As moms, we’re on very familiar terms with guilt.
It keeps us company in the middle of the night, when we let the baby fuss just a little longer so we can stay in our own beds a minute more.
It loves riding in the car with us as we take our young ones to the doctor where we’ll hear one of two things: “Why did you wait so long to bring her in?” or “You don’t need to bring her in for every little thing – kids get bugs all the time.”
It sits on our right shoulder, coaching us in low whispers while we say to our teens, “I can’t believe you’d do that without considering how I’d feel about it!”
We can become so familiar with it, we stop recognizing it by name and don’t even realize when it’s around.
But boy, can we hear it when our own moms use it on us as adults – and it’s not very welcome.
“Your sister calls me every day.”
“Your brother stopped by and had lunch with me last week.”
“Do you know that my friend’s daughter has breakfast with her every single morning?”
Maybe the guilt is all in our ears, but I don’t really think so. I think we get so used to guilt as a companion along the way in our parenting, that even when we’re old we turn to guilt to try to get our children to do what we’d love them to do for us.
And so our moms and dads naturally use guilt to encourage us to visit them more; to call them more often; to provide them companionship that they’ve lost as their own circle of friends shrink.
I’ve determined this: I’m not going to change my mom. She’ll still use a few guilt-inducing techniques from time to time to get my attention, even though she’d be horrified to think of it that way. I won’t confront her, but I’ll recognize that she’s relying on an old friend who has gotten results for her all her life. I’ll take a deep breath, and try to hear what she’s saying with the guilt-filter turned on full. She’s lonely; she misses me; she’d love to have me spend more time with her.
As a mom, I want to become more aware of using guilt in my communication with my daughters. I want to break the pattern of falling back on that old friend “guilt” so often that we pass it on to our own daughters, who use it on their boyfriends; husbands; children.
I’d like to focus on shedding the familiarity that we, as moms, have with guilt; to say, “Ba-bye” today – and tomorrow – to using guilt in getting what we want and need as moms.
Our husbands will thank us today; our kids will thank us tomorrow.