Thursday, 15 November 2012

Guilt: Who would be a mother?

I hold my hands up in admission - I am a guilty person.  If the Police are behind me when I'm driving I automatically feel guilty even though I have insurance, road tax, a road-worthy vehicle and my driving is exemplary.  I'm a knee-jerk apologiser (as opposed to an apologist.  I wish) which is annoying because, since my mother also apologises for everything, even things far beyond her scope of influence, I know how frustrating it can be to the listener.  I try not to do it but - sorry!

Over the last few years I have, both silently and on occasion to her face, apologised to my daughter for landing her with such a sorry excuse for a father and I do feel terribly guilty about it.  The activities she loved to do are no longer within her reach because of funds (or lack thereof); her father is incredibly, awe-inspiringly self-absorbed.  He wants her to go to Oxbridge and become a barrister because he didn't have the nerve to take the entrance exam and it would sound so good, 'my daughter, the barrister.'  Right now she is certainly interested in the Law but at the fuzzier end of the lollypop so to speak.  He once pointed out to her that, under our influence she'd be lucky to be a waitress in a roadside diner (our response was to tell him she wanted to open a tattoo parlour - hey, got to get one's kicks somehow and since I'm not allowed to kick him, the least that can be allowed is a little tail pulling).  I've apologised for his violence (physical and verbal) and the fact that he does everything within his power not to pay child support (I worked out the other day that it comes to somewhere around £1.00/day) because of his loudly voiced poverty but which doesn't stop him going on a few holidays a year and buying Very Nice Clothes Indeed (do not get me started on the CSA!)

I have also experienced guilt at the knowledge that her weakness for asthma and migraine comes from my side (oh, joy) but now, I gather, I should kneel before her in abject abasement.  The Experts have decreed that migraines come specifically from the maternal side.  Not only that, but giving Calpol to a child can trigger asthma.  I should think the number of mothers who didn't give Calpol to their children (certainly those of Flavia's age) are infinitesimal - damn, it was actually strongly recommended after the first MMR jab (yes, she had them and I watched with dread for any negative signs).  So she is doomed three times over.  I say mothers gave Calpol because for the most part that's true; fathers are, generally speaking, more hands off and, I am convinced, less likely to have the Guilt Gene.

They (the ubiquitous, put them against a wall and shoot them 'They') also blame the mother for a child's autism.  Caught the 'flu whilst pregnant?  Your fault!  Have a drink whilst pregnant?  Condemning your child to a lifetime of idiocy and low-paid work (unless they manage to get into banking or politics).  Not enough sunshine?  Higher risk of Junior suffering from MS.  And that's before birth. After that the pressure is even greater: certain foods could give children cancer; making them eat fish could reduce the chances of asthma but if you shout at them (something I've tried hard not to do but I can't, hand on heart, say I've never snapped) you can increase the risk of not only asthma but also cancer and heart disease.  As if we haven't got enough to bear.  Whatever we do for our children, however pure our intentions we get blamed and have to suffer the mental flagellation for the rest of our lives.   It's amazing the human race has survived this far!

The thing is, most of us do our best.  No alcohol. No soft cheeses (admittedly that wasn't hard for me - I prefer hard British to soft Continental), no cheesecake (argh).  Months before becoming pregnant I checked with the doctor as to my meds, only to be told by a different doctor three months into the pregnancy that Migraleve causes miscarriages - something I really needed to hear since I didn't get morning sickness but daily, blinding migraines.  Yet still we're being told we are to blame for whatever may happen to our children - not only now but in decades to come.  In fact, we - the female of the species - are specifically to blame for problems our grandchildren will have.  If that isn't kicking us when we're down then what is?

The only bright spot is that I'm not OCD with regards to cleanliness.  We don't live in squalor, despite what my ex-husband might say and think (but this is a man who measures the distance from  the edge of his desk to his pens, pencils, ruler and pad of paper) but things have a tendency to be messy.  It doesn't matter how tidy I might be, Mark and Flavia have a far, far higher tolerance level  to clutter and junk generally.  Thus I have a choice; either work myself into a state of permanent exhaustion (easier done than said with my medical history) or try to take it philosophically rather than falling into a depression).  Now, They have decreed that an ultra-clean house can actually help to cause allergies.

Finally something that won't be keeping me awake at night.  Only another hundred or so Guilt Trips to go.

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