It’s been years since I’ve written about Maternal Guilt (Productive Day Guilt, Maternal Revenge Phenomena™, Not A Dinner Planner) yet this morning as I stood in my child-less kitchen and scooped fruit into my gut-healthy greek yogurt, I felt it. I felt the guilt of favoring one kid over the other leaching out of every barely caffeinated pore of my mascara smeared cheeks.
Not the, PackingLunchesAndWorriedOneKidGotABiggerCookieThanTheOtherGuilt of a decade ago. No, now as I broke apart and handed out clumps of frozen rasberries, I actually worried one dog was getting a bigger bite than the other. So naturally I broke apart more raspberry clumps and doled them out until I was sure each dog got the same total amount. Like our children when they were teens, my two Miniature Dachshunds beg for food and eat until I’m sure they’ll explode–except Nugget and Olive are far less picky than the children ever were. Lettuce without dressing! Frozen fruit! Rabbit poop!
Will the Maternal Guilt never end? I feel it every (human child) birthday (Uh, what did I spend on the other kid last month?). Every Christmas (Are their piles the same size?). Every student loan payment (They’ll pick out my nursing home.). Are we treating them equally as young adults? Are they each, as unique individuals, getting what they need on equal levels? If one kid has been driving the extra family car for the past three years then we owe the other kid an equivalent amount of cash towards the purchase of their first car, right? If I send a care package to one I better send one of equal value and thrill to the other, right?
I remember the day when the concept of not treating my kids equally was “introduced”(announced) to me and sadly, it has irrevocably seared my conscience, gut and maternal guilt receptors. It shouldn’t have–because Scott and I defended the accusation (ahem, “observation”) lobbed against us as the responsible parents and logical adults we believed ourselves to be (Um, yes. Yes we do “expect more” from our five year old child than the two year old. He’s physically and intellectually capable of more.) Yet here I am, twenty two years later, making damn sure I’m not “playing favorites” or “being harder on” one dog over the other.
Is Maternal Guilt truly Eternal? And if not, what will it take to obliterate it for good?