Thoughts on motherhood and guilt

As I experience motherhood as a highly sensitive person, as an introvert, intuitive and empath, there are some things I’ve noticed. About how the fierceness of love pushes me, and pulls me, like the ebb and flow of a tide. I’m building my understanding of what it means to feel the kind of love that has only come to me from having a child.

There is a fierceness in the way that I love my son. I didn’t expect this, really, although they all said it would happen. This fierceness contains the blazing light of a fire, a passion and a protective anger that builds a protective shield around the two of us.

It’s something that I hold for the two of us.

And I didn’t realize how this fierce love would feel like it is constantly ripping me apart.

This fierce love pushes me and pulls me one way, the other, and I never seem to know which way I might land today, tomorrow, the next.

When I am with my son there is no place I’d rather be.  And yet, the physical and mental toll it takes on is exhausting. My therapist recently explained to me that as an Intuitive (or N) with the Myers-Briggs personality typing, infant care is a struggle because it’s not an intuitive activity – it’s a sensing (S) one. Which means that as I try to sense my way through the day with him, focusing on facts to keep him safe, the activity of it literally reprograms my brain into a new pattern.

That was very validating to hear, although it didn’t help much with the fatigue.

Because although I love my child with a fierceness that surprises me, and I love our games and his smiles and the things we do together, it makes me weary on a bone level where, by the end of the day, I feel like I’ve climbed the highest mountain.

Maybe that’s what motherhood is like for me. Perhaps it’s like climbing the highest mountain day after day, taking in the views while at the same time massaging sore muscles. Maybe I’ll always be climbing the highest mountain.

The part that is hard is the push-pull. The difficulty I have being in either place: with him – my son – or away from him doing my own work. This push-pull, it’s so challenging, because whether I’m being pushed or pulled, the force behind it is always guilt.

Just this morning, I had to get my blood drawn and it’s a day that I have childcare. So I spent the morning with my son playing and feeding him and interacting and I loved it. He went down for his nap, and I gladly handed over duty to our nanny. I had my blood drawn, then treated myself to breakfast at my favorite restaurant.

It felt decadent to be there by myself, without a child with me to tend to, just alone and comfortable in my introverted solace. I had a book to read, I had my coffee next to me (no threat of curious, tiny hands tipping it over), I had this wonderful food served to me by a beautiful, kind man with skin like caramel and a voice like velvet.

It was a beautiful breakfast to myself.

And yet . . .

I looked around at the other mothers there who had their children with them, and I was jealous. I missed my son. And although I was enjoying this time to myself I couldn’t fully enjoy it, because he wasn’t there. And so the push-pull continues.

When I talk to my therapist, she sometimes recognizes how I’m harboring guilt. At first when she said this, I thought, Okay, well give me tools to get rid of the guilt, then. But instead she looked at me and said:

“You know, I don’t think we ever get rid of the guilt. Being socialized as a woman, and then a mother, you learn to take on so much guilt. And I think that working to get rid of it isn’t the most productive goal, because you’re up against decades of socialization and programming. There will always be guilt. There will always be push-pull. So instead of trying to figure out how to get rid of it, you just learn how to carry it.”

So that’s what I’m working at doing.

This fierce love creates a push-pull in which the guilt pulls me back and pushes me away in a constant, never-ending back and forth, to and fro. I’ll continue to get better at holding that guilt, hugging it against me so that it loses its momentum. Recognizing that it’s part of me. It’s not going anywhere, and that’s okay. It’s okay to need to push away and it’s okay to want to pull back.


One Comment on “Thoughts on motherhood and guilt”

  1. Hi Anna,
    This reminds me of being in love, when you get involved to a new life with a new person, and there’s reprogramming also. Now. The same way – when you feel refilled with joy and love and inspiration just by doing your own duty, its also useful to find yourself again and again and then you can surrender yourself to your babyKrsna. All parents are tired and feeling ashamed that they just want some peace and sleep sometimes.
    So when you get it, you do it in order to be refreshed. Nothing is worse when a parent starts to blame the little one because of his sooo miserable life.

    You didnt put him in an endless cold cave sorrounded by wolves at wintertime. You fed him and just left with a wellknown nanny. This is simply what ancient native women did – shared the duties of children between each other 😉

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