1. the fact or state of having committed an offense, crime, violation, or wrong, esp. against moral or penal law; culpability.
2. a feeling of responsibility or remorse for some offense, crime, wrong, etc., whether real or imagined.
My Protecting Natalie post, which turned out to be the second most-viewed blog I've ever written*, elicited this response from one of the moms who read it.
"...it heaps on the mommy guilt by the shovel full..."
She went on to say that perhaps instead of feeling sorry for the child, that I should have shown more compassion and understanding for the mom, and that my message would have been more well-received if I'd illustrated with my own short-comings as a mother.
She was not alone in her thinking, as the lengthy and exhausting exchange - much of which took place all over my Facebook wall - with another mother ultimately proved. Apparently I came across as harsh and judgmental, reprimanding instead of caring.
I'm going to have to be okay with that.
Protecting Natalie was about the children. If I'd wanted to write a commentary about my thoughts on that particular woman, I would have called it "Natalie's Mother." If I'd wanted to confess my own many sins and make everyone feel better, I would have called it "My Own Failures as a Parent." Simply put, I didn't write that particular post to soothe and validate and pat on the back every mother who's ever had a bad day - which, of course, is every mother - but to speak out for a child. Does that make me uncaring? I don't think so. But if I have to choose between seeming uncaring towards adults and making a valid case for children?
I will choose the children. Every. Single. Time. And without apologies.
My intent was absolutely not to heap guilt on anyone, but in a way, hearing that reinforces the truth of what I was saying. Truth sometimes hurts. When I go to church and I hear a message or lesson or scripture that hurts, that steps on my toes and makes me uncomfortable, I know that it's one I needed to hear. And chances are, the more uncomfortable it makes me, the more I needed to hear it. The same is true for essays and articles on parenting and kids and unschooling. While validating, group-hugging, Kumbaya-singing pieces are nice sometimes, the growing comes from the hard stuff... the stuff that makes me want to wince with its honesty and truth.
And here's the thing:
I do myself, and my children, no favors by giving into guilt: mommy guilt or otherwise. Why are we so hard on ourselves, especially when it comes to parenting? What good can possibly come from wasting time and energy dwelling on bad past decisions? Isn't it just yet another self-serving excuse as to why we can't move past it, can't do better, can't be the parent that we really know, deep deep down, that we want to be... that we know we should be?
I'm not going to feel guilty for my past mistakes (or future mistakes for that matter), and I'm not going to make excuses for why I can't do better, right now, today. If I have feelings of guilt, or inadequacy, or regret, I need to GET THE HECK OVER IT and do better the next time. It's not about me, it's about them.
It's not about me,
*Number one is still Offensive, Defined, and I'm proud of it, so check it out if you haven't. :)