Mother-Guilt…The Gift that Keeps on Giving by Betty Mason Arthurs
“Mom, why didn’t I go to preschool? I don’t think I’d be so shy if I had.” My grown daughter, Julie, once again asked me about her “deprived” childhood. Just because her three boys attended college-prep preschools and can text 49 words a minute, it’s a wonder Julie graduated from kindergarten.
Once again I was fighting mother-guilt, a malady afflicting all the mothers I know. If your baby’s face pops out a rash you want to hide until it’s gone since complete strangers ask questions like: Did you change detergents? Is he allergic to eggs or wheat? You didn’t give him peanut butter did you?”
Could it ever be someone else’s fault…oh no, it’s the mother’s idiocy causing the child’s problems. It’s the chocolate you consumed while pregnant. It’s the bushels of whole wheat cereal you fed them when the little tikes refused to eat anything else.
Today instant information via cyberspace feeds mother-guilt. A young mother during her baby’s nap time was sipping a cup of café mocha and checking Facebook when meddling scientists broadcast that breast fed babies are smarter. There’s wasted potential held within a woman’s chest. This young mother, in tears, who feeds her baby formula, called her mom, “I’m neglecting to pass on the smart genes to my precious Collin!” Her mother soothed her fears, “Sometimes milk ducts won’t lactate. Researchers, all breast fed, have nothing better to do than make us all feel like we were born on Mars.” Thanks to this report, a million guilt-plagued moms punching their delete buttons almost shut down Facebook. Nobody wants dumb kids.
My mother passed on the DNA guilt to me. She often told me, “You know why you had pneumonia as a baby? My doctor induced me two weeks early ‘cause he wanted to go on vacation. You weren’t ready and it affected your lungs and maybe gave you bad health all your life.” Every teensy wrong decision can torment a mommy’s memory and overshadow all the sacrifice and beauty a woman brings to her children’s lives. And no one prayed more for me and my two brothers than she did. Thanks, Mom.
My son doesn’t confront me with motherly sins. Robbie doesn’t have to since a mom remembers the days of her youngest. Allergies still attack his 40 plus year-old body. I look back on his 1970s childhood and ask, “Why didn’t I vacuum the carpets daily, kick out the dogs and cats, and feed him more than hot dogs and bologna sandwiches?” It’s all consuming, like going over Niagara Falls in a barrel, my mother-guilt. He has four children and his wife, Heather, once told us when she was expecting their second child, “I feel so bad for my sweet boy since he’s in a used uterus.” Classic mother-guilt.
One day I tried to explain to Julie why she never romped through preschool. “We lived in farm country and only had one car which your father needed for work. We also didn’t have the money.” I grabbed a tissue. “You’re shy because I fed you strained peas and carrots laced with monosodium glutamate and we slurped gallons of Kool-Aide.”
Julie has three boys and her youngest just got his driver’s permit. For the older two, circling parking lots and back streets came easy. With the “baby,” his driving over curbs and slamming on brakes, has added a new challenge to her life. Perhaps she’s praying, “Lord, is this my fault? Please help me not to resign from motherhood.” But I know, like all mothers, she’ll never give up on teaching him safety on the road and forgive him for adding grey hairs to her head. It’s what moms do.
Yes, forgiveness is woven into every beat of a mom’s loving, nervous heart.
Through years of tears and laughter as a mother and grandmother, I have depended on God’s grace and mercy and learned to forgive myself for all the mistakes I’ve made. Love is the true gift, not mother-guilt, which keeps on giving and giving.