Friday, July 19, 2013

Guilt, Part 1

I love to watch the Ellen Show. She is generous, kind-hearted and so SO funny. One day during my pregnancy while I was watching the show, Ellen was interviewing a celebrity who had recently become a mom for the first time. When she asked her guest about the biggest surprise motherhood had brought her, her answer came quickly, "The guilt." 

The GUILT?! Shoot. I'm doomed. I could not have been more surprised by her answer.

You see, I was born with a guilty conscious. I feel guilty at the drop of a hat, often for unwarranted reasons. I was raised attending an ultra conservative church, in which each week I walked out feeling guilty for not being a better person and/or Christian. It has been a consistent theme throughout my life.

Smash cut to today and it is no mystery why I feel guilt for so many illegitimate reasons. My circumstances are different than they were when I was a child yet so many of my emotions and thought processes are the same. Call it people-pleasing, over-analyzing, or whatever you'd like. Whatever its name, it is a hard way to live.

We live in the information age. There is no excuse not to be educated about the topics you care about. This is an asset and a privilege. It is also a burden. We have unlimited access to as many books, articles, blogs, and opinions we care to consume. Whatever the opinion/statistic, there is someone somewhere who thinks the exact opposite and can find statistics to support it. For those of us who want to be sure we're doing to the exact right thing every time (like Superwoman), this is a breeding ground for guilt.

For example, The American Academy of Pediatrics 
recommends that children under 2 years of age not watch any TV. None. It is linked to things like obesity and high blood pressure even in children. This is why when I sometimes put on Curious George for my daughter while I'm making dinner or taking a shower, the Guilt Monster is screeching in my ear. "There is scientific evidence showing that TV is detrimental to your child's brain! You're not doing what's best for your daughter. You know better and you're doing it anyway. Shame on you."

I realize this is unhealthy and at least partially untrue, but it is a daily issue for me. And the reality is, "TV under 2" is a fairly benign example of an ocean of issues. Pick your poison: think you've come up with a healthy snack? Dig a little deeper. There is arsenic in those fruit leathers if you look close enough...or at least there is a health guru somewhere telling you that is the last thing you or your child should be putting into your bodies. 

Right when you started to feel good about the choice you made, you are inclined toward guilt once again. I repeat: this is a hard way to live. It is particularly miserable when the issues relate to the health and well-being of your child. Everything is portrayed to be a life or death scenario and anyone who disagrees is jeopardizing the welfare of their child. 

Guilt in itself is not a bad thing. It serves a purpose. It is how our conscience lets us know that we've done something wrong. The problem for many of us comes when we feel illegitimate guilt for things we've done that are not wrong. But like I said, someone somewhere probably disagrees with whatever it is you are doing, and their opinion (and their scientific study to back it up) is only a Google away.

Thankfully this has been less of an issue for me in recent days (which is probably why I am at a place where I can write about it.) Maybe others out there will resonate with this, or maybe one day if my children have children they will read this and realize it's OK to ease up on themselves a bit as parents. 

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