When you are pregnant (especially the first time) you are hungry for information – well, you’re generally hungry full stop to be honest; you have a desire to find out everything that will, can or might happen. You absorb facts like a proverbial sponge. You tell anyone who will listen what size fruit your unborn child most closely resembles and you spend so long researching labour that you could probably deliver the next royal baby singlehandedly.
And that’s great.
Really. It is. Forewarned is forearmed as they say. Although in all honesty that babies coming out the same way whether you’ve subscribed to every email ‘bump update’ system the world wide web has to offer or have stuck your fingers in your ears and tried hard to ignore anything that mentioned the words ‘mucus’ ‘blood or ‘pain’.
But. No matter how many books you read. How many statistics you memorise. How many times you rewrite your birth plan (just don’t do what I did and suddenly remember it’s in the glove box of the car during hour 51 of labour; do you wonder she wasn’t happy to come out – she was waiting for ‘the plan’ to materialise.) there is one thing you are not fully prepared for or even particularly aware of.
Guilt? I hear you say, what is there to feel guilty about?
In a word. Everything.
It starts from the very second that you hold that precious bundle in your arms. It creeps in uninvited (not dissimilar to the Bounty people on post-delivery wards) and before you know it it’s part of your new life.
Ironically, the more research you did before parenthood the more guilt you are likely to suffer:
Firstly everyone wants to know how the birth went and is ready to share their wonderful tales of birthing in a hypnotic trance with the scents of lavender and patchouli floating through the air. You recall random flashbacks of mooing, calling the poor doctor some obscenities that had never before even been imagined, and demanding every drug under the sun. Bam – Guilt.
You’ve read every piece of evidence under the sun that states ‘breast is best’ but either your baby or your breast or the combination of the two didn’t get that memo and it doesn’t work. Bam – Guilt.
You know that disposable nappies are to the earth what kryptonite is to Superman. But…well….you know…..laundry. Bam – Guilt.
You know that the socialisation aspect of baby groups is important for your small person’s development but you would rather stick nappy pins in your eyes than attend one. Bam – Guilt.
Mrs Busybody down the road soothes her baby to sleep with the melodic souns of Baby Bach. You’ve been humming ‘Dude looks like a lady’ for 15 hours straight and not one ounce of sleep has drifted your way. Bam – Guilt.
Your housework becomes a long forgotten memory, in fact you’re tempted to open bets about whether the pile of washing up will topple before the pile of laundry. Bam – Guilt.
Fast forward a few months and you hit weaning.
Good old Mrs Busybody is preparing nutritious, organic, locally sourced produce which is lovingly devoured without an iota of mess. Meanwhile…you ran out of ideas after offering carrot puree so carried on and now the baby has a such a tinge of orange you could hire her out as a colour chart to a tanning booth. Bam – Guilt.
Then we reach the pinnacle of parenting guilt. When should I return to work?
Bam Bam Bam Guilt Overload.
Should I pay for childcare so I can get back into a career? Should I exclusively stay at home and raise my children? Should I work full time/part time/at home/outside the home/days/nights/shifts? Should I use a nursery/a childminder/grandparents?
The choices and decisions are exponential and. unfortunately, there is no ‘one size fits all’ option. Everyone has different needs and different values; both their own and the ones they wish to instil into their children. Basically, it break down to this; some people fit their children into their lives, and some fit their lives around their children. Neither one is right. Neither one is wrong. Each has it’s strengths and weaknesses, each has it’s pros and cons.
Sometimes that decision is made for you. Sometimes it is absolutely necessary to return to work, bills have to paid, mouths have to be fed and if that’s what needs to happen then so be it.
Sometimes, however, it comes down to personal choice.
- I can return to work, use childcare, have more money to spend and set a good work ethic example to my child.
- I can stay at home, have more time to spend with my child, muddle through financially and set an example of life balance to my child.
People are different and thus make different decisions, that is not what causes guilt. Guilt generally has an outside influence, be that a perception of a person looking in or even a perceived perception whether justified or not (post natal paranoia is a bitch). Guilt breeds from what other people say and do; opinions they give, comments they make.
But the crux of the issue is this.
It doesn’t make one blind bit of difference what anyone else thinks.
Because, it’s your life. You only get one chance at it and you have to live it in a way that makes you happy. Raise your children how you wish (within reason obviously), live as modestly or outlandishly as you wish (and your finances allow), be Mary Poppins or Miss Trunchball, Earth Mother or Mother Superior, do school runs or home educate (and kudos to those that do).
If it works for you and those closely involved then it’s the right thing to do.
To your child you are the most important thing in the world (cupboard love mainly but hey). They will admire what ever choice you make and adapt to whichever scenario you choose – fickle little creatures as they are.
Leave the guilt in the glove box with the birthing plan (but not ‘The Red Book’, please don’t mislay ‘The Red Book’, I’m fairly sure everytime a red book goes missing a health visitor’s head implodes), and live your life without giving a flying monkey’s trapeze what anyone else thinks.
Welcome to my world