Sunday, June 17, 2012

Guilt


So often, I am overwrought by guilt, over things I feel I could have done but didn't, or even things I reasonably know I probably couldn't have done, but still wish I could do. So often, I feel it's almost within my grasp to be a better person, wife, mother, daughter, sister, friend – almost, but not quite. I can almost make myself into a different person, a kinder and gentler one, a more energetic and upbeat one, a more frugal, savvy one – almost, but not quite.   

Should I use soybean oil (so unhealthy) or extra virgin olive oil (so expensive) when cooking our next meal? Am I compromising my family's health or my family's budget? Am I doing the right thing, keeping Tehilla diaper-free from the age of 18 months? Am I a good wife and mom who cares for the health of her baby's skin and saves the family money on diapers, or am I pushing a very young child to do something she is not yet developmentally ready for?

Should I have allowed myself that quiet midmorning spell in the hammock, reading a book while the girls played alongside me? If I had some time, wouldn't it be better invested in making a meal to freeze for Shabbat? And if I had time to read, should I feel guilty for not choosing something more serious, more edifying, more spiritual? Am I investing enough time in creating activities and opportunities to learn for the children? Or is my "life-learning" philosophy only an embellishment for neglect?

What does G-d think of me? What do people think of me? What should I think of myself? Am I doing enough? Could I do more? Should I do more, and where do I draw the line? There are so many decisions to make, some of them seemingly insignificant, but all of them add up and drive me to a peak of agonizing uncertainty. You aren't investing enough time in pursuing your talents; you will be a boring, lifeless person, unfit to guide and shepherd your children. You only think of yourself and your own interests, and neglect everything else so you can pursue them; you are an immature, selfish person, unfit to guide and shepherd your children. Guilt is everywhere. Guilt and its vile sister, emptiness, when I try to reach out within me for that last bit I can give, and find that I have none.

Then I cry out to G-d. I am trying, I really am, but You see, I have nothing more to give. You will have to work through me, make me Your vessel. Love the people You placed in my care – through me. Give them Your infinite love – through me. Because I, as just me, have nothing, and You have everything. Everything we can ever want or need.

I cry out to G-d. Perhaps this is what I should have done to begin with. 

17 comments:

Suze said...

Sweet Girl,

I believe you will be blessed because you seek G-d.

SubWife said...

I find myself doing exactly the same kind of self-beating, over smaller and bigger choices. They are different choices from yours often times, as I am a working mother, so there's different kind of guilt over different issues, yet guilt nevertheless. Sometimes it's all-consuming, sometimes it's not, but it's always there, lurking on the surface, waiting for something to trigger it.

I find that it is easier to deal with it by reminding that most of these choices are insignificant ones. Soybean oil vs. olive oil? You won't remember what you chose 5 years from now. And unless you eat complete junk all other times, which you don't, this choice probably won't matter as much as you think. But you will remember robbing yourself of joys of life over this. It is easier said than done though.

I find men rarely agonize over the small things and definitely don't beat themselves up over them.

Anonymous said...

This, Anna, means that you have fallen prey to society's ridiculous expectations. So many books, shows, parenting blogs are designed to make moms feel guilty.

As a child psychologist, I'm very comfortable saying that kids don't need a perfect parent or even a mom who stands with cookies and milk at the door. In fact, parents who are too attached and too hovering may be doing more harm than good.

Kids do best with loving parents who have full, engaging lives of their own and care for them as a secondary endeavor. Of course the parents must be attentive and caring, but they can be mediocre, and adequate, and that's all kids need to thrive and grow into independent, healthy adults.

Moms who are wracked with guilt- they do no one any favors.

- Miriam

Anonymous said...

http://www.thedailybeast.com/newsweek/2005/02/20/the-good-enough-mother.html

Lady Anne said...

Oh, Anna! Even G-d rested - take it easy, lady. You sound as if you've been taking notes from Analytical Adam, and that's NOT good.

Time spent with your children, who are, after all, gifts from G-d, is much more important that worrying about the dust bunnies under the sofa. "Subwife" has the idea - what will you, your husband, and your children remember five years from now? A tea party with the dollies, one of your let's-see-what's-in-the-fridge frittatas and a waterglass holding some fresh flowers, or how clean you kept the house? (My kids would remember the day the house was clean, because it seldom is!)

G-d knows your heart, better than you do yourself, and He always understands our thoughts from afar off, as the Psalmist said. He always loves us, no matter what.

Peggy Lorenz said...

"G-d was looking for someone weak enough to use, and He found me!"
--Hudson Taylor
I read this quote the other day, and it really spoke to me...I think that He wants to do so many wonderful things through those who simply let Him use them. It sounds like you are doing just that. :)

Campaka said...

Wow. I really needed to read this right now. Thank you!

Wondermama said...

Please forgive me is my English is not good enough, I read your blog and I want to say that I think your a good mother and wife, I love to see how you stand in life, how you see the beautiful little things in life.
Go with the flow listen to your heart not to your head those are negative thoughts. You love your family that's enough
Please don't have doubts about what your doing, because you're doing just fine. :)

-Famke

Anonymous said...

The reading....reminded me of my mom, I am 53 and my dearest memories are of my mom who every afternoon read for a few hours and every evening after dinner did her knitting (This was of course when we were a few years older than your girls, but not by a lot ) This was a cozy content place to curl up beside her and to hear the pages turn or the wonderful clicking of the needles. A quiet time for a childs mind to wonder and wander which so many children do not get anymore. And we were not allowed to chat at her while she read and that did us no harm at all. You are giving your girls a great deal by curling up with an enjoyable story while they play it is a good thing to do for them and you.

Karis said...

I live here too, as do most of the women I know. And the only peace I have found comes from knowing I am not in charge, that the outcome depends not on which oil I choose or which educational philosophy or anything else, but is in the hands of a loving Father. Thank you for writing it so eloquently.
Gracie

K said...

Wow thanks for sharing this. I feel this way right now. This summer I had all these plans with my daughter to do stuff. Educational stuff, adventurous stuff, just have it all jam packed with interesting enriching experiences. Only to learn quickly that we can't do all this stuff, and if I do then nothing gets done around the house. And if I focus on one thing then I feel guilty for not making an amazing dinner. If I stay at home and take care of the house then I feel guilty that my daughter just played all day.
It's never ending. Too many outside expectations thats for sure.
Kelly

Jedidja said...

Big hug from me. I understand you a bit and I am wrestling with the same questions/things. Yet I ask you to have patience with yourself. I think our conscience can be merciless. Lift your head up to the mountains ... Psalm 121

Heather said...

Ha! You sound like me when I get on one of my guilt trips! Except when I get on one of my guilt trips I turn cranky...and then I really am not doing good enough. Our best is all we've got, and it's got to be good enough!

Me said...

I read recently that most people, when asked, fell G-d's overwhelming feeling towards them must be disappointment, when in truth, scripture says G-d's overwhelming feelings toward us are of love, which we can't earn.

"He will take great delight in you, he will quiet you with his love, he will rejoice over you with singing." ...

housewifing said...

I Soooo understand where you are coming from. After battling infertility for 3 1/2 years I feel extra guilty when I need to take time to myself. I worry that I am somehow neglecting my daughter's mind if I let her amuse herself for a while. I worry about organic, which we just can't afford. Thank you for sharing your post and helping me to know I'm not alone in this. I find seeking forgiveness (I'm a Christian) for my shortcomings to be healing.

Kate said...

Just what I so needed to hear today. Thank you. =)

Anonymous said...

Oh how this mommy guilt transcends cultures! I couldn't be more different from you-yet your thoughts and struggles are the same as my own!