Essays & Shorts

Oh, the guilt of motherhood

It’s yet another morning that I’m sitting in the daycare parking lot reciting things I’m grateful for (or at least know I should be) to alleviate the guilt I feel.

Our daughter, who is highly sensitive – both in the way that all children are and in the way highly sensitive people who never grow out of their sensitivity are – has begun resisting going to daycare lately.

The week she started daycare, I sat in this very same parking lot shedding the tears I had managed to hold back while still inside with her. I wasn’t leaving for very long, a few hours, because she was still getting used to things.

But the guilt.

Leaving her in the very capable and compassionate hands of the wonderful people at her daycare warred against every maternal instinct to keep her clutched to my chest, and it took everything I had to walk away from her.

The kids tend to stop crying and bounce back to being happy as soon as the parents are out of sight, they comforted me. And I later learned that this was also true for our kiddo.

Now she’s 4 years old, going on 5 soon, and since she started at daycare at age 2, it’s been pretty painless.

Sure, we’ve had the odd sad or tired morning when she hasn’t felt like being around other people. And there have been days when she’s complained that she wants to stay at home because she wants to play alone instead of with other kids.

But mostly it’s been pretty smooth sailing.

We never had a pram because, after years of watching flustered mothers trying to navigate the modern world with their land ships, I knew I’d never have the patience to do the same.

We carried her around until she got old enough to walk around for herself.

And though I knew the benefits of baby slings, the consequence that was unexpected for me was how it allowed her to develop socially from infancy.

Because rather than lying in a pram staring up at the ceiling, sky or top of the pram, she was upright and watching the world.

When she got old enough to ride on the back rather than the chest, a whole new world opened up to her long before she could walk herself.

When we went out, especially in busy places, I started noticing that people would look at me in an interested and kindly manner, sometimes even smiling contemplatively, but they weren’t looking at me.

I always assumed they were looking at something immediately behind me until the day one of them looked up – at me but past me – and smiled and waved.

I felt an answering little wiggle on my shoulder.

It was my daughter! At that moment I realised that she’d been having a social life all of her own, which was facilitated by me yet completely excluded me.

From her vantage point, perched on my or her father’s back, she could watch the world and interact with it without having to worry about locomotion herself.

So, all those people smiling at me were actually being engaged by my daughter smiling and waving at them, looking to connect socially.

Despite being strongly introverted, I think that those early experiences has allowed her to open up to people in a way that I never did.

From the time she was old enough to walk herself, she practically turned into the very determined door-greater in our apartment complex’s yard.

When people’d walk past, she’d call out a greeting. If they didn’t respond, she’d repeat it a bit louder. If they still didn’t return her greeting, she’d practically shout it at them until they turned and waved back a hello.

Nothing less satisfied her. And it was comical to watch.

Once, in the grocery store, she even scared a man away with a very eager, very loud “HEY!” when he came to peruse the same shelf we were looking at.

She was riding on my husband’s shoulders at the time and took the poor, unsuspecting man so by surprise that he jumped and literally ran off without getting what he came for.

Yeah, we still laugh about that one.

Now, as I sit here in the same parking lot, again trying to appease the mom guilt roaring up inside me, I try to remind myself that my daughter is a very capable, independent and strong individual.

And that she probably bounced right back as soon as I left.

And that even if she had a bit of a cry first, she’s in caring, capable and compassionate hands. She will not be alone.

Turning on the radio to hear other people talk of inconsequential things helps lift my mood a bit as I drive away.

Time to show up at work where I can stack feeling guilty about not doing enough for my small business on top of my mom guilt.

Oh, life, what a ride you are! I muse as I settle into the driving, the occasional tear trailing down my cheek.

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