The other day whilst hanging out the washing I spotted my burly, tattooed neighbour doing the same thing. He looked at me- a little shamefaced- and said: ‘A woman’s work is never done’. He then proceeded to give me some excuse as to why it was him and not his wife who was dealing with this particular piece of housework. This got me thinking about the endless number of things a woman, in particular mothers, have to accomplish on a daily basis. Somehow my mind then drifted onto the subject of guilt, in particular a mother’s guilt…. Us mothers are prone to being frequently consumed by guilt. But you do wonder, what the hell have we got to feel guilty about?
We love, we nurture, we cook, clean, tidy, wash laundry, pay bills, organise schedules, parties and holidays and then on top of that most of us go out and work too. And where are the men in this pretty exhausting picture of domesticity? Mmm… But you know what, this wasn’t intended as a critique of what men do or don’t do in the home and anyway, supposedly we should be feeling a little bit better about this because men are now shaped as the perfect, modern 21st century male: they too work, cook, clean, tidy, wash laundry, pay bills, look after the kids and organise the family diary, however not necessarily all in the same day. Enough said.
So, back to a mother’s guilt. We feel guilty for going off to work (and leaving our children behind), guilty for not working (and allowing ourselves to become ‘kept’ women), guilty for spending money on ourselves, guilty for eating too much cake and chocolate, guilty for being ill and having to lie in bed, guilty for going out partying (and having to look after your kids the next day. Note to all non-parents, believe me when I say that you have not experienced a monstrous hangover until you have kids- there is nothing like a massive dollop of guilt and a screaming child to make it a hundred times worse), guilty for not going out (you are being boring and neglecting your friends), guilty for not giving your only child a sibling, guilty when you do have that second child and you don’t spend enough time with your first. We feel guilty for shouting at our kids, guilty for not feeding them enough vegetables, guilty for ignoring babies when they cry at night in the hope they will sleep through, guilty when you discover that said baby is in fact teething and desperately needed a cuddle, guilty for going to the gym (your membership is absurdly expensive) guilty for not going to the gym (the weight is piling on), guilty, guilty, guilty….
You get my drift; there is no end to a mother’s guilt. And to all those mothers out there who do their daily tasks without so much as a sigh, a moan, a need to bitch about it to someone else, I really and truly salute you.