Motherhood and Guilt

Now, my generation is a weird one. In South Africa, our grandmothers were still typically part of the movement that women shouldn’t work. Most of them were home-makers for that reason. Our mothers, contrarily, were a part of the group that stood up to the notion that women could only stay at home and raise the kids. They became working mothers, building a future for us where we could work too.

I hear a lot of women with conflicting notions of what motherhood should be, and the reason for that stems from how we were raised. Our grandmothers are usually heavily in favour of staying home with the kids, while our mums support the idea that we can be working mothers.

And the distinction between working and staying home has become less obvious. These days, many women work from home, or homeschool their kids. Being a woman who bases her efforts from the comfort of her own living room, with kids running around her feet no longer means she doesn’t generate an income of her own. At the same time, being a working mother doesn’t mean the kids are neglected.

The point is, we have two generations before us, pressuring us to embrace different parts of being a mother and a woman. The Nurturer versus the Provider. All of this makes for interesting discussions at the holidays.

Those two generations took to the task of guiding us to adulthood in different ways too, because they had different information at their disposal. With so many ‘how to’ books and new studies popping up about child-rearing every day, I find my generation doing things in a new way too. A stupid example is walkers. Our mothers let us run around in walkers for hours, but these days it’s considered a bad idea for the baby’s health.

Making matters worse is the fact that we live in a digital age. I love the internet, make no mistake, but it draws negativity like moths to a flame. People use the relative anonymity like a weapon. And why not? It allows us to say whatever we want, no matter how harsh and judgemental, without having to face conflict in real life.

Airing opinions without all the facts has become a sport, with the stakes judge or be judged. So now, we have to explain our life choices to our mothers and grandmothers, as well as the internet.

It’s sad that so many other mothers have become our adversaries in this battle. Because it is a battle. We’re assaulted from all avenues with information, factual and based in opinion, that influence our mothering choices.

We’re also judged for every choice we make. Cesarian versus natural birth, breast versus bottle-fed, a lot of TV versus no TV, homeschooled versus public or private schooled. And the list goes on.

Societal standards demand us to be perfect – which is, quite frankly, impossible. So we fail. Many mothers feel inadequate and outright guilty over this failure, worsened by the judgement from our peers. We want to do better, we want to show everyone we can do better, so we set higher goals. You can see where this is headed. It’s a never-ending circle of failure and guilt.

And for what? To impress other mothers? The ones who seem to have their shit together?

Here’s a secret: nobody has their shit together.

Ironically, all of us are drifting away on the same turbulent stream, each in our own little dinghy without an oar. Even the perfect ones, folks. We’re all uncertain about this thing called motherhood and we all have the same insecurities and self-doubt. But instead of helping each other out, we try to sink each other.

Does it really matter how we raise our kids, as long as they’re healthy, happy and cared for? We all just want the best for our spawn, so why aren’t they the most important part of this discussion?

Next time you see a woman struggling with her wild-child in the mall, maybe rethink your scowl. Maybe consider the possibility that raising a stong-willed child is tricky and doesn’t make her a bad mother.

And when you cross paths with the military-mum, don’t hate her for being strict. Don’t give her the evil eye when she publically tells her kids to get their acts together.

Until you’ve walked a mile in their shoes, you’ll never understand the path that brought them to their unique choices.

The point of this post: unless a child is being physically or emotionally abused, try not to judge their mum too harshly. She’s doing the best she can. Instead of bringing her down, try to build her up. You’ll see her bloom, and a mother who believes she’s doing alright is the best kind of mother around. Maybe not in your opinion, but that doesn’t matter. To her kids, she’ll be a hero.

Have a good weekend,



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