Oh, sure, we all carry it at one time or another, but my guilt is like a shadow that follows me, not just through life, but from room to room – almost like my Great Dane shadows me because he hates being alone! My problem is that guilt is so much a part of who I am and I have lived with it for so long that it is just there….waiting to creep back in at just the right moment, whether it’s in the stillness of the night or during one of my contemplative moments. I try not to feed it, but it is there all the same – gnawing constantly at the back of my mind.
The truth is, I’ve not paid too much attention to this guilt for the last several weeks as I have been quite busy helping one son move out on his own, and arranging to have another son move back in – just when I was beginning to visualize the house as “all mine”! My daughter and I spent a week going through boxes, donating useless stuff, and trashing what we could. We started making plans and painting and rearranging furniture, until my son called and changed all our plans back to square one! But then, that is what home is all about.
So, physically exhausted at the prospect of moving more boxes and more furniture, I sat at the computer this morning and literally hobbled to my Facebook page (I’m still nursing my left knee), which is where the door to my unresolved guilt was thrown wide open yet again! Several posts approached my nemesis under several guises: “TODAYMoms – Escaping the ‘Mommy Guilt’ Trap”, “As Mothers are We Destined to Forever Feel Guilty?”, and the one that really tore at me, “We talked about mom guilt on Monday and we want to know — what makes you feel guilty?”
OKAY! This is such a deep well! Where to begin? As mentioned earlier, I do not have to dig too deep, as my faithful companion happily complies by resurfacing: I feel guilty that I may not have spent as much time with my children when they were growing up due to the demands of my spouse’s constant deployments throughout our military career. There! It is now exposed!
Satisfying both roles of father and mother to my children 95% of the time, because even when my spouse was home, he couldn’t or wouldn’t transition into our home life, I spent twelve years volunteering within the military/civilian communities as a respite of sorts from my parenting responsibilities and home duties, naively thinking “daddy” would happily take over. (Boy! was I proven wrong!) And although I gained a lot of knowledge and expertise in public speaking and teaching other, much younger, wives how to survive deployments, I strongly feel that I somehow may have neglected my children.
Yes, I was always there when they needed me and I always managed to bring us through deployments with family activities, church attendance, and one-on-one time with them (I would arrange for lunch dates at school or take them out to lunch once a week, rotating a child every week), I feel they may have missed out on “quality” time with me, for I know they missed out on quality time with their father. There just never seemed enough of “MOM” to be spread evenly amongst the four kids, with each demanding different needs be met.
Eventually, we left their father and moved back home so I could provide them with a stable life and educational continuity, especially throughout their high school years. Today, they are all grown up and well-functioning adults, but in conversations now and again, I know they carry their own demons and regrets, as well astheir own personal memories of their growing-up years. They have been wounded, they’ve had their hearts broken, where was I? My children are beautiful adults and they have re-assured me that I gave them a solid foundation in the Lord and provided them with the skills and abilities needed to live on their own and move on to establish their own productive lives and families. So why do I feel so guilty?
Alas! I sit here today at my computer, thousands of miles down the road from where I first started my family, pondering at the “what ifs” and the “coulda-woulda-shouldas”of decisions I made for my children. The overpowering guilt of never knowing if they had the love and compassion and understanding and the support that I gave so freely to others….was it enough for them? I will never truly know! But I know that God’s grace is what kept us together and functioning as we clung to each other amidst the pitfalls of constant relocations and sacrifices we all made as a military family with children.
I close on a positive note by stating that my belief and my trust in God is what provide me with His grace for the peace of mind and heart and spirit that I still desperately seek today, and every day. This guilt, after all, is what makes me human, but most important, it is what makes me MOM!
May we all be blest in our roles as Moms!