I have yet to meet a mother who has mastered the guilt game.
If you are a mother, you will know what I mean; it’s that niggling feeling that, no matter how much you are doing, it’s never enough. How does one overcome that feeling without losing self-worth?
When you have agreed to relocate to a different country, one that may be half a world away from your comfort zone (and one in which the way things are done are probably also worlds apart), as the mother you have a very crucial role.
Maybe you are a trailing spouse, left to care for your children while your husband fights workplace battles. Perhaps you are suddenly thrust into the role of primary caregiver for your children in an environment without many of the things you grew up with yourself.
Whatever your situation, you are in charge of handing down values and beliefs that are inherent to you, but that your children may not relate to. You are the family defender and truth-sayer, no matter how unpopular this may make you with the little ones. On top of all of this, you are expected to have a social life and be happy most days. It’s not a walk in the park.
In the absence of easy access to our relatives and old friends, we turn to new friends, teachers, and even the internet to tell us what we should be doing and how. And when we hold ourselves against these measures of what makes the “perfect” mom, it’s easy to see how we can feel far from making it. On bad days, it’s not a long stretch before feeling that we are the worst possible mother ever to walk this earth.
I recently came across a list of questions that moms should ask themselves every day. Since I’m a lover of lists (as I think most moms are), I went through this one excitedly.
1. How much time did I spend one-on-one with my child today?
2. Was I really engaged, or was I distracted with calls, texts, and emails when I was with my child?
3. Did I hug my child and say “I love you”?
4. Did I compliment or criticize my child?
5. Was I calm and firm, or mean and harsh when I disciplined my child?
6. Did I have a meal together with my child?
7. Did I help my child with their schoolwork?
8. Did I tuck my child into bed?
9. Did I read to my child?
10. Did I listen more or lecture more?
11. Did I monitor my child’s television and computer time?
It started off quite well and I patted myself on the back. But by the time I got to some of the points down the list – uh-oh – I began to feel it again. That all-consuming guilt that I didn’t do well enough today and that despite my resolve to stop some bad habits, I will always fall by the wayside and make the same mistakes again.
Now don’t get me wrong, I think this is a great list that helps remind us what we should be aiming for. But I think it’s important to remember precisely that: these are goals. We may not meet them all on one given day, but we should also be kind to ourselves and give ourselves room to be human.
Sure, mothers are born with the “guilt gene” and are certain to beat themselves over real or imagined failings. But as long as our hearts are in the right place, I am confident we will make the best decisions for our children. Regardless of what checklist we hold ourselves up against, the final item we should add at the end should be: Did I love my child above all?
If we can answer yes to that every day, we all deserve a passing score.
The checklist above has been modified to fit within our editorial policy.
Photo courtesy of frankrizzo805 (Flickr)
Dana is the beijingkids Shunyi Correspondent. Originally from the Philippines, she moved to Beijing in 2011 (via Europe) with her husband, two sons and Rusty the dog. She enjoys writing, photography, theater, visual arts, and trying new food. In her free time, she can be found exploring the city and driving along the mountain roads of Huairou, Miyun and Pinggu.