I listened with fascination this weekend as my mom and dad talked about how they endured those frustrating early years of raising three girls who fought constantly and shared nothing. My mom laughed as she told me how she would meet my dad at the front door and tell him that as soon as dinner was over, she was outta here! She’d just leave. She remembers browsing the dress patterns at Jo-Ann Fabrics until past our bedtime and then returning home to a quiet and peaceful house. And not once did she feel bad about it.
“Your mother doesn’t do Mom Guilt,” my dad quipped.
“I don’t do guilt at all,” my mom added.
This struck me as truer than perhaps she even intended. My mom doesn’t do guilt – on herself or others. My mom (and dad!) is where I learned the fine balance between serving my family and taking care of myself. I think I’m pretty good at making myself a priority so that I can be the best version of myself for my family. Yep, I like taking the occasional girls’ weekend, and I will not impose guilt on myself for paying $13 for a yoga class when that yoga class is priceless for my soul.
I got this guilt-free thing down!
Or do I?
Just as my parents don’t do guilt, they don’t do guilt trips either. There are no snide comments about how it’s been soooo long since I’ve called. They don’t say just how nice it would be if only we could visit more. They don’t talk about all the wonderful plans for Christmas and then sneak in an “Oh, you’ll be here, of course… won’t you?” They’ve always made it clear that they understand we have our own families now and they don’t expect us to alternate holidays or to force a visit when it’s just not a good time. No guilt. We’re all adults doing the best we can to fulfill obligations. We try to visit because we WANT to visit, not because we feel we have to.
As I reflect on how much I appreciate my parents being a source of encouragement rather than guilt and judgement, and as I strive to emulate their example, I realize that perhaps I’m not quite as guilt-free as I think. Don’t I guilt-trip others once in a while to get my way? Whether they know it or not, I expect certain things from people, and I may be just a wee bit judgmental with my expectations of others.
I’m trying. Live and let live, right? But how often do we put our expectations on others without even giving them the courtesy of letting them know? How often do we make those seemingly soft-sided comments that are actually lined with thorns? I’ve actually told my mother-in-law: “The kids would sure like to see you. Hope you can visit soon!” Gah! I’m a monster! But I hope I can say I’m a reformed monster, or a monster in guilt-rehab. We’re all just doing the best we can in this life, and we all have things pulling us in a thousand different directions. What a gift we can give one another by letting go of the ropes and not being counted among those thousand things! Can’t we trust one another to love us even if we don’t call every week? Or to visit without looking at the cobwebs in the corner or the dishes in the sink? Can’t we love one another as we are, where we are? That’s the gift I want to give those I care about. I want them to know I take them as they are with no expectations. No guilt. I won’t lie and say I won’t be disappointed ever again or feel let down when my expectations aren’t met. But those are MY expectations, not yours.
That’s my goal in this adventure called Motherhood. To learn to just live this life without adding the weight of guilt and judgment. I will be many things to my kids, some good and some bad, but I will strive to NOT be a source of guilt. Just as my mom set that example for me, that’s the legacy I want to pass down to my kids. It is not your job to live up to my expectations. It’s my job to let go of the expectations. You are good enough as you are. You are loved as you are. And being you is all I need from you.