Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Guilt is a Funny Thing, or is it?

Guilt is a funny thing even though it doesn't typically make you laugh. Although I know others that laugh at your actions which caused you to feel guilt in the first place but when I say guilt is a funny thing you know what I mean.

There are so many types of guilt that we experience. There's the dieter that feels guilty about eating that third slice of pizza, the husband that gets up in the middle of the night to sneak a cookie so his spouse can't give him the look that will make him feel guilty. And so many other types of guilt.

But these days most of what I experience is guilt in relation to my daughter and my family. And when I talk about family in this case I also mean my dogs.

We had three dogs before McKenzie was born, two dogs that lived in the house with us and one mean dog that is limited to the yard. During my pregnancy when my husband brought home, Cooper a.k.a Scoop Scoop, I groaned thinking I'm five months pregnant and you're giving me a five week old puppy. All I could think about was by the time I got the puppy house trained I'd be changing diapers on our baby.

But no one had ever given me a puppy before. And of course he looked at me with those puppy dog eyes, with a shiny red ribbon on his neck and the dozen roses in my husband's arms and there it was "guilt." If I had said no this is a bad time and a puppy is not what we need right now then I would have felt guilty for sending him off and wondering if he found a good home.

So because our yard dog, Casey, is older and has grown mean we had to do something so that Cooper wouldn't be tortured by the mean dog. The solution meant Casey would be banished to her own section of the backyard. Calm down, she isn't chained up, she has more room than a typical run and the other two dogs can get in and out of that area at their leisure, so she also has playmates. And in reality knowing we would soon have a child's safety to be concerned with we were considering having her put down. But neither my husband or I could stand that idea and didn't think we could handle the guilt from that decision.

Now then we bring McKenzie home and we have these two very affectionate, very lovable but large dogs living in the house. I was adamant they would continue to be inside dogs that could snuggle on the couch, hang out in our bedroom and continue life as they knew it pre-baby. Yeah, right. Since McKenzie has been home the dogs spend 80% of their time outdoors. And while we still love them very much and show them attention as time allows, I feel guilty that we've changed their lives. But I'm not sure they care, when they're inside they get to play with McKenzie, we give them more treats than usual and at times they probably get away with more and of course that's so we don't feel guilty about changing their circumstances.

And then I have the guilt that is associated with McKenzie. This is the type of guilt I'm sure all mommies experience at some point in their lives. And I have to wonder do the Dads also feel this guilt? If I was guessing or betting I'd say probably not.

Last night when my husband came home from work it was already a little after 7PM and I wanted to take a shower and unwind a little bit. So I was off to the bedroom for a shower and some time to myself...BUT does alone time or "me time" really exist anymore once you're a Mom? And notice I said "once you're a mom" not after you become parents, because again I don't think this something that affects Dads.

So afterwards I walk back into the living room to get some water and my little girl makes a beeline for me. Before I know it she's hanging onto my leg wanting to be picked up and held, entertained, acknowledged. My first thought is to hand her off to her Dad so I can go abck into the bedroom find a program I enjoy and watch it while thumbign through a magazine ALONE. But as she's tugging on my leg I'm struck with guilt. Am I a bad parent for wanting some time to myself? Did I sign away all of my free time for the next 18 years because I'm a parent and I want to be a good one.

During the day if I'm checking my e-mail while McKenzie is playing should I feel guilty that I'm not down on the floor playing and teaching and cuddling. On Labor Day I decided to get out of the house alone. I left father and daughter in front of the television as I headed out with no specific destination in mind. When I ended up in Rice Village, I was so ecstatic that there weren't very many people out. I could window shop, enjoy some fresh air and just chill without a lot of noise or crowds. And as I was walking along past stores and in stores it seemed that everything I looked at was with McKenzie in mind.

It was so great to get out of the house and be able to hang out without a stroller or a diaper bag or a feeding schedule. As a matter of fact I was gone for quite some time before realizing I hadn't eaten breakfast or lunch and it was late afternoon. So as I glance at my phone and see no missed calls, no text messages and no voicemails....I wonder how's my family, what are they doing?

A little bit later I'm driving home and see a clearance sale at a famous baby store so I pull into the parking lot and head inside. Twenty minutes later I'm leaving the store with a handful of books for McKenzie. Back on the road again and I see a brand new Target and my first thought is, I need to stop and see if they have the ride-on toy I've been trying to find for MC. So I go inside but the ride-on toy, vitamins for MC and few other small things all for MC. And as I pull into the drive-way and take inventory of the packages that need to be carried inside I realize everything I bought was for my little girl. And I start laughing because while I felt like I was being a bad person for wanting to have some "me" time that in reality the entire day was about MC, I just didn't have her with me.

So maybe guilt is both positive and negative, funny and yet not so much. When you feel guilty about spending more than you should have on a purchase maybe it encourages you or forces you to cut back in other areas. And when you feel guilty because you cheated on your diet it could be a motivator to work out harder or to make a lifestyle change. I don't know. I just know that everyone feels guilty about one thing or another and maybe if you or they take a closer look they'll realize its kind of funny.

And I also know that when I take time out for myself that its a positive for both me and my family. Because afterwards I feel refreshed and make an effort to make the time I have with my daughter, my husband or my dogs a little more special.

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