Parenting–Complete with a Free Helping of Guilt

First of all, I know I already broke my little promise to myself. It’s been well over a week since my last post. (Yeah, I knew there were some of you who were thinking, “No way is that going to happen. We know what a slacker Alaina is.”) Secondly, I said this was going to be my “mommy-free” zone, but who am I kidding? I don’t really have that much else going on. I just wanted to pretend that I did for a little while.

Now, onto the topic at hand: Guilt. I was talking to Jon the other day, and I said that having Maddie had given me a new appreciation for three emotions I only thought I’d experienced before. I love her more than I ever thought I could love anything, really. As cliche and trite and twee as that sounds, I do. If cutting my own foot off would make her happy, I’d probably do it. Okay, no I wouldn’t because I’m sure there’s a moral lesson to be learned about not doing things that hurt other people for your own selfish pleasure, and as her mom, it’s important that I teach her this, but you get the idea.

Along with the love, there’s the fear. If you have kids, I know you know what I’m talking about. You lie awake at night thinking about all the things that could possibly happen to your child–even the things that could only happen to your child if you were involved in a fiery plane crash and somehow, no one survived except your baby, and how long would she survive on a desert island before… No? Maybe it’s just me. Anyway, the fear is normal. Perhaps the imagination is a little overactive, in my case, but the fear is normal.

Finally, there’s the guilt, but here, it seems I am alone. Jon said he feels the love and he feels the fear, but he doesn’t feel the guilt. “What?” I said. “You don’t sit around wondering which of your recent actions will be the one that sends her to therapy?” So, I mulled this over for a few days, and I thought, maybe it’s just Jon. Maybe his ego is so massive that it doesn’t occur to him he could be irrevocably screwing up Maddie’s psyche for the rest of her life! So, yesterday, when I went to get my hair cut, I asked my stylist. He said that it’s totally a woman thing. He has two little boys, and he doesn’t feel guilt. He laid it out pretty well, though. “Think about it,” he said. “When I go back to work three days after my son is born, no one thinks twice about it. If you did that, you’d be a horrible mother. Even when you do go back, there will always be people who tell you you’re making the wrong decision, and your child will suffer as a consequence. But, if you don’t go back to work, you’re not a Woman with a capital “W.” You’re supposed to be able to do it all, and you can’t, and so you never feel like you give 100% to anything, and therefore you feel guilty, all the time.” (Okay, so I’m totally paraphrasing. He’s not quite that eloquent, and my memory’s not that good, but that was the basic idea.

So, here’s where the blog gets interactive: If you’re a parent, what do you feel about the guilt? I want to hear from moms and dads. If you’re not a parent, what are your feelings on the obvious double-standard we have going on here? Give me your feedback; seriously, I’m interested.

(I have placed a poll off to the right for a quick assessment of your parenting guilt.)