Yesterday I was racked with guilt. Yesterday, my son woke up from his nap before I had a chance to pick my daughter up from school. Since time was short, I trundled him into the car with me. Of course, the short trip turned into the stuff nightmares are made of. The kids bickered and kicked and cried. They fought over the cupcake my daughter had made in school and didn’t want to share. They took everything out of her school bag and threw it around in the taxi. By the time we reached our apartment building, I was a thoroughly harassed mother stuffed to my elbows with little trinkets I had had to clean up from the car as we left. Holding the door of the building open with my foot, I ushered the kids inside. Rayyan took his sweet time, waving good bye to the taxi driver. I turned to press the elevator button and I heard a scream. I screamed too. Rayyan’s nose was a blotchy mess and there was blood dripping down past his lips. So much blood. Occupied with waving goodbye, he hadn’t noticed the door swinging past him and it had slammed him right in the face.
The next two hours were a blur as I bundled him to the emergency room with my tired little schoolgirl in tow. The heat was merciless but I remember walking to and fro from hospital building to lab to emergency room with the kind of mundane strength difficulty thrusts upon you. When we were finally home, medicated, x-rayed and watching cartoons, I sunk my head into my hands and began to cry. I was fraught with guilt. It had happened on my watch. I was supposed to take care that Rayyan stayed away from the door, I was supposed to be watching him! What if his nose had been broken? What if he had hit his head and gotten a concussion? I felt like an absolutely terrible mother.
And that’s when I realized how powerless we really are. I am a SAHM, my kids are nearly always in my line of sight and yet this happened. I know of SAHM’s who have lost children due to some accident or another, no matter how closely they were watched. I know of working mothers who have raised perfect kids, and I know of working mothers who have had accidents with nannies or at daycares. The truth is, none of this is in our hands. We brought these kids into the world by the mercy of God, and they survive and grow by His mercy as well. But people often feel the need to drag the blame for every little thing and lay it at our door.
If I consider the frightening possibility that something HAD happened? How would I have felt if others pointed their fingers and said out loud that it was my fault? Was my overwhelming guilt already not terrible enough that others needed to heap theirs upon me? Because the truth is, this is what so often happens.
When the children grow up and learn how to throw your own words back at you they say,
‘Yeh tarbeeyat ki hai apnay bachon ko?’
‘Tum se seekha hai inhoon ne ye sab!’
‘Kaise bachay paale hain?’
And before that when the toddlers are picky eaters, ‘Tum ne iski normal khana khanay ki aadat nahin ki na’. Or when you choose to breastfeed, ‘bacha itna chota reh gaya hai, apnay doodh kay ilawa kuch deti hi nahin hai’. And this would have been the case had you been feeding your child formula, fruit, rice and every other food in the world. We simply cannot stop ourselves from being judgmental towards mothers.
But the worst is for the mothers whose children are taken from them. I know of a mother who lost her son due to a household accident and as she wept over his body people whispered behind her back,
‘Iss ne apnay bachay ko mar diya.’ (She killed her own child).
She was pregnant at the time, and when her pregnancy resulted in a daughter there were even more whispers,
‘Khud hi mara tha, ab Allah ne isko apnay kiye ka phal de diya na’ (She killed him herself, now she is reaping what she has sown).
And it goes on and on. Thank god she wasn’t a working woman, or they’d have found something even easier to blame!
Do you think she wasn’t already beating herself up over what happened? That she wasn’t suffering terribly from the guilt and the horror and the disbelief? Let me spell it out for all those who feel it is their duty to make mothers feel they are at fault at every turn of a child’s life, we are always feeling guilty. We doubt ourselves, question our decisions, cry and pray for our kids at every step of our life. Being a mother means we have accepted worry and guilt into our lives as a constant. So we don’t need you to shove faults which are or are not rightfully ours, into our face at every step of our child’s lives. What we DO need is a little bucking up, a little support, a little love and appreciation for being part of the wonderful process of bringing good little human beings into the world when we are simply human beings ourself. And if you can’t give that, then please, stay silent, stay away.
Excessive guilt, worry, love and care is a mother’s burden to bear. It makes us emotional and sensitive and also makes us great mothers and home-makers. But it also means that we simply don’t have the ability to deal with whatever it is you feel it is your duty to say. So do every one a favor, and unless your observation is going to spread joy, keep it to yourself.