Friday, March 4, 2011

The Parenting Guilt Monster

I've met a new monster. Not a vampire with sharp teeth (you know, the actual scary, non-glittering kind); not a vicious werewolf; not a phantom ghost. Instead, this is a tricky monster, who sneaks out from under the bed (which is quite a feat since our bed is on the floor), or charges from the closet, or climbs the roof and jumps onto our balcony - all when I least expect the monster and definitely when I least need it.

The Parenting Guilt Monster.

That little thing - from under the bed, in the closet, on the balcony, but usually in my head - that tells me I'm not doing enough for the Droidlet. This little monster ignores the fact that I am writing a Master's thesis, teaching a composition course (and that we realllllly need that extra money every month), and that I am still trying to hold some semblance of myself together - not to mention stuff like, ya know, keeping the apartment from becoming a place where "real" monsters would actually want to live. And instead, this parenting guilt monster, focuses on the things I don't do.

He scratches me with his claws when I come home a few nights in a row (of working on my thesis or lesson planning) after the Droidlet has gone to bed, completely ignoring the fact that Funk has been there with Droidlet the whole time. He attacks my back during the day when I let Droidlet play in his walker for longer than fifteen minutes, telling me I'm a lazy mom. The monster ignores how I play with Droidlet and when we sing and dance and laugh and cuddle and instead attacks my neck and between gnawing on my skin mentions how I don't give the Droidlet enough - enough cuddles, enough educational opportunity, enough time.

The kicker is, I know none of this is true, yet the Parenting Guilt Monster is still there, taunting and stalking me.

So, I've come up with a plan of attack; with a Parenting Guilt Monster Battle kit. Now, the normal silver bullet, strings of garlic, wooden stake, magic potion aren't going to do for this kind of monster. This kind of monster goes for the jugular of self-esteem, the heart of confidence, and hides doubt inside your skin. To battle this kind of monster takes a different tactic.

Inside the kit, I keep a few small items.

1. Words of Funk (and other people who support my family). It's good to fall back on conversations with others, their boosts of confidence, their marvel at how well this little family is doing despite the overwhelming situation of a "surprise" pregnancy.

2. A good book. Yes, this sounds strange, but sometimes the best battle against the Guilt Monster is to let myself escape into something that has nothing to do with being a mama. And, generally, what works best for me is a good book. Right now, a Jeanette Winterson novel.

3. Playing with the Droidlet. Sometimes when the monster is on the attack, I just need to grab the Droidlet, smile at him, and his smile in return lets me know I haven't messed him up... yet. Sounds cheesy, yes, but seeing him laugh and smile and what a happy baby he is helps to show me I must be doing something right.

This is about as far as my arsenal goes for now. You other parents out there, or non-parents who have to battle the other species of Guilt Monsters (like the Work Guilt Monster, the School Guilt Monster...), what's in YOUR arsenal?

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