Guilt by Motherhood

What is it with American mothers?  American mothers say, “What am I doing wrong?”  European mothers say, “What’s wrong with this kid?”  ~Dr. Stephen Adelson

It started early and it seemed to come naturally.

No, not motherhood.

Guilt.  Guilt by Motherhood.

Dr. Adelson was our pediatrician.  We spent a lot of time in his office and now that his son is a politician, I have no doubt we were contributing to his campaign fund.  Anyway, after the third or fourth or seventeenth time of seeing the good doctor for the same, recurring ear infection, I felt like the worst mother in the world.  My son Stephen had so many ear infections the first 8 months of his life that he would drool at the sight of anything PINK.  Which may explain this now that I think of it…

Bodybuilding competition, 2006

And that’s when I asked him.  Dr. Adelson didn’t bat an eye or furrow his unibrow.  His answer has bounced around in my head for years.

What is it with American mothers?  American mothers say, “What am I doing wrong?”     European mothers say, “What’s wrong with this kid?”

Maybe it’s just me, thought I suspect I’m not alone, but whenever something went wrong with my kids, an illness or a bad grade or the VCR ate the tape with 8 episodes of Full House on it, it was MY FAULT.

Forgotten lunch money?  My fault.  Bad hair day?  My fault.

A few years ago my kids and I were talking about pregnancy and strange cravings.  I gushed about my first pregnancy with Stephen, telling him that I craved everything liquid – Coke, Hawaiian Punch, Tea, and of course, dill pickle juice.  He stared at me.  Then, he spoke.

“You drank CAFFEINE when you were pregnant with me?!”

The question hung in the air for what seemed like hours while I tried to come up with a lie compose myself.

And that’s the day I actually thanked God for cell phones because Stephen’s phone rang just in that moment and I didn’t have to explain the lie I was conjuring up in my head.

My kids didn’t blame me.  I did.  I apologized for EVERYTHING.

Don’t get me wrong.  I firmly believe that moms are human and we make mistakes and when we do, we should say we’re sorry.  But not EVERYTHING is our fault.

I’m trying to stop – really, I am.  Enough is enough.  And when the guilt becomes too much, then I do what appeases the guilt.  I bake.  I bake their favorite treats, buy their favorite snacks, put it in a big box along with a couple rolls of toilet paper (hey, you can never have too much) and ship it off to them.

I feel so much better, at least for a little while.  And then Courtney gets caught out in the rain in New York City without her umbrella and I apologize.  I feel guilty even though I had previously sent her not one, but two awesome umbrellas.  It’s my fault.  Time to bake.

Hmmm, maybe they’re on to me…