I took a trip down Memory Lane today and walked past the house where I’d been a young Mum. It is easy to romanticise memories of those days and think about the fun but sometimes I also feel regrets about the times when I was stressed and cross with the children.
How do I handle those feelings?
First, I think it’s important to acknowledge them. If I were to push the feelings away because they’re uncomfortable to me they will only get stronger. Sometimes a feeling of guilt is a healthy reminder that I’ve made a mistake that needs to be addressed.
However when it’s a feeling I recognize and where no action is required, there is a sense to me of:
“Hello, my old friend, here you are again.”
Whether or not the feeling stays with me depends on whether I decide to ruminate on it. Will I give it the energy that will make it grow? And if so, why?
I think the key question is: what do I want to believe about myself? Do I want to prove to myself that I am not good enough?
If so I’ll be able to find plenty of evidence because I’m not perfect. I did have times where I could throw a tantrum as good as my toddler, times when I just wanted to scream and scream, and times when the easiest thing to do was to hide in the kitchen and dump the children in front of the TV.
However, perhaps it’s time to change the viewpoint. Perhaps it’s not a case of “good Mum/bad Mum”. Perhaps it’s a case of recognizing that black and white are at either end of a spectrum of grey and there are many shades between. As a human being I have a variety of different personality traits. Sometimes I’m lazy. Sometimes I’m loving. Sometimes I’m hateful. Sometimes I feel on top of the world and other times I just feel “meh”.
Perhaps it is time to question the very notion of “good”. Where do my ideas of what is “good” come from? Society? Institutions such as school? My parents? Books I’ve read?
Again, if I look, I’m sure I can find someone, somewhere, who will say what I’ve done is wrong, is bad, a mistake, something that likely to ruin my children’s lives forever.
So the question is not: “Am I good or am I bad?”.
The question is: “What do I want to believe about myself?”
And where do I look for the evidence?
I love Mary Oliver’s poem Wild Geese because it blows away the concept of being good and reminds me of my simple humanity. Do look it up.
I love the way the poem contextualizes humanity, reminding us of our frailty but also our place as a part of life. There’s a tenderness in it that speaks to those of us who are so caught up in striving to be good. If we can let go of that concept we can breathe.
So the next time regrets knock on the door of my consciousness, I’ll thank them for the reminder that I’m human and frail. For the reminder that there’s a temptation to think in black and white. And then I’ll let the thought go. It arises in the same way as the memory of my children when they were young. An impression, something that’s felt in the moment, but that disappears as I set my focus on today.
I spoke about letting go of guilt and regrets in my live feed this week. You can see it online at www.thegoodenoughmum/blog.