I read an article the other day about how children with working mothers tend to do better. They are more ambitious because they have better role models. As someone who has spent time as a researcher I know well enough to take with a grain of salt most journalistic reporting of scientific results, which generally tend to be much more nuanced than sells papers. However, it got me to thinking about parental guilt and my own absurd situation where I convinced myself that I was taking on a new semester of teaching at university when my baby was three weeks old in order that I could stay at home with my kids. So that I could nurture a strong and unbroken attachment to me as their primary caregiver. Again, this was something that I had read. Given that the development of sound critical reasoning has been imperative in my working life, I feel that my skills in this area are pretty well developed. Yet even I get sucked into this constant bombardment of contradictions about what I am doing wrong, wrapped up in pleasant sounding articles about what other people are doing right. I try to justify decisions but have to use such warped logic to meet all of the different recommendations that I can’t win. Well, I am admitting defeat. Here is my letter of apology to my poor babies that they can show to their therapists in years to come.
My dearest babies
I’m sorry that I went back to work when you were so young. What did it teach you about relationships that your primary caregiver was not with you around the clock during your infancy? I’m sorry that I was a stay-at-home mum. What sort of role model could I possibly be?
I’m sorry that I didn’t give you enough tummy time when you were newborns. You needed to spend as much of your awake time as possible on your tummies but sometimes I let you lie on your backs. Doing so no doubt impeded your development. I’m sorry that I ever put you on your tummy as newborns. If you couldn’t get into the position yourself, I shouldn’t have put you in it. Doing so no doubt impeded your development.
I’m sorry that I enrolled you in various classes and activities when you were little. I should have let your days be filled with free play so your imaginations would have the best chance to thrive and so you would learn what it was to feel bored. I’m sorry that I let you spend so much unstructured time playing at home. There were so many more things I could have done to boost your cognitive growth and help you reach your full genetic potential.
I’m sorry that I breastfed you until you were old enough to decide that warm milk with a marshmallow before bed was a suitable exchange. If you were old enough to ask for it, then you were just too old! Don’t even get me started on the marshmallows. I’m sorry that I started you on solids at four months and didn’t breastfeed on demand exclusively until you were able to feed yourself. Having complementary feeds probably meant that you didn’t get enough breastmilk to maximise your i.q.
I’m sorry that you didn’t have all of the toys that could have helped with each new stage of your development. By not stimulating the right sense at the right time, your brain may not have developed the optimal neural connections and pathways. I’m sorry that you had too many toys. I should have ensured that you only had one thing to play with at a time so that you were not overwhelmed by choice.
I’m sorry that I didn’t give you iPads as babies. By reading you books instead, I deprived you of the highest level of sensory stimulation available. I’m sorry that I allowed any screen time before you were two. Any screen time before two limits normal development.
I’m sorry that I ever said no to you. When I didn’t want you to do something or have something I should have still ensured that every interaction was framed in a positive way; connect and redirect. I’m sorry that I didn’t say no to you often enough. A lack of proper boundaries has most likely set you on a course to lawlessness.
I’m sorry I loved you too much. You couldn’t walk passed me without being swept up for a hug. You probably had better things to do. Shoo, mummy! I’m sorry I didn’t love you enough. No amount of love could ever come close to what you deserve. But all that I do have to give is yours my darlings.
Always and forever
Your most fallible mother x