Tuesday, 2 August 2011

The Guilt Women Feel

Why do we beat ourselves up so much? What is it that makes us question ourselves and doubt the wisdom or validity of our choices? I've got no answer to those questions really, but some thoughts on the subject. I think I'm finally coming around to feeling less guilty as I grow and accept myself more, but still guilt raises it's ugly head every once in a while. And then there's the defensiveness that arises when we see someone doing something that were afraid we should have done instead of what we chose to do.

For the most part I'm speaking of the choice women have to make as to whether to go into the workforce as working mothers or stay home with the kids. It isn't really a decision that comes up for men, or one that women have faced for centuries on end. I think it's predominantly a decision that has faced women in the post WWII era when women entered the workforce en masse to fill in for all those men away fighting the war.

We seem to constantly wonder if we've made the right choice. If I stay home, am I wasting my education, letting go of my dreams, subverting my ambitions, showing my daughters a weak form of womanhood dependant on someone else, hiding from the world? If I go out to work, am I losing out on my kids lives, leaving them to strangers to share their "firsts", being materialistic, putting my needs ahead of my kids, spending enough time with them? There's no end to the questions we can ask ourselves! And then if we start to accept the decision we've made we can feel guilty for being happy in it when we know others are still so wrestling with the question!!

We decided early on that I would stay home with the kids and so I haven't entered the outside workforce since our first child was born. We made that decision as I came to the end of my first and only maternity leave and the time was coming to make the jump to daycare. It seemed so formidable both emotionally and financially. We came to the conclusion that we would make it work for me to stay home and be with the kids. I'll admit I felt the guilt of the cultural programming for some time. I had a university education, surely I should be using it! Then as other women began to say how lucky I was that we managed for me to stay home, I felt guilty for enjoying that "luxury" while they apparently felt envious of me. Then I recognized that they felt guilt for leaving their kids behind in the mornings as they went to work to provide for them.

I'd say that now, I've come to terms with my decision. I'm completely glad I chose the way I did and as we are about to embark on a year of homeschooling, I know there's no way I could have tried this out if I was working full time. Of course now that we have seven kids its also easier to justify even to those who might say I've made a poor decision; the cost of daycare for four kids aged four and under must be staggering! I can't even imagine what that would be per month!

I recently had a reassuring conversation with a close friend who confided that she had been berating herself for doing something she was sure I didn't do as a mom. I laughed and assured her that I had recently been thinking that she handled that very same situation much better than I did, and that I was afraid my kids were missing the benefits of what I supposed was her approach! It reminded me that we really need to forgive ourselves more.

It makes me ponder how much of our time is spent on guilt instead of enjoying and living the decisions we've made. So I have decided to consciously let go of the guilt. I've made the best decision for me and my family that I can and I'm trying to live it out to the best of my ability. I will be a better person if I do this without any baggage and instead give my kids an example of living without regrets and with the knowledge that I'll have more room for joy and the creativity that feeds my soul.


  1. WOW! I was just thinking about the different types of guilt women feel! What an outstanding post! I just loved it!

  2. Thanks for the comment Dorothy, I'm glad you related to it!

  3. from one who knows you pretty well (at least I think I do)...you're putting that university education to good use right there with the kids. You're all lucky (and yes I'm a little envious).

  4. Thanks Sarah! It's reassuring to hear that from outside as well.

  5. What a great post! I also feel very fortunate to be able to stay home with my babies! Loved it!!!

  6. Thanks Sandy! I appreciate the feedback!