We’re all guilty.

For some of us the struggles of parenting may include juggling sport schedules, helping our young adults navigate blossoming relationships or budgeting for new clothing as our teenager seemingly gains three inches of height every month, and for others of us the struggles consist of potty training grumpy toddlers, teaching our young ones healthy eating habits or adjusting sassy tweenager attitudes.  But one thing I’ve come to realize is the fairly universal side effect of parenting: guilt.  Even the word compels me to apologize.  Although for what, I haven’t a clue.  Perhaps it was how my staunch Catholic upbringing encouraged me to reconcile my sins so frequently and so timidly that I wasn’t ever quite sure of what I was confessing, only that I hadn’t done it right.  Or maybe my propensity for feeling guilty is all my mother’s fault.  Right?  Aren’t we supposed to blame our Mothers Dearest for everything wrong in our lives?  I, for one, will feel pretty gypped if I don’t even get an honorable mention in my kids’ future therapy sessions.  I worked hard to screw them up and I want credit for their neurotic tendencies, damnit.

Or maybe, just maybe, we buy into the whole “never quite good enough” mentality simply by ways of our own insecurities and a lack of confidence in our decision making.  There will always be somebody to blame, something wrong with whatever “system” we’re up against and I suppose it just takes a heaping helping of fearful certainty and  buoyancy to float our boats in whatever waters we choose, despite not knowing from which direction the winds are blowing.

December has been the month for metaphors.  I will not apologize but simply ask that you bear with me as Christmas movies generally turn me into a poet.

My latest struggle with guilt is my decision to enroll my youngest into public school full time, instead of continuing down our home schooling path, which as beautifully vivid a picture I painted in theory, wasn’t working with our third and youngest child.  He’s a busy little fellow, his creatively logical mind always ready for the next source of stimulation and excitement, and as much as I intended to be that main source for him, I found myself drinking a glass of wine with lunch more often than not.   This small, strong, busy-bodied last child of mine comes with requirements unlike those of his older siblings.  He’s wonderful.  He’s full of big, bright, brown-eyed wonder and not even my wildest dreams could accurately express his potential, I’m sure of it.  He captures the attention and hearts of every person within earshot or eyesight and I’ve got bruises on my forearms from the pinches I give myself just to check if he’s actually mine or wondering if I dreamt him up.  I check on him three, four times each night before I go to bed, kissing his messy hair and deeply breathing in his salty little boy smell, as if the scent of “last baby” is somehow more bewitching than any other.  It is.   He’s my last baby and will always be entitled as my baby, so small, so fast, so adorable, so annoying.  And here lies my source of guilt.  I’m his mother and by that simple justification alone, I should be able to both parent and home school him indefinitely.  Right?  I mean, I gave birth to this human being and that not only entitles me but obliges me to be it for him until, well, until when?  For my older children it was Middle School age and even then, I struggled with this same guilt, not knowing if I should endlessly persevere with our home school plan or just stop abruptly as the pubescent hormones began to rear their oily, moody, puss-filled heads and I wound up spending six nights out of seven plotting creative ways to wrap them in bacon and eat them.  Why, I just read an interestingly informative article from the College of Natural Resources at Virginia Tech that details how captive, stressed females may eat their young.  So informative.

Back to my youngest, who surprisingly frazzled me the most out of all three children, it’s week #2 for him attending a small, rural public school and he’s been nervously excited when I drop him off and happily tired when I pick him up every day thus far.  I’ve been riding this roller coaster of opposing emotions every day, waffling between questioning my lack of maternal abilities and feeling confident in my decision.  I’m starting to feel queasy and would love to stop the ride and maybe grab a snow cone.

We allow ourselves to feel and succumb to so much pressure from the media, from each other and from ourselves that I believe it’s high time we took a little break from that.  I’d really like to start trusting myself and my abilities to make good life decision for my children, how about you?

My New Year’s Resolution for 2012 is to try disallowing myself guilty feelings over my parenting because, no matter what, the little dissidents will end up in therapy anyway and I might as well enjoy this wine guilt-free until then.

Renée Chalou

About Renée Chalou

Renée Chalou lives and raises her family in Presque Isle, where she owns a fitness center, LiveWell United. Her oldest son is in his second year at UMO, her daughter plans to attend UMPI in the spring and her youngest son is an active, happy 11 year old in 6th grade. From her life experiences as a homeschooling parent, blending a family, and transforming herself from an overweight, side-line mother to a competitive athlete mother and fitness leader in her community, she writes about what she knows: living life well even when it's not perfect. She writes about finding and clinging to the good even when it would be easy to focus on the bad, no matter what challenges life brings. Life in Northern Maine is wonderful, full of adventures and sub-zero temperatures. It's not for everybody and nobody claims it's easy. But it's a good life, it's hers and she'd like to share some of it with you.