I’m a bad mother! And I can’t ever forget it. I had that dream again last night. The one where I’ve left my toddler at Kindy. I’ve forgotten to pick him up and no matter how hard I try I can’t get to him. If it’s not that one, it’s the one about him wearing just a nappy, alone and having to fend for himself. My ‘Mother’s Guilt’ dreams I call them. Our son is now 27 and tells me ‘I’m fine Mum, get over it!’
My mother is 95. Recently, she started asking if she ever fed me properly when I was young and she was working on whatever her latest project was. And brought up all sorts of things she was feeling guilty about. At 95!!!!! I said the same as my son. ‘Mum, I’m fine. I’m middle aged! Get over it!’ But I knew then that all mothers must feel the same as me.
I was a Foreign Correspondent based in HK when my children were young. I never knew when I would have to jump on a plane. Then I was never sure for how long and when I would come back home. When we moved to the UK, I commuted 3 hours per day into London and back, to get to my job as a Documentary Executive Producer. So, our two sons were familiar with after school care and a stream of nannies. And I have never not felt guilty about it.
There was the time I left work early, as our youngest wanted to celebrate Halloween. At that time, he went to an American International school. Many of his American school mates lived in a sort of gated compound of houses nearby. I rushed home, dressed him up with a cape and some Dracula make up and he looked great! Phew!
My son was so excited as we drove down the road to go trick or treating. It was around 6pm when we knocked on the first door. ‘Oh!’ the mother who answered the door said. ‘We’ve all finished ages ago!’. She could have punched me in the stomach.
She gave my son a few sweets anyway, but I could see the look of disappointment on his face. We got back in the car and drove home. ‘It’s okay Mum, don’t worry about it’ he said. But I felt so upset. It still mortifies me to this day.
I don’t know why it is only my youngest son that I have recurring dreams about. I feel guilty as a mother for the myriad of things I imagine I have failed them both. But you know what? I’m sick of these dreams. And my youngest barely even remembers that Halloween event!
So, instead I’m going to look at it this way. I’m a bad mother, get over it. We all are. No one gives us a rule book and we all make it up as we go along. There were many times when I wasn’t perfect. But did I do a bad job? No.
My husband and I were just doing the best we knew how to at the time. And that was the same as any other person on this planet, trying to give our kids the best that we could. A good education. A safe home. a respect for others.
What I have learnt is that kids are resilient. They survive all manner of non-perfect upbringings. I did. And so did mine. Okay, I missed some important events in their childhoods. And yes, I embarrassed them way too many times for their liking, I’m sure. I still do. But you know what? They’ve turned out alright.
When I look at my two boys, I am so proud. They have grown up to forge successful careers through sheer hard work. They respect women and don’t judge anyone on their gender, sexuality, race or religion. They are passionate in what they believe in, but able to listen to others’ opinions. And they are engaging young men. Funny. Great to hang out with!
I did what matters most as a mother. I gave them a home in which they felt loved. I showed them that being vulnerable at times isn’t a weakness or unmanly, but strength. That failing is a part of life and the only way we learn to grow. I raised insecure boys into self-assured men. Perhaps I’m not such a bad mother after all?
What are your ‘Guilt Dreams’ about? I’d love to hear in the Comments below.
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Vivian McGrath is a TV Executive Producer who makes documentaries for major US, UK and Australian broadcasters. She is also a survivor of domestic violence. Her book ‘Unbeatable (How I Left a Violent Man)’ – her story of surviving abuse to finding success in love and life – will be published soon. She hopes this blog will help others to become strong, fearless and successful too. Find out more about Vivian Here.
Originally published at www.beingunbeatable.com