Melissa Schmalenberger, Published November 24 2013
Ms. Simplicity: Learning to take a detour from the guilt-trip road
My oldest has already left the nest and my middle one is preparing, so this guilt trip is coming at me at a faster pace. I need to hurry and get all of my parenting done now before graduation day. Any parenting advice after graduation day is too late.
I was having lunch with another mom last week, and she was shocked to hear that I suffered from parenting guilt. I then realized that no matter what type of parent you are, we all seem to suffer from this strange phenomenon.
I wonder if our parents from previous generations felt bad if they missed a concert. All I know is that as a kid I don’t even remember having that many concerts, maybe a few a year.
When my oldest was a senior, I had so many activities between the three kids I felt it qualified as a full-time job being committed to attending everything. Often there would be a conflict between the oldest son’s activity and the youngest son’s. My oldest, always the realist, would tell me to go to his brother’s performances. Selfless to be sure. But he also isn’t my warm, fuzzy child. He is a realist and understands the scheduling issues.
However, my middle son is another issue. He is the king of sending me headed down the guilt-trip road. He goes as far as to proclaim on Facebook on one of my statuses that I was a “no-show mom.” He said this in jest, but I do think there is an undertone of him believing that my missing one thing was a bad parenting move.
That no-show mom phrase is like nails down a chalkboard to me. It is probably the worst thing he could say to me. I know in my head that I am far from a no-show mom.
I run through my checklist of everything I had done as a parent. He was the child I breast-fed to 18 months because a friend made me feel guilty that I only breast-fed my oldest for a week due to a difficult delivery that resulted in a C-section. That was a fun trip down the guilt-trip road. Or the fact that I can count on one hand how many of his concerts/swim meet/performances/baseball/soccer/track/football/choir/band/theater events I had missed.
It didn’t matter to him, as missing one was all that was needed. I soon realized that this son of mine is sensitive to the amount of time I spend with him, as it is one of his love languages, just like it is mine. How can I be angry with him when I see myself in his frustrations?
I joke around that my husband never reads my blog so I can write whatever I want to in it. It is hurtful to me that when I make media appearances he is usually never watching or listening. Or when he asks me how my day was, I am like, “Are you kidding me? Didn’t you read my Facebook page?”
So what I need to remember is that just because my husband is too busy to read or listen to what is going on in my life, it does not mean that he doesn’t love me. The same is true for my son. He knows deep down how much I love him and how much I want to be at those events. But sometimes other things in life get in the way.
The key is to have a good door of communication open so that when there are frustrations, we can easily speak it and have dialog and not a fight. Because I am one person who is done taking the trip down guilt-trip road once and for all. That is a road that none of us needs to travel.
We are doing the best that we can with the amount of time that we have. The key is to maximize the time when we are together. To not be distracted. To focus on each other. To really listen. To really love.
Ms. Simplicity, also known as Melissa Schmalenberger, operates her business as I Did it with MS. Simplicity. She is a professional organizer based out of Fargo. Email her at email@example.com.