The Guilt Train Ride

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Beginning this Monday, we introduce a new column, ‘Mother Writes’. It’s a parenting column, from a mother’s perspective. You may be an expecting mother, a new mother, a seasoned mother or a mother who has adopted a child. Motherhood is not restricted to biological or adopted, it also includes grandmothers and aunts. Tell us about your relationship with your child/children. It may be funny, wacky, humorous, serious, thought-provoking or even sentimental. For a mother, her child/children is/are her world. We, in Different Truths (DT) are creating a forum for all mothers, across age, race, religion, class, caste, region or country. Motherhood is universal. You may even talk to another mother from economically challenged social strata like household help, working in the brick kiln, while taking care of their children. We invite contributions from all mothers, young and old. Anumita, our Managing Editor, shares her experience of being a special needs mother, in the inaugural piece. She tells us how she manages the tightrope walk, albeit with guilt feelings, at times, in the inaugural piece, exclusively for Different Truths.

Hello world, I am a special needs mother and like all mothers I often ride the guilt train. It is a train which often travels backward and depletes me of my existence. Do I sound very similar to many of you? That is because, most of us, mothers, keep boarding this train during our daily routines.

I have two children in the spectrum of autism. One is now an adult and is on his way to success. I give him much credit for his success. My journey is not over. I still have one who is stepping into the high school system. And to be very frank, I am very scared. I know he still has some handicaps to cope with the situations, which will present themselves during his years to come. This brings me back to the guilt demon dogging my footsteps. Special needs or not, our children have to face stress and competition in this world. The world is not getting to be an easier place to live, and we have seen that the present generation is stronger. This does not help us, mothers, to feel relaxed and confident about the things to come.

Often we, mothers, tend to talk on this topic and I have found that most of us do have many fears. These fears feed into the aspect of uncertainty and our incapability to be able to change things in our children’s favor. The whole process culminates into guilt creeping all over us. I feel this is to be a very female feeling. Saying this, I am not discounting the father’s concern for their children. It is just that they understand and act on situations a bit differently than most mothers do, as least that is my observation. There are exceptions always.

Let us talk about few of the reasons of why the guilt feeling is so predominant among mothers.

1. Not giving enough time: This is a major factor which gnaws into most of the mothers’ conscience. They feel that housework and office work often consume the lion’s share of their day. So, at the end of the day, they are so tired that they often find less time for their children. Although I work from home, I often find my energy level low after a whole day of editing, writing, cleaning the house, cooking, and running errands. My child needs more time and focus than most children without disabilities.

The ability to balance quality time is very essential. A schedule or routine often helps. It is found that children thrive in a structured environment. It can be beneficial for both us, mothers, and for our children to have a kind of time chart or a rough schedule set up so we can have a time slot for each other.

2. Spending more time with friends: This is a guilt I definitely suffer from. Whenever I spend time with my friends in very close consecutive time periods, I start feeling guilty of taking away time from my child. This often results in withdrawal from friends and social gatherings.

This requires a very delicate understanding between the mother and her friends. I am sure that my close friends understand my situation and let me have my down time to be able to re-center my time and energy with my child. Social bindings and family life is always a part of the seesaw balance for most of us. Whenever there is a feeling of overwhelming social requirements, it would be wise to let friends know that you are would be cutting off from them for some time. I do that when I need to get my priorities rearranged, and have found it helps me to feel less guilty and be more productive. As I mentioned before, I am sure my friends understand my predicament.

3. Losing temper and screaming: I have heard this from many mothers so many times. Even I am a victim of it. I have felt lousy after getting angry and screaming at my children. There is absolutely no excuse for it, but we are humans too. Often pressure of work and balancing expenses drives mothers against the wall. Then all it needs is a tiny disrespect or insolence from the child and hell breaks loose. This kind of behavior is not limited to mothers only, but I am speaking of my kind. I know that we, mothers, are often very guilty and sad after we have calmed down.

The best way to avoid such situations is to talk or move away from that place. I have two grown up children, so handling them in such situation requires a little more tactical experience. I have told my children that whenever they find me a bit tensed, they should avoid bring up topics which could create conflict. This is easier said than done and often do not work out the best. The only thing that can be done is to talk and let the guilt and uneasiness settle down.

4. Not teaching them enough: This is an eternal guilt for all mothers of all generations. They always are seesawing between how much should be taught and how much left out. There is no measure set by any law or guide book which can ease this guilt. There are things we do avoid telling or explaining to our children thinking that they are still young to know. This may cause them to be less prepared for situations, sometimes.

In my scenarios, my children are not very street smart. Due to their incapability to understand social cues they often are social outcasts. This hurts and my guilt meter rise. The helplessness of the situation often creates a feeling of inadequacy in me.

To overcome such situations I have decided to sit and talk with my children after I notice such situation. My elder child is vocal and often has discussed situations with me, but my younger one has difficulty expressing matters and feelings. This often results in him shunning social gatherings. There is no quick fix for such things, just be patient and persistence.

5. Over indulging: This factor is a high priority in most mothers. When mothers feel they have been less in any aspect, most of them try to over compensate. This over compensating can be both in things or stretching themselves thin. I have found mothers buying expensive toys or things to their children when they feel they have neglected them due to lack of time or anything else.

I am guilty of the later. Whenever I get the feeling that I have not been there for my children and something has gone wrong, I am running to catch the guilt train. I feel wretched and very low. This often results in me being physically worn out. I overdo everything for them. I spend myself out and the feeling of guilt wears me out.

Such situations are not very uncommon in any households. The way to minimize or reduce the impact of guilt is to accept that things have gone wrong and to find a way to correct it. This again calls for conversation. It is vital that both the mother and child should have an open dialogue about things that are happening and those things that need to be done.

All mothers want the best for their children. They will do whatever is in their capacity to fulfill the requirements and more. The guilt train is one ride which is not necessary, but it does stop by our station often. The trick is to let it pass, and wait out on the station.

Mothers have a 24/7/365 job. They manage homes, office and everything revolving around it. The guilt trips take away the much-required energy and vitality to function. I have often found that support groups made of people who understand your predicament without judging you are the best trusses. Discussions and heart to heart talks also help. Communication is a big factor in any kind of relationship. Create a plan and keep amending the plan when and where it is required. And overall, be happy. A happy mother nurtures happy children.

Happy mothering, and wave the guilt train bye-bye!

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©Anumita Chatterjee Roy

Photos from the internet.

Anumita Chatterjee Roy is an artist at heart. She has an eye for the unusual. Her naturescapes make her the quintessential Romantic. She paints, is passionate about photography, creates word images in her verses and loves to write. She cooks delicacies and is a foodie. Born in India, she was brought up in several countries. These strengthened the global citizen in her. She now lives in the Columbus, Ohio, with her husband and two sons.