You know the feeling – your 16/17 years old, you said you’d be home at 10, it’s now 11:25, you smell faintly of blue wkds and cigarettes, you creep through the front door quietly hoping not to wake anyone else in the house and then bam, there’s your mum sat at the dining room table waiting up in her pyjamas tapping her fingers with worry; guilt.
As we grow up, the times we experience guilt on this level I suppose lessens; we become more accepting of our own actions, start embracing our own identity and forming our own moral basis which we’re less likely to neglect and feel guilty for – We also only really have ourselves to answer to as we get older… Until we have a baby that is.
Since having Joseph that feeling of guilt had started creeping back in and I know whole heartily, that I’m not alone in suffering the hardship of “mummy guilt”.
It’s a weird feeling because up until having children, who really cares what you do? Sure your partner might cringe when you drunkenly demand to do Amy Winehouse for Karaoke, for the hundredth time in the local pub (complete with closed eyes and power fists) and yes your parents might shake their heads when you use the word “Arse” in your latest Facebook status (even though your 26) but in general, it’s your own perception of the consequences of your actions that stop you doing something or, in some cases, govern you to throw caution to the wind and do them anyway.
But when you have a baby it’s different; you start seeing yourself through their beautifully pure and innocent eyes and there lies the guilt.
I’m not saying it’s a totally bad thing – Being a parent does and should change you (nobody wants to see a mother turning up to play group in a mini skirt, boob tube and fish nets that you worryingly might have worn pre child..) but in some ways, this guilt of being perfect in the eyes of your child can lead you on an unattainable quest for perfection and that is bad.
This Sunday just gone was a beauty – the sun was shining and I had returned to Fergus after a week of staying with my parents. We decided to pop out for a coffee which, with little arm twisting or persuading, turned into a drink at a family pub round the corner from us. This pub is everything a family pub should be – dogs running around, a mess of buggies that you have to meander your way through to reach the toilet and the smell of an English roast dinner thick in the air. We ordered drinks (I had a pint of cider) and within minutes Joseph was asleep in his pram. So one drink turned into one and a half as he slept peacefully (after that half I called quits as I was feeling slightly squiffy..) and we headed home. Me and Ferg had spent that afternoon laughing and chatting and talking to other parents and by all accounts it had been a great Sunday – I even put the obligatory jolly photo on Instagram to show us parenting the shit out of life, however, when we got home I burst out crying. Because it was 4pm, sunny, the baby was now awake and I was feeling drunk (not Saturday night-peeling your face of the pavement for a kebab-drunk, more, 13 and having a glass of Buck’s Fizz at Christmas drunk – I really don’t drink much these days..) We should be out hiking! or at church! or at the zoo! I cried to Fergus and then literally went through everything we should have done for Joseph that day instead and beat myself up until I was sobbing and feeling guilty beyond belief. Joseph happily continued giggling at the patterned lamp shade.
I don’t drink very often at all – one gin and tonic maybe every other Friday or the odd glass of wine and I don’t really feel guilty for it, but on this occasion I was very aware that it was day time and there were other people around (me and Ferg haven’t been out in the evening since having the baby and usually we just have a drink at home with dinner, wild I know!) so when we got home I thought “what must I have looked like” “drunk and with a baby!” (I really wasn’t drunk) “what awful parents to be sat in a pub”.. When in reality, what had I actually done wrong and more importantly, who the fuck cares? What I should have been thinking is “Joseph has had a full week of play and activities, he’s asleep and this is mine and Fergs time to unwind and catch up”.
The hardest thing about becoming a mum for me though, is also remembering I’m a human being.
I used to love a drink before the baby, but now we’ve have Joseph are we supposed to lock ourselves away until he’s 30, only covertly tasting a gin in the confines of our home and only when no one else can see us doing so incase they judge us? And if so, does that even make it any better? I put a question mark here because I still don’t fully know the answer. I know in hindsight, it was silly to be upset about having a drink out – like I say, it’s a rare treat, I’m human and I’m sure none of the other parents thought a thing as they too sipped their over priced craft ale; but why the guilt in the first place? Where does this come from?
Joseph is without a doubt my number one priority. He has changed my life in the most beautiful and fulfilling way imaginable and “me time” really doesn’t cross my mind all that often as time with him is never a chore – although tiring at times and I have no doubt that if you ask me again in 6 months time I might have changed my tune! So why then, on the rare occasion that I feel like being in public and having a drinking and you know, actually talking with my fiancé do I feel the overwhelming urge to scream at everyone who passes “THIS IS THE FIRST TIME WE’VE BEEN TO A PUB IN MONTHS, I NEVER DRINK, WE ADORE OUR BABY, HES FED AND WARM” madness.
It’s unbelievably hard straddling both roles; Hollie and mum because I’ve only been mum for four months and Hollie an eternity but I can’t help but feel that no matter what I do I’m letting one slip. Go out with my friends for example and I’m not the perfect mother Joseph deserves, yet stay in and never see my friends and a little bit of Hollie goes away. Either way I feel guilty. I think I am expecting a lot given that I’m so new to this parent thing, but I hope that with time the guilt of being human does ease as I’m bound to mess up on numerous occasions; I just need to not see the times when I’m myself for a few hours and not just a mum as messing up: if I do I’m surely setting myself up to fail instantly?