Love, Guilt & Resentment
When you are pregnant for the first time, or forget pregnant, even generally in life, you hear a lot about a mother’s love and how it’s a superpower. If you are lucky you get to be the receiver of it as a child but to truly understand it you have to be the giver. It’s like one of the holy grails of motherhood.
What one talks less about, but still comes up in new mothers’ conversations is mother’s guilt. I truly believe if there is anything stronger than mother’s love it has to be mother’s guilt. More on that later. What I really want to talk about and what one talks even less about or hardly at all, is resentment towards your husband/ partner/ co-parent/ whatever.
I truly believe if there is anything stronger than mother’s love it has to be mother’s guilt
If I’m honest, no one, literally no one, told me that this would happen. Like why does no one inform you that if it ain’t the crying baby that’s keeping you up at night it’s the thought of how tired you are and how convenient it is that you are the one who is doing all the damn leg work and your partner is sleeping araam se next to you/ in another room/ in another house even (if you follow local South Asian tradition to go to your mother’s house during the first 40 days postpartum) gets to call himself a parent too.
If it ain’t the crying baby that’s keeping you up at night, it’s the fact that your partner is sleeping araam se next to you
This is not the picture I had in my mind when I decided to start a “family”. I thought family means me and the man BOTH become parents and we raise the child TOGETHER. But no, “Aisey thori na Maa ke pairon ke neechay jaanat hoti hai!”, and you know what? Two pregnancies, and two kids later, honi bhi chahiye.
The thing is that it’s the first two gifts of motherhood – love and guilt – that make for the perfect entryway for the third gift – resentment. I don’t doubt my husband loves his children as much as I do, or even more perhaps. Who am I to compare a waterfall to an avalanche? But the nature of our love differs because I’m literally willing to sacrifice my peace for my kids only to complain about them later (or during) whereas he doesn’t believe in sacrificing too much, hence doesn’t complain much either or at all.
The nature of our love differs because I’m literally willing to sacrifice my peace for my kids only to complain about them later
I suffer from mother’s guilt in every aspect of life – mine and theirs. I want to spend time with them/ I feel I should spend time with them even when I just want to be alone for bit. I don’t want to leave them with help for too long. I feel bad leaving for dinner when they are at home saying “Amu I want to come with you”. If someone criticises my child’s behaviour or, forget criticise, just states a fact – I get insanely defensive; though sometimes just in my head, and proceed to send the criticiser/“well wisher” bad vibes.
I feel like I haven’t done enough, yet am constantly doing too much. My husband, on the other hand, I don’t think experiences daily internal reviews concerning his performance as a parent. Perhaps because he’s mostly away for work so I’m the primary caregiver. They don’t consume him the way they consume me, and when he is here, he isn’t with them 24/7.
I can’t understand why he wouldn’t want to spend all of his waking hours with them. That’s what I would do – out of love, out of guilt, who even knows? But he doesn’t. That’s not to say he doesn’t spend time with them, just not EVERY waking hour; he’ll want to take a break, he’ll want to do other things. And there comes the resentment.
Unlike me, my husband doesn’t experience daily internal reviews concerning his performance as a parent
I wish I felt as free, liberated and confident as a parent to be able to make that choice. I wish at times that I could plan my day at my liberty and not around my kids and being there when they wake up from their naps. I wish I could let the mother in me go on pause for a bit so I could be just me. But at this point, neck-deep into parenting, who even knows who that is?
I wish I could let the mother in me go on pause for a bit so I could be just me
I guess there’s a reason why I choose to spend time with my kids even when I want to be alone.
Ooh. Getting a bit existential. Let’s not go there.
The worst bit is to hear that men don’t have to do all (or, read, any) of the work in parenting. That it’s a mother’s job. Bhaye, why? A) The father is also a parent. The child’s wellbeing is just as much important to him, and hence his responsibility also. B) Hopefully your husband loves you, and wants to help you out because you are feeling overwhelmed and you are on this path called life together.
The worst bit is to hear that men don’t have to do all (or, read, any) of the work in parenting. That it’s a mother’s job. Bhaye, why?
What kind of unpleasantness are you really in for in life when your partner sees you struggling and says “but this ain’t my shit”? I’m sorry to our mother’s generation that you had to put up with this kind of thinking but I don’t agree with it, and I don’t think it makes me a good mother, a good wife or a good anything. It just turns me into an asshole in more ways than one. Also, it’s a huge responsibility and frankly too much pressure on one person to make all concerning decisions and to be doing all of the thinking. Do you really want JUST ME to be deciding when everything in their life happens?
I don’t think so.
Having said this I’m grateful to have a partner who recognizes the effort that goes into being a mother, and appreciates me for it. Some days that appreciation can take a hike, but then there are other days when you overhear them give you credit for doing a great job and think I must be doing something right. I guess the undereye bags and crying in the shower must be worth it.
(Full disclosure, I don’t cry in the shower, I cry in plain view of my husband so he KNOWS).