Monday, November 16, 2015

Oy, the Guilt

(With thanks to Abbi for her edits and "you're not totally crazy" reassurance.)

One of my best friends has been getting a bad rap lately: Guilt, specifically of the "mom guilt" variety. I am here to put in a good word for her. (We're good buds.)

From various comments, Facebook posts and blogs, it seems that if you're an Empowered Woman, "mom guilt" is a bad thing. To prove this, we denounce it roundly and heartily.

Moms have mucho opportunity for guilt in their lives. Remember those English classes where you learned about different kind of conflicts? Man vs. man, man vs. self, man vs nature, man vs. piles of crap, man vs. leftover Shabbat babka. (Spoiler alert: POCs and babka always win).There may have been more examples; I think I was reading Sweet Valley High books under my desk that day.

So, too, there are lots of different kinds of guilt we can feel, when all the things in our life come into conflict and we can't give everything the attention we want to:

Kids vs. spouse
Kids vs job
Job vs. housework
Kids vs. other kids
Housework vs. kids
Sanity vs. everything
Kids vs. babk--actually, kids, sohelpyou if you get near that babka

However, expressing such guilt (especially of the "job vs. children" variety) is seen as anti-feminist, a stain on our working mom cred and generally a bad thing. "Why should we feel guilt?" we demand of our ourselves and others? Get rid of the guilt! We are good enough, we are smart enough and goshdarnit, our family likes us 87% of the time! Buh-bye guilt!

Here are two things I want to say about that:

1. It's not so easy to "get rid" of an emotion, just stamp it out like that [insert finger snap].  Like those saggy stretch marks, it's a part of you. I don't agree with or like the underlying sentiment: "Error 404. Guilt feeling not valid." Because guilt is a valid emotion, like any of the thousands of emotions we feel each day, from the rage we experience when all the peanut butter cups are gone from the Ben & Jerry's ice cream, to the ecstacy we feel when we discover there is, in fact, one last well-hidden chunk. Telling someone the emotion they are feeling is "bad" or "invalid" isn't going to make them feel better. They'll just feel guilty about feeling guilty! And who's got time for that??

2. Let's say we could just get rid of our guilt. Why should we? Guilt is just an expression of wanting to be there for all of our things all of the time and feeling sad when we can't. Feeling some distress or guilt when we leave a sick kid with the babysitter, or get home too late at night to see the baby, or  let them watch too much TV because we're exhausted, or just having that tug of "I need to be here but also there" is okay.

Should we let guilt consume us? No. Should we engage in nonstop beratement of our fine selves? Of course not. Should we dwell on the guilt, unable to move on and lie facedown in the pile of babka crumbs? Obviously no. (There are no crumbs left anyway; we consumed them.)

But it's better to acknowledge the feeling, know it's there and move on than try to crush it because we're supposed to be - I don't know, past that? Better than that? It's a feeling; it's not good or bad, and it certainly doesn't make us a better or worse woman or mom.

[Disclaimer: And of course, if you are a mom that doesn't have guilt - guess what? Awesome! Don't go saying that ABA is promoting mom guilt. Just that if you do have it, it's okay.] 

So to sum up:

1. Feel guilty - is ok
2. Not feel guilty - is ok
3. Feel guilty about feeling guilty or not feeling guilty - is not ok

Now I can't think/write/say guilty anymore. It's starting to look funny.

Monday, November 2, 2015

Return of the Blogi

So I have started and stopped this blog post many times. I would start writing, and then stop and think, “Maybe I just don’t have anything left to say. Is any of this funny anymore? How long can I keep making the same old jokes?” But, despite my advanced age and tendency to repeat myself, I still have a lot of thoughts, most of which I mumble to myself throughout the day. So perhaps I will write them here, and perhaps you will read them. No worries if you don’t. Also, if you are an auditory learner, you are welcome to drop by anytime and eavesdrop on my mumblings.

So first, to clarify: I am now old. I know this for a few reasons:

1. Weddings always make you think of your wedding. But a few weddings ago, instead of reminiscing about July 3, 2000, a thought about a future wedding popped up, unbidden, into my head: Wow Ariella will be such a beautiful bride one day. Wait, huh? What was that? And with that thought, I quickly transitioned from “bride” to “mother of the bride.” The coup was silent and bloodless, you’ll be glad to know.

2. When we watch TV shows with teenagers, I realize we have more in common with the teens’ parents than the teens. (“Oh Buffy, you really should open up to your mother. She just wants what’s best for you.”

3.  A few weeks ago, someone posted in one of my (many) Modiin groups that they moved here with their baby and are looking to make friends with other young Anglos. And before I could raise my hand and say, "Me!" I read her comment that she and her husband are in their 20s. Oh. Or, not me. I mean, I'm not so old that I don't even remember my 20s anymore, but I'm old enough that my kids could babysit for her kids. We cannot be friends, young Anglo. But if you are looking for some sage advice from the local elders, well, this is probably the wrong place, too, since you are young and most likely are still planning on being a Great Parent and are probably not trying to test the absolute limit of how much you can ignore your kids before total chaos ensues. (“Mom’s log: Babies got into the toilet again and Nadav has paint on his hands. Older two nowhere to be found. Ignoring Level #215: Too high. Tomorrow, pull back to #214.5”) However if you want to know the ins and outs of Modiin Coffee, well, just pull up a rocking chair.


Anyway, I will probably use this space to rant about stuff now, since I’ve found that being old has made me extra crotchety. And I hate the word “crotchety” because it's an uncomfortable word, like someone is trying to walk around with their underwear full of Lego pieces. But I’m using it anyway. Because that’s what crotchety people do.

And remember: Even when the world is full of scary things and stabbers, you can always come here to grumble about the little things. Because at ABA, we never let true suffering get in the way of complaining about life's minor annoyances. It’s kind of our thing. That’s all for now. See you here again soon.