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BY Simcha Fisher
Raising children brings so much joy, fulfillment, and meaning to life. It also brings guilt by the boatload. It is impossible to raise another human being without routinely screwing up in monumental ways—and that’s when you’re trying.
Spiritually mindful parents will recognize that wallowing under a load of crushing guilt is actually a subtle form of pride: by dwelling on our failures, we are making too much of ourselves, and too little of the redemptive power of grace, which can be accessed through daily acts of hope and trust in God and in Mary as the true mother of our children.
So that’s for the holy types. For the rest of us, here is a handy cheat sheet.
Note: Proposed solutions are in no way intended to make the situation better. The truth is, you have already ruined your children beyond repair before you even unbuckle them from their car seats on the ride home from the delivery room (assuming, you negligent swine, that you managed to buy one of those $450 Minimally Responsible Parent carseats in the first place).
No, these fixes are intended only to make you feel a little bit better so you can get through the day, sleep poorly through nightlong nightmares of DCYF, and wake up with the strength to crap it up all over again the next day.
MATERNAL GUILT: COMMON CAUSES, QUICK SOLUTIONS
Show up at the pediatrician’s office with a kid whose bone was broken . . . yesterday. (Bonus guilt points if the receptionist asks for the kid’s date of birth, and you’re off by five years or more.)
Telling everyoneeveryoneeveryone about how horrible you feel about it, and how much you can’t believe what a bad mother you are. If you stop enough people, Ancient Mariner-style, eventually you will come across someone who says, “Oh my gosh, I did the same thing, and my pediatrician says that it’s REALLY, REALLY COMMON.” Find that pediatrician; send her roses.
Realizing that, while your older kids could pretty much work for Catholic Answers as top level apologists, the younger ones are not quite up to speed, catechetically speaking. They are, for instance, under the impression that there are three Gods, one of whom is named “Jeremy.”
Design a two-birds-with-one stone remedial curriculum in which—genius!—the older kids teach the younger kids their catechism, thereby educating the younger ones while giving the older ones the invaluable reinforcement of having to put their knowledge into words. If you are feeling especially ambitious, you might even make them do it, rather than just making a chart about it.
Console yourself with the idea that the faith of converts is often so much more vibrant than that of cradle Catholics. Pray that your children will someday convert to Catholicism.
You drive to school in an exhausted stupor, coming fully awake only as you kiss your kindergartner goodbye. It is only then that you realize that she is wearing men’s cowboy boots, her eyelashes are visibly dusty, someone has drawn cat whiskers on her cheeks, and she has no pants on.
Traumatize all of your children for the rest of the week by scrubbing their faces raw and making them wear perfectly-matched ensembles of designer clothing, which you purchased with the money you had set aside for vitamins, Christmas presents, and food. Because you’re a good mother!
It’s the feast of St. Francis and the kids are all giggling their way through Mass. You realize that they have been singing “Make Me a Panel of Your Cheese,” which they learned from you.
Gasp and whisper furiously, “WHERE did you learn that?” Then sit on them before they can answer. When you get home, make kitten-shaped pancakes to make up for sitting on them.
At dinner you serve, among other things, a salad. Your children freak out because they are not used to associating the color “green” with the concept “edible.”
Adopt the family motto “Real Men Get Rickets.”
You accidentally let slip a comment which implies that not every moment of childrearing is a profound and ecstatic dance of bliss, a sentiment which will undoubtably set the pro-life movement back forty years and do irreparable harm to your children’s souls, causing the boys to become pimps and the girls to become bitter, tank top-wearing Riot Grrrls who listen to Terry Gross and tattoo “I [heart] the culture of death” on their lower backs.
Remind yourself that, in order for your words to do any harm, your kids would actually have to be listening to you. Whew!
You forget to lock the door (or you forgot, for eleven years, to get around to replacing the broken lock) and the kids walk in on you and your husband as you renew your marriage covenant.
Shout “theology of the body!” Slam the door. Never speak of it again.