20 August 2014, by Petrina Kow
As I sit here contemplating my topic for this month’s article, I’m surreptitiously eavesdropping on a conversation between 4 women seated just next to me in a bustling cafe. I was thinking about writing an update about my son’s daily 30 minute brain workout or why men don’t ever get asked about work-life balance, but this…ooh this is just too distracting.
One of the ladies was sharing a story about how her own daughter left a high-paying job because her grandchild preferred the helper. Which led to the obvious conclusion that no matter how amazing you are in your career, you will somehow leave your job because you are insecure about your role as a mother. Now, hands up those of us who’ve felt this way before! I know of many close friends who’ve struggled with this on some level. Some even have stories that sound like it came out of a Korean television drama. Conniving mother-in-law struggling for power to depose mother as queen of the house whilst the maid is systematically poisoning the son with half-truths. But once again, I’m getting distracted.
All this stems from one rather useless emotion known as GUILT. Guilty because we cannot be there for our children. Guilty because our children are yelling for us but we have to rush to a meeting. Guilty because other people’s children are already spelling and counting but ours hasn’t uttered a word. Guilty because we just screamed at our 2 year old because she didn’t put on her shoes fast enough. My personal ‘Best Guilty Moment’ was knowing that my daughter was old enough to remember some of horrid, nasty things I’ve allowed to pour out of my mouth. So whilst I’m now serving out a self-imposed 7 year sentence (to erase the previous 7) of saying only life-affirming, nurturing statements, it’s come to me that we really spend too much time wasted on GUILT.
Apparently, the guilt never goes away. I’ve had conversations with lots of older women and men who still feel guilty about the way their adult children turned out. I guess it’s inevitable and I don’t know if I can be so glib to say that I won’t ever feel this way again. But I do know this. Guilt leads to impasse. Guilt makes you ugly and guilt makes you FAT. (Yes, but more on that later after I finish the lemon tart.) Guilt leads to nowhere we want to go. I guess we feel guilt because we are easily led by how other’s perceive us and their expectations of us. I have no easy answers and I don’t think there ever will be. But I’ve been thinking a lot about the joy of forgetfulness. Or the benefits of short-term selective amnesia. Sounds morose I know, but hear me out.
Lately, I’ve been very inspired by my 91 year old grandmother who’s battling dementia and recovering from a hip-replacement surgery. She has endless gratitude for everyone who has cared for her and comes to visit her. She may not always recognise us but she is always thrilled that we are here. Like we were her long-lost lover. There is always pure happiness when she sees us. Surpise even. I always wondered what’s actually going on in her mind, but I realised I don’t care, because I’m always overwhelmed by the love and joy she has despite her condition. I’ve also been learning to see the dementia as a blessing. She doesn’t dwell in the past and the what ifs. But delights in the present. She’s in the moment, conscious of her condition but still thankful and full of gratitude. Maybe I’m finding ways to assuage my guilt for not spending enough time with her but I know that instead of weighing myself down, I should plan ways to do more, play more and BE more like her.
We are never going to be perfect for everyone every time. But so long as we are know who we are, why we are happy and what we stand for, guilt doesn’t stand a chance. Now, do I feel bad about eavesdropping whilst looking like I’m industriously working on something important? A little, but I have these women to thank for giving me a much needed distraction that led to this little revelation. Now, about that lemon tart…