Guilt is not a thing of the past. No matter how much men lean in, women emancipate, different models of marriage appear, companies are flexible, managers are understanding, guilt is permanent. It comes and goes in strength but it very rarely vanishes. I used to try to get rid of it, make it go away, fight the world so I was good enough at work, good enough at home, good enough with my children. It seemed to increase it. Guilt is the other side of the coin of ‘having it all’. Who says you can’t? You can, over periods of time and the right amount of planning and support. But rarely without guilt.
What did you do Sara, and why are you talking about guilt?
This week, we came to a Club Med week for half term. I had always been of the view that I wanted to spend as much time as possible with the children on the holiday given the limited time I have with them on a regular week. But last year, we decided to give Club Med a try, despite us fearing the mass market approach and the potential crowds. We were nothing but impressed with the experience, and for the first time ever, the procrastinators in us booked to come back this year less than 3 weeks after our first trip was over. We were sold.
Little Girl C had a blast. She was skiing for the week, made friends with kids and grown-ups at the Mini Club, and got extra time with the daughter of another couple that had joined us for the ride. Guilt said we would pick her up to have lunch together – it was a drama and she would usually be tired and complicated. Guilt said we would pick her up to have dinner together – she ate as fast as possible so she could go to the show and dance on stage. Guilt was wrong. Little Girl C enjoyed running into us occasionally so she could tell us about all that she was doing and she was happy for the 5 to 7 break time to prepare for the evening, mostly because she knew there was nothing happening at the club at that time. I question whether Baby S felt the same, as he was in a “boring” nursery and was barely 1 year old, so guilt won me over a bit on that one.
The other thing is – our family had no flights, other than the occasional dragging of Little Girl C out of bed in the morning. Kids seem to want to sleep in always when you want them not to. In fact, I am writing this as the ski day is about to start and Baby S is still taking a snooze. He is on holiday, and could not care less if there is sun or snow, so I respect that. The only real fight we had was on the last afternoon as we tried to ski together and the combination of an overachieving Hubby B with a very tired Little Girl C was a very unpleasant experience for all. Which goes to confirm that when skiing, being together may not be the best choice.
Through the year, Little Girl C remembered the Club Med fondly and often timed the months of the year according to how many months it would take to come back here. Between the excitement to go skiing again, to have holidays with two girlfriends from nursery and the overall experience, she could not wait. When I was once explaining to her that people work in order to earn income and pay for things, she quickly said I had to go to work so we could go skiing. I did wonder whether that was the sort of financial education I wanted for her, but it worked to explain the concept at the time.
We are now back and expectations are high. We are here in a much more crowded week and doubt it will be as smooth. Guilt came in my luggage, but it is funny how it is agnostic to the topic for me. I feel guilty to leave Baby S at the club so I can go skiing (which I haven’t yet, who knows, he might love it). But this year I am mostly struggling with the concept that I want to take a break. I am not convinced I want to ski the 6 usual hours of the day because I also want to take the opportunity that everyone is having a great time (hopefully) to take a break. I like skiing with people I know, but the trouble I have here is that Hubby B wants nothing to do with me and I join a class filled with people I don’t know. It kinds of bores me and as much as I love my skiing I can think of other things to do – like nothing, or writing, or reading. But then guilt says I paid for it and might as well go.
<<< I have to introduce an edit here today, as the full day has gone by before I published this and I found that my best ski happened as I skied on my own, not feeling guilty about going too slow, too fast, following the instructor, not following. Because I was late to any class by the time Little Baby S was at the club, I gave it a go and was so pleased that I concluded the reason is none other than I just keep thinking about others and having guilt. And I can’t let go of the classes because I feel guilty they are included. I am done with that. Who knows if I will join any classes this week. End of edit, back to the original post. Oh, did I mention more guilt as I left Baby S at the club as soon as his fever went down? >>>
After CBT, I can now call guilt by its name. It no longer consumes me, at least for longer periods of time. I see it coming, I say hi, I even chat with ‘it’. Guilt is a regular of my mind, about my time spent not spent with the children or the time spent with the children fighting, my time spent with husband or time spent with him with a laptop on my lap, my time spent (not) calling or hanging out with friends, my time at work or not at work, my time at charity or not at charity, my time cooking or not cooking, my time writing or not writing. It can find any excuse to creep in. It is stronger in what relates to the children, because I do outsource on a regular basis to a full-time housekeeper that allows me mental sanity but, more importantly, allows me that the time I spend with the children is dedicated to them and not washing or cleaning. And I don’t just outsource, I also share responsibilities with Hubby B, which means I am even more terrible in what concerns standard motherhood.
If outsourcing or sharing parenting needs was a medication, guilt would be the secondary effect written all over the advice slip.