The Mommy Guilt contest

It seems rather ridiculous to be participating in a contest that talks of mommy guilt when most of us are trying to put it behind us, yet  somehow I find myself tapping out a post on my last night in Delhi, in an attempt to distract myself from the inevitable. Let me start with the memory of a post written long ago.

I had put up this picture of a 7-8 month old  Bean clinging on to my computer table, learning to cruise as I worked. I can’t recall the exact words but the caption said something about the Bean learning to entertain herself while mamma worked.

A  regular commenter who was also a mother, commented that mommy guilt is all pervasive and told me to let it go. I replied casually that I wasn’t in the least bit guilty and I didn’t know where she read guilt into that. The lady lost her temper and ticked me off rather caustically, and swore not to comment again. I didn’t really care because I didn’t care for her to read into the post, what I didn’t feel, or foist her own sense of guilt, on to me. Maybe I misunderstood her, but she definitely misunderstood me.

Not because I am perfect, but because the moment I get the niggling feeling that I am doing something I might regret (with regard to the children) I rush to make amends. Also, mothers tend to be guilty for various reasons. Some feel working mommy guilt, others feel they aren’t feeding their kids well and so on. We each have our own favourite destinations to which we take guilt trips. Mine mostly tend to be over things that I have absolutely no control over. In short, if its something within my control, I don’t waste time feeling guilty, I do something about it.

Years ago I had my first brush with mommy guilt when I slapped the Brat in a rage, for biting my hugely pregnant belly. I later realised that he’d reacted in pain to a black ant biting his chubby little baby thigh. I learned to reign in my temper thereafter and now I tread cautiously. Be it matters of discipline or general issues, as I feel my temper rising, I force my mind back to that very black memory with the discipline of a self flagellating monk. It always works.

Even so, there are situations that are not  in your control and before you know it, they build up in your mind and tend to overpower and manipulate you. One of them happened a few nights ago. Now there are parenting theories and books on every matter but you’ve got to know yourself well enough to know whether you can follow through on it or not. For instance, I know that I don’t have the stomach to Ferberise a child or let him or her cry it out. I’d probably carry the guilt to my grave and so I went through months of sleepless nights, crawled through the days like a zombie and snapped at anyone within ten feet, through a cloud of sleep deprivation all while both my children learnt to sleep through the night. I should have simply let them cry it out and made it easier on everyone but I just couldn’t. Period.

The kids eventually moved together to the nursery and I derive great comfort from the fact that they have each other to curl up against. On cold wintery nights I smuggle them into my bed and in summer I sometimes put out a mattress on the floor in my bedroom for them. Their nursery has a night light and in the earlier years I even used a baby monitor. A child who grew up with a vivid imagination that spawned monsters under the bed, I did my best to smooth the road to a peaceful night for them.

And sure enough once in a while the OA and I have had nightly visitors. Little feet come pitter patter down the corridor and the latch turns in the dark and a small body catapults itself in between us. Of course once one arrives we’re sure the other will turn over in the dark, find the sibling missing and follow suit. Pushing and squirming until they’ve made place for themselves and the OA and I are clinging to the edge of the bed by our fingernails.

Sometimes however, the AC is on and a weird vaccum gets created in our bedroom, making it difficult for the Bean to turn the handle on our door and let herself in. On such nights she struggles with the door and calls out to us until we let her in. I’ve always thought I’d find it annoying but it probably says something for the worthlessness of my life that the simple knowledge that someone tiny has come to seek comfort from me, makes me smile in the dark, no matter how tired I am.

The past few months however, have been rough. The Brat’s school issues, my health, the house moving, the OA travelling and the burden of running the house being on my shoulders, the job, various issues around the house and family affairs. Its reached a stage where I am back to a few meagre hours of sleep and extreme exhaustion. My eyes are puffy, watering and my body moves sluggishly through its daily routine, on autopilot.

Which is why a few days ago when I heard some scuffling through the mists of sleep, I lay paralysed. The voice penetrating through the fog sounded familiar and I stirred, knowing somewhere at the back of my head that it was the Bean and that the door handle was giving her trouble again. I tried to will my legs to swing off the bed but they wouldn’t listen. My eyelids were leaden and refused to open. I tried to kick the OA into wakefulness but my limbs were on strike. And all this while the rattling at the door grew louder, the baby voice more desperate and the panic in my head multiplied. My baby was locked out and scared and I could do nothing about it. My body wouldn’t cooperate.

The baby voice broke. And the footsteps pattered away from my door, moving towards where the maid was sleeping. With superhuman willpower I flung myself off the bed, on to the floor and dragged myself to the door. Just in time to see the Bean crawling into the maid’s bed, crying, ‘Didi, mama darwaza nahi khol rahi hai…’ (Mama isn’t opening the door…). Darwaza nahi khol rahi hai.. ”

I grabbed her, apologised to the maid for disturbing her and took the sobbing child to my bed. And there I held her in my arms and let her sob, sobbing with her all the while. Wondering how I was going to turn back time and wipe out those few moments of terror from her baby life as she stood there in the dark, lonely and scared.

Perhaps I am to blame for it. Actually, WE are to blame for it. The OA too is a bit of a softy and we’re okay with kids wriggling in and out of our bed and crawling over us while we snooze.

And this is the price we were paying for our lack of discipline. Children who don’t know what it is to find their parents’ door shut at night. Who must snuggle into the warmth of our bed. There was no reason for the Bean to cry like her world had come to an end. But she did and somehow, she heralded the end of my guilt free existence too. The monsters crawled out from under my girlhood bed and came back to haunt me in the form of a baby voice crying, “Mamma darwaza nahi khol rahi hai… ”

As we move to the new house, the first thing on my list is removing the lock from our bedroom door… I don’t know about the Bean, but I won’t survive another night of her being locked out of our room.

PS: Thanks to Abha’s reminder – here’s an old post on guilt!

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52 thoughts on “The Mommy Guilt contest

  1. Had that paralysed unable-to-get-out-of-bed feeling the last couple of nights with the lil’ guy needing to go pee oftener these cold nights…and I’m just as snappy and unbearable after even one night of sleep deprivation. I wonder how the heck I did those night-shifts with two kids. 😦

    We keep our door open…not for AC, but because I have an unreasonable certainty that nothing will happen to the kids if both our doors are open 😦 And yes, no matter how much I grumble, I love the night-time visits too!

    Hugs.

  2. I second Prachi’s comment. Mammmaaa!!! I don’t relate with your post at all. Not with your side of the story. I relate more with bean (laugh all you want!) – Mamma darwaaza nahii khol rahii hai. I hate not being able to walk into the comfort of Ma’s bear hugs whenever I want to, night or day not withstanding.

    PMS-sy, ma-sick, tired, hung over, and now your super senti post – fatal combination I say. Maaammmmaaa!

  3. Glad to know that your child learning to entertain herself while you worked was not something that sent you on a guilt trip. If you had I would have ticked you off like a good troll. The choice was between that lady who ticked you off or me 🙂 Though i might have made a more charming troll I am glad you chose her.

    And you want a guilt trip for being a softy who flouts all rules laid down by you so that a little warm being can snuggle upto you? Thats the reason for the broad smiles on the litle warm being, surely you know that.

    And yeah, I tend to not go down the guilt trip path. Its a bloody gendered noose around the neck. When I feel something I am doing is going wrong I change it! Simple.

  4. You know, *this* right here is the stuff that accomplishes your aim of putting others off kids. Who wants this to happen to them, when they are crying just reading about it?

    Do give credit to my exceptional talent of making every comment something about me.. because this really reminds ME of MY MOMMY. 😦

  5. Paralysed unable to get up..limbs not cooperating..i know what you are going thru. Dont worry, kids forget these incidents sooner than we think..it’s we adults who carry the guilt.

    That said I am no saint. I snap, slap and scream at the kids towards the fag end of the day when they extend requests for one more story to be told, one more book to be read. I vow to be better behaved the next day..and the story repeats itself.

  6. Hey MM…am all teary eyed….loved this post…You are an awesome mom…One day when I become one would want to be like you…will reach out to you for lots of advise….

    And by the way what does “Ferberise” mean? I couldn’t find it on my online dictionary too …I know its a stupid question , sorry.

  7. what about the time you bawled because you hadnt cut Brat’s nails on time! :p

    i dont often take the guilt road except the screaming. i dont even whack, but scream too much. desperately trying to work on it without much success! but am still trying! with two i dunno what would i do!

    Cub gets into our bed almost night and M goes on sleeps on his bed! :p

    cheers!

  8. See the mother speaking. Well, I’m not a mother but I’d love to let a little being snuggle up to me and hold while sleeping. That is me holding the said little being 😛
    And have you heard of child-guilt-trips? I’ve had many. I used to think for the longest time that since my parents have done so much for me, i dont have the right to say no to them. Of course I learnt very recently that it was simply foolish 😛

  9. Oh God I’ve been on a perpetual guilt trip ever since Nikki was born. I worry worry worry, then I take a break to feel guilty and then I worry worry worry some more. Nikki hasn’t made the transition from her cot in our bedroom to the nursery yet, but when she does I’ll either lie awake all night feeling guilty or guess who’ll try snuggling into HER bed? Someone help me!

  10. Hey don’t be so hard on yourself. Issokay. So what if I’m feeling teary reading this.

    We don’t have to be perfect. Ever since I’ve seen the kids at the orphanage, any trace of mommy guilt I ever had has evaporated for good because I feel my kids are damn lucky – they *have* a mommy, guilty or otherwise.

      • I am completely on choxbox’s side.

        We should do the best we can and not worry about the little stuff. It’s coincidental that my daughter couldn’t open our bedroom door just this early morning and was crying loudly. I felt a little bad about it too. But, not as much as you did. I immediately come out of it. I don’t know if I reading too much bad stuff these days like – kids starved to death, sore filled kids ignored in Africa or little girls molested after a day of hard work. I feel that our kids are lucky to have a home and mom and dad who always put them ahead of everything else.

        • I dont know. I would never be able to feel less guilty by saying some kids are orphans and mine isnt. Chances are I will feel guilty that I am not doing much to make their life better.

          • Yes, I do feel guilty(tons of it) if it something that I did…like chosing to go out for a lunch with friends instead of being there for their nap time during weekends or forgetting multivitamins.

            If it is something not in my hands, I try to get over it quickly as I think I will be a better person with out that extra baggage.

  11. I don’t know what to say. Hugs.
    They’ll love you for the no closed doors part. I now think back and realise that is the biggest sacrice my folks did too – an open bedroom door.

      • Haha, I know I am not supposed to comment on my folks like this, but what the hell, I don’t think we kids ‘deprived’ them of any 😛

        Like you said, maybe they were, err…innovative?

          • MM,
            “How many” would infact be very few..as far as i know most of the ppl around have open door policy when there are small kids

            • actually most people i know put their kids in another room and let them cry it out until they learn to sleep. i guess it just depends on your social circle. …

  12. Oh god…mommying is sooo complex na  Anything can be right or wrong. N I’ve never seen a mom who doesn’t worry abt what she does/doesn’t do for her children etc etc etc. It just works me up so much.

    u know after moving to the US, being newly married…the 1st time my husband(V) travelled to work n I was home alone, I cried like a baby for 2 hrs straight, mins after he left…’coz I had to change the toilet paper n it is V’s job generally to do that, so I had no clue how to. When V called me frm the airport, to say he was boarding the flight, n heard me, he was like “WHATS WRONG?:..imagine his reaction when I told him what it was!!!! . @ 25 I was like this! Surely Li’l bean can cry like it’s the end of the world for being locked out of her parents’ room at night at her age !

  13. Such a cute picture MM. Oh yeah – poor Beanie! Though I totally relate to that feeling when you are dead tired – I felt that way to get water when I was totally parched with a sore throat – I could not get myself to get out of bed to get water. Kids sleep in our room on either side of our bed – please – what discipline not to open parent’s doors etc – at such an young age – I don’t believe in that kind of discipline – they should be able to walk into parent’s room at such a tender age esp if they are scared at night. After a few years anyway they want to be in their own room – what’s the big deal. Let them enjoy being around parents more! You are totally doing the right thing – and feeling guilty about not disciplining them! 🙂

  14. MM.. a question for you. I am wondering if this feeling guilty is a trait that we have before we have kids.
    I met this lil girl who is a domestic helps daughter and learnt of her hard life. I spent the rest of my day feeling so so guilty. simply for having a better life and more opportunities.
    Did you ever feel guilty for stuff before you had the brat and the bean?

  15. Hi MM,
    Not sure if this is the right place to put this comment,but wanted to inform you. I gave birth to a baby boy on the 7th of june. Wanted to inform you earlier but was not allowed to access PC 😦

  16. MM,

    Oh the bean…its Mommy guilt hatever you do, na? You buy yourself something, then want to buy the kids something too..you scold them for indiscipline , then you want to hug them immediately seeing their crestfallen faces. And why your post rings a special bell today is coz Mimi- Ta too sleep in the other room and inevitably, Mimi wakes up howling ( sometimes for ‘soosoo’ and sometimes ‘Mujhe aapki yaad aarahee thi). now who can resist that? last night, I slept in with them and told Mimi to promise she will not howl if she needs to visit the loo. Voila- I heard her wake up, flush and back- as silently as she could. Of course she god an applause in the morning but somewhere I felt so guilty…

  17. Oh. that was way too good, loved it. I too am a softy and always allow the kids into my bed, I love the baby (now quite big) smells and their comfort in being with me makes me happier still. I know I am not bringing in discipline and all that but what the heck..I love them a bit spoilt!
    See, there is no guilt too!

  18. i still have my 3 year old in bed with us…no hurries in transitioning her into her room…i used to be guilty of this cuz here in the US, people somewhat snicker when they hear it.
    it took me a while to realize that its really not the end of the world. she will upgrade one day when the time is right..in the meantime i must make the most of snuggling and smelling her.

  19. awww that is the guilt i think most of mommies go through.my kid is petrified right now with the idea of us moving to our new home.he worries how will he manage to climb down all those stairs and get to our bedroom and i was in verge of tears when i imagined the situation (mind you this never happened and yet i am already feeling guilty).However i think our kids know us the best and they tear away the guilt and throw it away in the bin for it to disappear 🙂

  20. Pingback: A guilty winner! « Things do not change…until we change!

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