Have you ever felt like you’ve let your kids down or made a mess of things?
Have you ever felt like a failure because you didn’t reach your own expectations of how things should be?
Like when you’ve had the morning from Hell and then you spend the day feeling guilty that your kids will be upset all day?
Or a part of a birthday gift didn’t arrive on time and you worry that it’ll ruin the whole surprise?
Or you find something after Christmas which you meant to use or do and now you feel like you’ve messed up?
Or you forget to put something into the schoolbag and worry that your minion will get in trouble?
Or you spend the whole of the weekend cleaning and doing housework and are sure that you are ruining their lives because they’ve had to entertain themselves all weekend?
Or you don’t think to book a magician for her First Communion and then it’s too late?
Or you’ve had to work late and feel like you are not giving enough attention to your kids?
Or you’ve not been able to organise (or afford) the cake you wanted to get your 3 year old?
Or you’ve told your 8 year old they can invite 4 friends to their birthday party, but Jacinta has the whole class at little Vincentula’s?
I could go on and on…and on…and on… and on…
We set ourselves so many standards and expectations around our children’s experiences. We feel like a failure if their experiences are not what we intended them to be…
I’m currently reading Becoming by Michelle Obama. It’s an incredible memoir. Everyone really should read it.
One of the memories she describes has stood strong in my head since I read it, is about her daughter’s tenth birthday. She describes how it fell just weeks before the Presidential Election, when they were in the midst of the campaign trail, constantly surrounded by a management team and journalists and secret service.
She remembers that they had to make out that the 4th of July carnival they had to attend was for their daughter’s birthday…how they spent the day passing disappointed glances at each other, how they longed for the day to be over so that they could get an hour on their own with their daughter that evening.
The guilt that they both felt that day was immense. And even when they did get to the hotel, their “private” party still had about 20 of their team present. Michelle talks about the plain hotel function space, the “store bought” cake, the gifts that one of the team had had to go to buy as she was unable to go to a store alone… and she spoke of the desultory disappointment she felt in herself.
She spoke about the shame she felt that her daughter’s birthday was spent working, dragging her along and not at home with her friends. And she describes the guilt she and her husband felt in a way that every parent can understand.
I felt her pain as I read. I’ve just returned from a 4 day work trip. I had the worst dose of Mammy Guilt before I left and while I was there. I felt that my girls were being passed from Granny to Daddy to Aunty to school and that I was the worst Mum in the world for not being close at hand for a few days.
But when I returned, I realised something. My perspective to the trip was so incredibly different to theirs.
While I was teary eyed about leaving them on what happened to be my Birthday, they saw only that they were getting to play with their cousins. While I worried that they’d miss me, they saw time alone with Daddy where Mammy wasn’t there to interfere!
Where I felt the guilt of sending them to my Mum’s house again, they saw the utter, imcomparable joy of getting a Sleepover in GannyGanda’s where they’d get pancakes for breakfast and 37 stories at bedtime.
Where I felt that I’d need to make it up to them when I finally got home, they only saw their Mammy, who was home safe with them. The hugs were brief but tight, and after 5 minutes of showing me EVERYTHING they had made or done since I left, Mini-Me looked into my eyes and announced that they’d had a lovely time and asked when I had to go away again…
Just like Michelle Obama’s daughter bounced over to her parents on that birthday and hugged them tight announcing “This has been the BEST BIRTHDAY EVER!”, My two girls saw things in a very different way.
Because that is what kids do.
And as parents we need to remember that. Most of the things that we worry about, would NEVER be considered or noticed by our kids.
Kids don’t dwell on the bad morning. They remember the kiss on the nose or the promise of “See you in a wee while!”
They don’t give a damn about the thing Mammy forgot to put out at Christmas, or that the spuds get burnt, or that there are no Pringles. Kids are paying attention to a whole other set of things.
So ease up on yourself Mammy.
Are your kids loved? Are they safe? Are they fed?
Yeah? Well chances are that even if YOU are feeling guilty or disappointed, or that you feel a failure about something, your kids don’t care. They only see you.