hates us.

I have tried to coax him out of his room this summer holiday, baited him like an animal, with all his favourite treats. Is it so wrong to want him to get some sunlight, for him to feel the wash of the ocean on his white body and the sand between his toes?

He used to love the beach; when he was still my little boy.

But the more I push him be one of the family, the more he resists. And then I feel guilty.

Everything is a negotiation these days and has to be on his terms or nothing.

The old man is tougher than me. He will negotiate to a point and then takes a ‘fuck him’ attitude, which brings us to a resolution of sorts. And I know he’s right. We can’t let a sixteen year old wield the power in our home, but then I feel guilty for leaving him in the house on his own, educating himself through the computer rather than via experience, drumming his death rap… sticking pins in effigies of us.

Is that any way to live? Perhaps it is when you are a teenager intent on hating the world.

He knows that what I really want to do is to look after him in my amateur maternal way. But these days, if I dare to stroke his face or touch his arm, he jerks away like he has been stung.

He used to beg me for cuddles.

I wanted us to share this few precious weeks of holiday together and look back on it fondly one day, smile at photos of us together, tanned and happy like all those other families on Facebook. Instead there will be lots of awkward photos of the old man and I, trying to look like we know what the fuck to do together now that our relationship has been redefined by the absence of our children.

Not that we invested everything in them, you understand – we were always wary of that trap. We have our own lives, just as NC now has hers, but Kurt still represents ‘unfinished business’ for me. Unlike his sister, who has reached that stage of maturity where she is finally comfortable in her own skin, Kurt is still a work in progress who still needs more preparation for the big, scary world outside.

If only he’d let me in to finish the job I started.

But then, that’s the mindfuck caused by parenting.

13 thoughts on “Mother’s Guilt and The Mindfuck Caused by Parenting

  1. What a brilliant review of parenting. I am not at your stage yet – my children being 8,10 and 15 (Will is at boarding school) but your words still speak to me. The tide comment really made me smile – I have had those conversations with all my children – even though they are not going to Thailand in the next 5 years at the very least! I continually worry about Will – and he has told me on several occasions over the Christmas holidays that he can remember to have a shower, brush his teeth, do his homework and be polite, without having to be reminded time and time again. I can’t help it……. I have coaxed Will out of his room and removed him from his obsession with Minecraft (will he ever grow out of that one?) with cycling, skiing and even cinema. He has done it reluctantly…. yet at the end of the holiday, when we review what we have enjoyed the most – these things have been top of the list – but to get him to participate and “enjoy” them takes all of my patience, energy and time – which I simply don’t have some or even all of the time. I look to my friends who have older children, who have left home, who are pleasant, polite, working and I wonder will we ever get to that stage? Will I ever stop worrying? Will I ever let them be? I am better with my little two – they seem more able to manage their lives – yet I wonder whether it is because I didn’t ever interfere so much? Does it come down to guilt because I took him away from a traditional family with a Mum and a Dad? I don’t know…. but what I do know is that I love them all with my whole heart – they do make my stomach going into knots….
    I love this post – I love all your posts – they make me smile, laugh, reflect and feel reassured that I am not on my own…..
    Thanks

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    1. Thank you, Emma! It is so great to hear from other parents too with kids the same age and to know that they have highs and lows too and worry as much as I do and that I am not abnormally over-anxious about my kids x

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  2. Yes, yes, and, yes.

    I have one a lot like KC, only deigns to be civil when he wants something. But I think that just the fact that you are beating yourself up so much indicates that you must be a VERY GOOD parent. Because if you were smug and satisfied you wouldn’t be worried.

    I also think that the real mindfucks are the parenting manuals themselves. Burn them, forget everything you have ever read in them, and follow your gut.

    I love your blog, but girl, you gotta go easier on yourself 😉
    Xxx

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  3. Louisa the only thing I can say to your heart wrenching post is that they DO eventually grow out of that hideous stage, My “Hagar” was intolerable at 15.16… until 20. Now he is the most hard-working, responsible young man. He’s still reclusive but I think that’s all about separating himself from being a boy into a man. It’s damn hard and even when people told me it would get better I didn’t believe them. But it does. Especially when they’ve had a good grounding as you have clearly provided.

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    1. Keep telling me that because it definitely allays my anxiety. I think you’re right and that the reclusiveness thing is more to do with the male ‘shed culture’ than a need to be away from me – hopefully. Thank you x

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  4. I enjoy your blog as well. Unfortunately, mom guilt is a consequence of parenting. I would bet that all the smiley faces on Facebook, or all the friends who speak of their wonderful children, have hidden lives behind their closed doors. When kids are young, they start plotting against us, while looking so innocent. When they reach their teens, they put their years of planning in motion—after they have scrambled our brains through years of tantrums and disobedience.

    The hardest thing I had to do was to say goodbye to my daughter at the airport. I couldn’t get out of that place fast enough, so that I could sob all the way home. She graduated from high school early, and went back to where we actually call home. 2800 miles away. That was in 2009–she has only returned for visits.

    My youngest was my challenge. He is a very skilled manipulator, so the mom guilt meter was always very high with him–still is, because he is a skilled manipulator.

    When they were all out of the house for the brief two months, I boo hooed over my empty little house. If I wasn’t a mom any more, what was I? Then the vampire in the basement returned home, and I started to look at motherhood differently.

    We spend 18 years preparing our spawn to take on the world. Not a one of us is perfect, though some like to believe they are. Mistakes are made along the way, but all can learn from them.Making kids (especially teens) comply to what we believe they should be doing only creates friction. It’s a fine balance to keep from alienating them with our rules and worry, while trying to keep them from harm.

    My theory is that I did the best I can. It’s up to them to take what we taught them, and fly. If they end up smacking themselves against a window, well–I told them not to fly into them, and it was their choice to not take my advice.

    However, I have used that mom guilt to my advantage at times, with tears against them, making them feel like the ass because they hurt my feelings. Doesn’t always work, but it makes me feel better—along with a gin, a beer, a glass of wine, or drugs. 😉

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    1. Wow, April, thank you for your advice. Love the analogy of them hitting a window in spite of our advice. So true – we can only do our best and they have different personalities and see the world in a different way to us. Totally agree that self-medication definitely helps x

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  5. Every time I come here and read your words,they never fail to touch me deeply.
    My girl is nearly 20 and I can relate to every thing you write.
    The worry is something I never ever thought would be so strong and constant.
    All we can hope for is that one day,when they think of us,it will be with a kind understanding heart and in that heart they truly feel the love we always had for them as we navigated the unknown path of parenting.x

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    1. Perhaps they need to become parents themselves to really get it? Perhaps once they settle down the worry will soften a little and we can get back on with our lives to a degree. Not so sure. Never sure I would be capable of such strong emotion and feelings before I had children so can’t blame them really. Thanks for your words x

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  6. I was going to make a comment on your wonderful (awful) doubts and … stuff, but then I saw the length of the other comments here and thought to myself that with length like that they are going to be very serious and I’m not so serious as that so I thought to myself that I’d better not leave a comment here just in case I am universally condemned for leaving silly and off-topic comments that aren’t as long as the other serious ones that … Oh, wait – I think I already said that. Umm.
    Hi. I’m Robert. From England.
    *smiles disarmingly*

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      1. Yes, there are one or two of us out here in England. 😉
        How’s your day going?
        Kindness – Robert.
        (Isn’t it nice when the walls come down through discerning discourse?)

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