Issues and Challenges

Mom Guilt — The Real Take on Motherhood!

I have always been told that I have a great maternal instincts; I have been the fun khala, who has played with dolls all through her own childhood, who is considered caring and kind by all her friends and the agony-aunt of the tribe, who gives you suggestions and advice, the one who tries to understand human emotions and feelings. Now imagine the scene when I was handed over my first-born. I felt nothing: no emotional drama, no tears of happiness, absolutely un-filmi! Only a sigh of relief. No, I wasn’t thankless; I was happy but not the kind of happy you expect to see in new mothers. I was unable to connect to this little human whom I had just seen. The only feeling I had was guilt, guilt of not being able to say ‘Oh I love him, he is my son’, or at the very least shed a few tears. 



Mom guilt kicks in even before your baby does. You might not realize it but it is there. The little pleasures such as eating Chinese, late night drives or a can of soda makes you feel as if you are the most selfish pregnant woman in this world. You keep on trying to feel responsible while at the same time that feeling of a major change ahead makes you go crazy.


Nearly every mom you talk to would be the same, the only condition being she is honest about her feelings! It is not that I don’t love my son, he is my life. However, it wasn’t love at first sight. Later, when I started deciphering my feelings, I asked all my friends if they connected with their babies as soon as they were born and most of them told me they didn’t and none were comfortable to talk about it as they thought they might be judged. This is just the beginning of mom guilt or maybe there is no end to this one!
Mom guilt kicks in even before your baby does. You might not realize it but it is there. The little pleasures such as eating Chinese, late night drives or a can of soda makes you feel as if you are the most selfish pregnant woman in this world. You keep on trying to feel responsible while at the same time that feeling of a major change ahead makes you go crazy.
Once the baby is there, the gap between ‘what should I be doing’ and ‘what am I doing’ widens. There is constant self-doubt, a feeling of not being good enough, anxiety or a pressure to be perfect that burdens the new mom who is already fighting against health challenges and sleep deprivation.
As soon as I came back home from the hospital, I tried to be as normal as possible. I tried my best to keep the room clean, got dressed up every morning, dressed the baby and even tried to cook — what was I thinking!? I wasn’t expecting an award for being a super woman, however, deep inside I remember my mother used to praise new mommies by saying how clean someone’s house was, the baby so well kept and the new mom was wearing makeup too. Unintentionally, I tried to be that perfect first time mom. Of course, I failed! I was showing clear symptoms of postpartum depression, my sleep was badly affected (like all moms) and I did not really like my baby. I felt I was stuck in this situation because of him. 
It might sound simple to read but in reality it wasn’t. I wanted to enjoy my baby and feel something for him, when I wasn’t able to do so I just felt guilty. So while this yay-nay was going on, my maternity leave came to an end and I had to go back to work. All of you who work and leave your children at a daycare would know how it feels. Although my son was with his baba and then my dad while a helper took care of him, I hated going to work leaving him behind. I felt as if I was abandoning him every day and would miss him growing up. Soon I found myself video calling a three-months-old baby during work breaks. I was counting minutes to get back home where all the household chores and a demanding baby were waiting. Finally, my husband and I decided that I should take a break. This should have ended my guilt trips but no! Now I was guilty for not working hard enough to balance between work and home. I felt as if I wasted all of my productiveness of the past 13 years. There were times when I felt I was setting the wrong example for my son by quitting on my career so easily. Trust me, I was hiding it from family and friends that I had given up on my job; the fear of judgment, of being seen as a failure is gigantic for women until they break it.
From this career issue my guilt transferred to everyday decisions such as the use of pacifier, formula feeding, taking time off, not being able to maintain the house as I used to and the list goes on. I would say being guilty became my reflex action and one day I literally said sorry to a sofa I bumped into; I felt was that I was not doing as much as I should have. Adding to this mommy pressure was the feeling of not contributing financially anymore, the effects of capitalism of course where the utility of a human being is always weighed in the form of money.
That constant pressure of perfectionism drove me nuts. The irony is that I had no one who expected this perfection. I live in an independent house and my husband is very helpful at home. Gradually, over these 20 months after my son was born, I tried to figure out what triggers this immense feeling of doubt and that dreadful question, if I was a good mom, and who defines a good mom. 
My first realization was that household chores are not part of motherhood. Yes, you should provide a safe and clean environment for your child, however, perfect homes do not exist when you have little ones around. It took me sometime to accept that as he started crawling, our furniture was placed around in weird positions, we had a sofa next to the bed and cushions spread all over the carpet so if he falls off the bed, he would land on the cushion. All our carpets were covered with bedsheets and the tables were pushed to the walls. It took me some time to ease my mind off these little things. I stopped following all those perfect home websites, where white sofas and mustard cushions looked so easy to maintain. 
My second learning point was a dinner I hosted. I was feeling so dull, so unlike myself, so I decided to host a few friends. I cooked and cleaned all day long. I ignored my baby most of the day. He was in his walker and I just switched on the TV for him (walker and screen, another guilt point) so I could work in peace. By the evening he was super cranky, I was exhausted and the guests only discussed ‘motherhood’. Judgments were passed on how mothers should or should not work, vaccinations being an international scam and walkers being more dangerous than atomic bombs. By the end of the dinner, I was left with a huge pile of dishes, a cranky baby and zero self-esteem, the guilt of ignoring my baby for hosting this useless gathering taught me not to overcommit or overdo social meet-ups again.
My third lesson was to say no to YouTube vlogs about mom routines and how to lose pregnancy weight. Initially, I watched many vlogs but after every such ‘enlightening’ session I felt worse than ever. The guilt kicked in bad!
So as a first time mom, when did I get out of this guilt? Honestly, I did not. I have learned to deal with it on most days. I still get a lot of negative thoughts about my parenting skills but now I try and reflect upon those. I have reduced my friends circle to a very few people who understand me and this phase of a woman’s life; I call them my ‘mom-clan’. I have invested on a good car seat and a stroller so I don’t feel like I am stuck at home and as far as the house chores are concerned, I do only the ones, which are absolutely essential. The storeroom, closets and deep cleaning can wait.


Breaks from caring for another human are also very important. You need to involve your spouse or family in this and understand that you cannot do it alone. Otherwise, it will become a debate against yourself where you will always lose. During these breaks, which can be as precise as eating one meal a day in peace, properly shampooing your hair or going out for a walk, you are actually recharging yourself. I learned this around six months ago and I had to fight with my mind to accept that I deserve some me-time.


Breaks from caring for another human are also very important. You need to involve your spouse or family in this and understand that you cannot do it alone. Otherwise, it will become a debate against yourself where you will always lose. During these breaks, which can be as precise as eating one meal a day in peace, properly shampooing your hair or going out for a walk, you are actually recharging yourself. I learned this around six months ago and I had to fight with my mind to accept that I deserve some me-time.
However even now, when I seem more settled and in love with my little one, there are bad days too where I second guess every little thing I do. Unfortunately, I lost my mom before I became one, so I never got a chance to discuss this with her. However, I talk to my friends who have older children and they all say that mom-guilt is here to stay. It takes new shapes and expressions but it does not go away. As your children grow up, you keep on thinking where you went wrong or should you have taken a plunge to improve something or another. Therefore, I focus more on creating a happy and safe environment around my son and take life as it comes. I have stopped trying to be a super woman who focuses on perfection. I ask for help promptly when needed and I express that as a mother I can get tired, irritated or bored. 
Something that has really touched my heart was a quote by Mitch Albom, in his book Five People You Meet In Heaven: “All parents damage their children. It cannot be helped. Youth, like pristine glass, absorbs the prints of its handlers. Some parents smudge, others crack, a few shatter childhoods completely into jagged little pieces, beyond repair.” I think the sooner we internalize this thought, the lesser messed up we will end up being. A friend recently asked me if I liked my life before encountering the challenges of raising another human. I wanted to be honest with her without alarming her off motherhood; however, I had no correct answer to it. I would love to be independent, free and working full time but each one of these dynamics of pre-motherhood becomes an illusion with something as simple as when my son grins at me or runs towards me. I have become filmi and emotional since my son was born but being too attached to your child isn’t healthy for them or is it? Maybe I should just forget about all these complexities and enjoy each passing moment! HH


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