I’ve got a grip on Guilt…A nice tight one.

Wicked Witch of the West (aka Guilt)

Guilt is a witch.  Yes, generally I like to keep things light and tidy around here, but honest-to-southern-dust, there is no other word for her.  She is a certifiable, pointy-hat-wearing, broomstick driving, warty-faced stalker.  And I oughta know. 

I first met Guilt when I was 7 years old, at a party thrown by Irish nuns in the basement of Sacred Heart Cathedral.  The theme for this little soiree was ‘Preparation for the Sacrament of Reconciliation.’  There was no wine (which frankly, I found odd), but there were definitely streamers.  And talk of white veils and shiny shoes, so I was totally in. 

At the time, framed by the glow of candlelit tissue paper pom-poms, Guilt seemed grating but relatively harmless. I mean, she called a lot during my teens and 20s, but when the chips were down, I could ignore her. 

Until I became a mother. 

Now Guilt is the naggiest little 3-year-old on the planet, chatting incessantly in my ear and lurking around every corner with a spray can full of industrial-strength ‘you suck.’   I’m not looking for pity.  Or the number for the suicide hotline.  I’m just trying to set the stage for a fun-filled, and oh-by-goddess (hopefully) interactive episode of ‘True Confessions.’   

Haven’t you ever wished you had some nice virtual friend to whom you could spill your parental guts?  Well, here’s your chance.  I’ll go first.  And if at the end, you could just do that little crossy thing with your hand and tell me to go in peace, I’d appreciate it.  I’m parochially-programmed to believe anyone that even remotely acts like they’ve got God on speed dial. 

So here we go…I’d like to start you off easy with something like, “I feel guilty for using the pretty, personalized return address labels from St. Jude’s without sending any money help cure kids with cancer,” but we’ve got eight years worth of ground to cover and not a lot of time to do it before one of us gets distracted. 

Stay with me until the end and I promise to be the Almighty Absolver for you too.  I’m really good at it.  We used to role play in the church basement.

10 Things I Am REALLY Sorry About:

  1. My inability to control a raging case of postpartum Tourette’s Syndrome that may or may not have had me nose-to-nose with a 10-week-old infant, frantically screeching, “What the @*$% do you WANT from me?!”  (Go on, say you never did it.  I won’t believe you.  Actually, I probably would. And it would make me feel worse. Which is just what Guilt wants.  Hag.)
  2. Seriously considering and maybe even writing more than one eBay listing to sell cute, but almost constantly wailing babies to the highest bidder. 
  3. Calling my mother to tell her that “I know why people shake their babies.”  (The first three months are hard, people.)
  4. Many failed attempts at self-editing that have resulted in requests for small people to “put a sock in it.” (See #1 for more info on how this got started.)
  5. Dropping my son off at school 2 minutes late.  For the 26th time this year.  Yes, I have issues with promptness.  Sister Marianne would tell me that not correcting this behavior indicates a lack of genuine remorse, which therefore means I cannot be forgiven.  Nuns are total hard-asses.
  6. Pulling dirty soccer jerseys out of the hamper, conducting cursory spot removal and passing them off as clean.  I’m fairly certain that while this does not constitute a direct breach of the 9th Commandment, it’s still a lot like lying.
  7. Agreeing with ‘someone’ that their cough could…might even definitely be… some awful cold that can only be cured by a half-dose of Benadryl.  Even when I know it’s not true.  Just to get the little person to go to BED, already!!  (Please do not call Child Services, this only happened once.  Three times, tops.  But ‘someone’ survived just fine and probably got the first three good nights of sleep she’s had since birth.  In her own bed.)
  8. ‘Misplacing’ one child or the other for anywhere from 5 seconds to 15 minutes at a stretch at Sears, Target, the water park and the soccer field.  Those little suckers are quick, I tell you.
  9. Agreeing with the youngest child that perhaps a new family is in order.  And offering my services to help her find one.  Tonight.  NOT after a healthy dinner and a good night’s sleep.
  10. Backing over my oldest child with the SUV and maiming him for life on my way to get him at the bus stop.  No, not really.  But I think about it every time I leave the driveway to pick him up.  And for a split-second the guilt, fear and heartbreak are so rawly present that it kind of seems real.  (How’s THAT for taking maternal guilt and paranoia to all new heights?)

There.  I feel much better.  Your turn.  (WAIT!  You did do the crossy thing with your hand, right?  Because I already said like five Hail Marys and one especially sincere Act of Contrition.)

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60 Responses

  1. Um. I can’t even really begin here. We’ll start with the fact that I haven’t had time to do laundry in a week and Luke is down to one sheet left on his crib. When he spits up on it, we dry off the spot and move him to the other side of the crib and pray the other spot is dry before he spits up on the other side. No one should call CPS on me because this kid has kept us up for almost 48 complete hours at this point and we are deliriously tired and exhausted and simply cannot find the time for laundry at the moment. But we vow to get at it soon.

    Other high-ranking sins: Putting baby in crib and walking out of the room because he won’t stop crying at me and I think I might have a breakdown. Leaving said baby with husband for a night and going out to the bar to have a few drinks and pass out at a friends’ after almost a week of less than 3 hours of sleep per day.

    Not sure where I should start with the praying… I only went to Catholic school for one year and comically enough, LIED at confession because I couldn’t think of anything I had done particularly wrong in the past month. Can’t remember what sins I came up with, but I’m sure they are lame by comparison and I got like 5 Hail Mary’s and 5 Our Fathers for those. What penance do I pay now? Like 60 rosaries?

    • Ah yes, there’s just nothing more magical than the first six months of parenting. Especially with your trainer (first) child. Lucky for you, new mothers get automatic absolution. Trust me, God gets it. You are forgiven, my child. Go in peace. And don’t even THINK you will sin no more. We all do the best we can and just try to put a little away for the therapy bills we might want to contribute to in their 20s. See there? Guilt strikes again.

  2. I have always cussed like a sailor. Since Mattie is just over two, I often have to translate what she is saying to others. For the last couple of weeks, she has been saying a PARTICULARLY bad word in general conversation, don’t make me write it…you know what it is. I translate the word she is saying as pretty. Mattie says, “Look at that blankety skirt” and I translate as “Look at that pretty skirt”. Worse, I have threatened my husband within an inch of his life if he tells ANYONE.

    I did the crossy thing and feel much better after this confession!

    • Patrice,

      I am so with you on the curse of the foul mouth. For me, it’s been incredibly hard to completely eliminate it from my vocabulary. I believe this is primarily because:

      A) Children seemed fundamentally wired to evoke moments of total frustration.
      B) Sometimes ‘holy guacomole’ just won’t do.
      C) I’ve already quit listening to “Wild Thing,” and watching movies with any adult content before 9 PM.

      Honestly, parenting requires such an overhaul of your ‘whole self’ just to be a good role model. Part of me feels just a LITTLE bit entitled to keep some semblance of myself intact in the midst of this whole mommy stint. The result is that we’ve had many similar moments with the kids. On our last road trip, the hubs slammed on the brakes and Addison shouted from the back seat, “God dammit, Darrick!” Nice, huh?

      As I said to Becky, I really think God gets it. And if he doesn’t, the Sweet Virgin Mary sure does. So, by virtue of the fact that there are so many other, more horrible sins we could commit, I hereby absolve us both of all guilt. You are healed, girlfriend 😉

  3. Ok, I have so done that. Pull the jersey & shorts out of the hamper and make them wear it again… Sometimes it just can’t be helped!

    By the way, my son is 10 now… it hasn’t gotten much better, now he can talk back, complain, and lay on the floor ignoring me when I need him to get up and go.

    I’m surprised I have hair left! AND, what… there’s still 8 more years of this… and then some!

    Someone out there tell me that they change and become thoughtful and loving and won’t talk back…. BUT those teenage years haven’t even come yet…

    UGGGH! I guess they’ll appreciate us when they have their own kids. Someday.

    • Grace — I hear they are lovely at about 28 or 29 😉 Of course, having children makes you see your own parents in an entirely different light. All of a sudden, you realize just how hard they tried to make all the right choices. I remember distinctly calling my mother about six weeks after my first child was born, just to say, “I’m sorry for every snotty thing I ever said, did or thought.” Here’s hoping we get the same kind of phone calls….I’d even accept a heartfelt text message.

  4. Yeah, one day as a mother was enough to understand child abuse and the desire to shake a kid. It’s scary the amount of trust mothers have been given.
    so we offset it by guilt.

    Guilt is so … GUILTY!
    then there’s the shame, too.

    PS Sounds like you need some time off without pay. Hire a sitter and do something for YOU! Leave the guilt behind.

    • Susan, you are so right. Guilt and shame are two ugly little witch sisters. It’s almost impossible to experience one without the other, yet neither are especially productive. Like mothers everywhere, I certainly DO need some time ‘off.’ Excellent suggestion…I’m going to get to work on that!

  5. What a great blog, thanks for sharing! 🙂

    • Breland — Thank YOU so much for reading and taking time to leave me a little smile!

  6. This is such a fun post I can’t help but subscribe. Thanks for the memories.

    You’re absolved, for everything. Even wanting to “lose them” at the train station.

    The only thing I have to add is that the witch stays with you, changing faces periodically. Guilt over uniform spots, sheet changing and epic cursing is replaced with new guilt over curfews, belly shirts, tattoos and piercing. The whole experience of driving and letting them out of your sight on their first date is yet to come. Enjoy these years since the witch will be with you long after your hair turns white and your fingers are nibbled to mere stubs.

    The good news is that they become ever more fascinating as they grow towards adulthood. My first born turns 22 tomorrow and moves 6 states away on Sunday. I’m sure I’ll hear the witch’s cackle long after the moving truck pulls away.

    • Garden friend, you are like sanity on a stick, girl. It honestly feels as though you just walked into my living room and handed me a big bowl of hope covered in chocolate syrup and cherries. Thank you for relating, forgiving and assuring me that complexity = interesting people and a happy life. I can’t imagine my oldest being 22 or moving 6 states away…that must be bittersweet. I can’t explain it, but the very thought is totally choking me up. (I’m such a dork.) Good luck to you both this weekend. And if the witch turns up, tell her to bugger off for my place and leave you alone for a change!

  7. Amazing…I just wrote an entry on motherly guilt a few days ago. It must be the season for elevated guilt sentiment: it’s May, and while mothers should be out dancing in the flower fields, shopping, scrap-booking, soccer-playing or doing whatever it is they enjoy (if they still remember), they’re busy feeling guilty.

    Ok. My confessions: singing lullabies in a screeching high opera falsetto voice, much to the dismay and utter petrification of my children, and telling them that yes, in fact there ARE monsters under their beds which may nibble on their toes if they get out of bed ONE MORE TIME.

    Praise the Lord for absolution!

    • There really must be something in the air…I was ‘reading around’ today and found no fewer than five other blogs posted about mother-guilt in the last week alone. Damn, that witch is busy! I have to say though, I love your monster strategy — it’s BRILLIANT. I’m am so moving all the monsters out of Utah and putting them right back under the bed tonight! Thanks for the tip!!

  8. Lol!! What a funny post! Even though there is a more of serious undercurrent to guilt as well, it can be a very negative emotion as well. (and many times inflicted upon you by other people!) If you have done your best at the time to your best knowledge, there is nothing to feel guilty about… you know what they say about hindsight….

    • Kris,

      My hindsight is so laser-sharp it’s scary. Of course you’re absolutely right about doing your best and not feeling guilty. Why did that seem so much easier before children? I swear my DNA was irrevocably altered with the addition of a killer guilt chromosome during labor. It’s really the only explanation….Thanks for taking time to check out my post 🙂

  9. I always wished I was better at laying on the guilt. It seems to be so damn effective at getting people (your kids) to do what you want them to….Too bad I suck at it.

    • Oh the fun we could have!! While I do FEEL a lot of guilt, I also happen to be exceptional at inflicting it, on demand and at the drop of a hat. I try to keep this super power in check, because really, it’s not nice to blindside the little people. But some days, they’re just begging for it. You bring the wine and I’ll dust off the dry erase board…class is about to be in session 😉

  10. I do day care for a living. One of the “babies” I watch hasn’t slept through the night yet, I feel for his Mom, but even more then him not sleeping through the night is he will go whole days here at Day Care refusing to take a nap. By the time she picks him up I am thankful for my own two year old who thinks it’s fun to throw fits only if I am trying to show the day care to potential clients (It’s amazing anyone actually stays after that.)

    • Oh the horrible, torturous woes of a non-sleeping infant! You are a lovely person to express such empathy for this baby’s mother. However, your choice of career makes me want to send you a 3-layer chocolate cake with homemade whipped cream and two dozen roses. I have often said that it takes a special person to care for other people’s children all day and still be a mother to your own at the end of it. Clearly, I don’t have a special bone in my body. You are enabling a whole host of parents to do what they want and need to do in life, without worrying about their little ones. On behalf of the ‘rents everywhere, THANKS for doing what you do!

  11. Laura…I love your posts! So true, so true. As you know, I’ve also been bitten by the cursing bug, lost my child in Walmart and wished for just 5 minutes of peace by whatever means necessary. My biggest guilt trip, however, is wanting some time to myself. I know I shouldn’t feel guilty…I mean I am still an individual who needs a little alone time every now and then. I work 3 jobs (2 that I get paid for and the 24 hr. Wife, Mother and Maid Service job I volunteer for.) When I get home, all I want is a little ME time. My kids don’t understand or realize that they make me feel guilty when they say “Mommy, what do you wanna do?” every 5 minutes after I walk through the door. I wish I could clone myself so I could do more than one thing at a time. (OK, maybe cloning isn’t such a good idea. Do I really want a look-alike having sex with my husband? I think not…that’s one job I don’t mind sacrificing my time for.) 🙂 Someday I’ll realize that I’m still ME, and I don’t always have to be Mommy or The Wife. The guilt trip needs to come to an end.

    • WELL SAID, Nat! The guilt that often comes with being a wife and mother is so multi-dimensional. My 10 ‘Little’ Sins are but the tip of the iceberg. I read another mother’s post on guilt today and she listed a whole litany of things I hadn’t even considered when writing this, but often do feel guilty for (e.g., going out with my husband, spending a couple hours away to get my harcut, TRYING to fit in a workout…the list goes on and on!)

      But bottom line, we were whole individuals with desires, dreams, needs and goals before we ever had children. Being a mother is a sacrifice that is absolutely worth every ounce of effort. But we do not have to give up ourselves entirely to be effective. After all, if we do our job right, they LEAVE eventually. If we’ve given everything to them, what will be left when they finally fly the coop?

      Go on, girl. Get your “me time” and tell the witch to take a freakin’ hike 😉

      [P.S. Thanks for checking in on me here…]

      • P.P.S. There are soooo many days when I tell myself, ‘good’ needs to be ‘good enough.’ Tough, but true.

  12. 1. Fabricating the nutritional qualities of Pop Tarts.
    2. Claiming that “cup dropping” was the universal signal for “I need a nap, now.”
    3. Claiming that “naps” was really a category that included lying in bed quietly seven or eigh times during the day and was enforced with the threat of invisible-under-bed-sea-monsters-who-eat-childrens’-feet.
    4. Promoting pickle relish to vegetable status.
    5. Feigning dismemberment to avoid PTA meetings.
    6. Claiming scrolling cartoon credits as “reading time” on the log.
    7, Turning stained shirts inside out and/or backwards and tucking them into overalls.

    Seven, right? Seven deadly sins? Can I stop there? I don’t know what happens if I list many more than that. I think in additional to being disqualified for absolution it means that I have to sit next to some nauseating Super-Mom on the train that circles the screaming tantrum wing of the 4th ring of Dante’s Inferno.

    • Good gravy on a train, #6 is KILLING me! I’m not even telling you how many different things I’ve tried to count towards the 25 minute nightly requirement on Griffin’s reading log…

      Sing two rounds of “I Will Survive” in the shower with at least one cat present, and you are forgiven. Go forth and post Points, my child 😉

      • I haven’t hit the submit comment button yet and clearly you have a link to cancel the reply so in 2 minutes when my comment shows up you have permission to seek justice (especially for the language I am about to type and then rudely publish as a comment on your blog: why? because I am stupid like that)

        ready?
        ok
        1) the song is titled “touch of grey” 😉
        2) I know it’s wrong but i have a crush on nearly every single and committed witch 😉
        3) as soon as i find ANY article that leads me to believe that evil thoughts and brain matter is attached to gray hairs, being the good two shoes that I am when I see a witch I am going to PLUCK HER EVIL BRAINS OUT!!!

      • Dusty — I’m slow sometimes. And I haven’t had nearly enough coffee this morning. You set me up to be slayed and then I got totally lost about what I’m supposed to be upset about (see? slooooooow).

        Are you mad at me about the guilt-witch analogy? If so, I’ll admit it may have been a cheap shot. After all, I saw Wicked. I know there’s two sides to every story. But dang, I needed to personify the feeling and I was worried about tossing it all on Glenda’s back on the off chance that some people don’t have the means, motivation or access to live theater. Regardless, thanks for the comment and for re-introducing me to one of the greatest songs of all time.

        Even though I didn’t totally get your comment, I suspect you may personally rock.

        [P.S. Took a quick look at your blog. Good luck with the journey. I’ve got nothing but love for people brave enough to do what you’re doing.]

      • I am just teasin you.

        It was an awesome post LauraK and I forgot to do the right to left thingy and say “bless you you are forgiven and completely absloved”

      • Oh thank sweet Sister Marianne. Sorry I didn’t get it. My sarcasm sensor is usually so much more sensitive.

  13. I’m a new mother. My daughter will be 8 weeks old on Sunday and I know EXACTLY what you mean. PPD is impossible.

    Its nice to see I’m not the only one. Thanks for this post.

    • Kirby — My absolutely beloved, totally adored little sister had her first baby on March 25. Talking to her over the last 6 1/2 weeks has brought back a literal flood of memories. You are SO not alone. Every thought you have, every insecurity you feel….we’ve all been there. Truly.

      I think the hardest thing about being a new mother is feeling like you’re not good at it. That you aren’t doing well or living up to some crazy set of expectations you had going into this little gig. Try as hard as you can to ignore all that crap. Being an excellent mother is about this and this alone: Getting up every day and trying to do it just a little bit better than you did yesterday. Good luck, hang in there and stop by to vent anytime 🙂

  14. Glad you made it to the Freshly Pressed page. #10 makes me feel human and not so alone. Unfortunately and apparently, it is not related to kids only. I am not a mother but I experience such feelings over other loved ones 😦 😉

    • You know what? Love is love, my friend. And worrying that you could lose or totally accidentally hurt them are universal. Some people just don’t experience the intensity until they become a mother. I am SO GLAD this made you feel human. I want to make people laugh, but also realize there’s a whole bunch of us out here going through the same thing. Thanks so much for your comment!

  15. What a brilliant post – and a nice idea. Oh being a partent is not easy! Mine is hitting my son with a wooden spoon, then it broke. Feel awful.

    • Stork — My point exactly. Some folks might think I’m crying in my Hamburger Helper about something I consciously signed on for, but I think it’s good to acknowledge the full range and complexity of emotions and challenges associated with any experience.

      Don’t mourn the spoon. It was probably old and looking for a reason to pass on to the other side anyway. Still, next time try one of those foamy pool noodles. I try to keep one on hand in every room. It’s pretty hard for a kid to continue to be ornery when they are being slain with a pink floatation device. And it’s also pretty hard for you to stay mad 😉

      Finally, we all need a break from the insanity sometimes. Don’t be afraid ask for (or pay for) yours….

  16. Like what you wrote; it’s REAL life.

    • Thanks, P. I was a actually a little nervous about this post. Mothers, I think, are always worred about being out there “alone,” and therefore being judged. We worry people will think we aren’t living up to some crazy image of the perfect parent. Or that we don’t love our children because some days we can’t help but think, “Why did I want this again?”

      Perfection in this job, is totally unattainable. All you can do is give it your best shot every day and keep looking for the mute button on that naggy little voice in your head that tells you that you aren’t good enough, smart enough, or gosh darnit, even likable.

  17. I love this!

    • @Mara and Shawna — Thanks so much for your nice comments!

  18. I am not a mom but an aunt. Love the little people in my life. Totally got the real life/humor of being a parent. Rock on!

  19. So true! Love that picture from the Wizard of Oz?….guilt is truly a witch

    • BookJunkie — At the risk of driving Dusty totally insane, I have to agree with you. Completely 😉

  20. I really like this blog! First look at it today! If you could, please take a look at mine.. Much obliged.. Rob.

    • Rob — Thanks for stopping by and taking time out to comment. I really like your post on positive thinking. My favorite line: ” if your life is successful it’s because you made it so.. and if it isn’t… well..” That’s so true but often incredibly hard to come to grips with. One question: Does a lunch consisting of four eggrolls (with duck sauce) followed by four pieces of Easter candy count as developing good eating habits? No? Yeah…I didn’t think so 🙂

  21. This has to be, by far, one of the funniest and most honest posts on motherhood I have read! Glad I’m not the only neurotic mom out there.

    • Emily — If you’re neurotic, I’m certifiably insane. Motherhood is kind of like a mental illness that has us all rapid cycling between love, joy, delight, amusement, paranoia, fear, frustration and guilt. It’s a wild ride. I too, think it’s especially nice to know I’m not the only one on it 🙂

  22. You got featured on Freshly Pressed and I missed it????

    Sassafrassin-brackin-rickin-family trips!!!

    *grumble grumble*

    Did you take a screen shot? Can I see???

    Damnit.

    • Lori, PLEASE, girl. You know I took a screen shot. Will send it via email 😉

  23. This blog is very good. Thanks for this. I will bookmark this page.

  24. Just want to say what a great blog you got here!
    I’ve been around for quite a lot of time, but finally decided to show my appreciation of your work!

    Thumbs up, and keep it going!

    Cheers

  25. I am the first time on this site and am really enthusiastic about and so many good articles.
    I think it’s just very good.

    Thanks.

  26. @ Kenny, Ondiluss and Unforgiven —

    Thanks so much for reading and taking time out to leave such nice comments. Stop back by anytime! I look forward to hearing more from all y’all 😉

  27. Super awesome read! Truely!

    • Thanks so much! Stop by anytime 🙂

  28. yep!

    it actually sounds like you have a nice, tight kung-fu grip of that little sucker!

    way to go LauraK!!!

    • Well, yes. What can I say? It kind of comes with the motherhood territory, lol.

  29. It’s such a fantastic resource which you are supplying and you give it away absolutely free. I like discovering weblogs that comprehend the importance of offering a valuable resource for no cost. I really enjoyed reading your article 🙂 Thanks!

    • Loyd — Thanks for reading. I’m glad I was good for a laugh..

  30. I have said a bad word or two directed at my child – and I don’t feel guilty at all. I actually feel guilty that I don’t feel guilty 😉

    • Alison — It’s nice to know there’s another mom out there who lets fly with an occasional expletive. I’m going to adopt your ‘guilt-free’ attitude, because well, I think moms are entitled to lose it every now and then. Thanks for stopping by my ancient little brownies blog 🙂

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