Joanne Palmer: The guilt never ends – and thanks for reading
October 1, 2008
Steamboat Springs — In the beginning, there was guilt. Motherhood guilt. The worse kind of guilt there is. If you multiply Catholic guilt by not-going-to-the-gym guilt and quadruple the total and top it off with a dash of calorie guilt, you still will not fully comprehend the enormity of motherhood guilt.
No one is better at dishing out guilt than a mother, and no one is better at feeling guilt than oh, say, a mother.
Mothers feel guilty for just about everything.
If they work, they feel guilty they are not at home with their children.
If they are at home, they feel guilty they are not at work.
If they feed Cocoa Krispies to their children for breakfast instead of wholesome granola, they feel guilty.
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As soon as my son was born, the guilt began. I felt guilty I didn’t use cloth diapers and clogged the landfill with disposables. I felt guilty I didn’t puree my own organic baby food. I felt guilty when I let him watch cartoons instead of reading a book to him on quantum physics. All of this guilt, however, was a blip, a trifle, a mere ping in comparison to the crushing guilt I bore for not doing his baby book.
I have no excuse. I got two at my baby shower but I never filled them out.
Even though I typed ‘sorry’ in capital letters, the mantle of guilt continues to weigh heavily on my shoulders.
The day my son rolled over is not recorded in his baby book. The day he got up on all fours and crawled is not written in the baby book. And the day he blinked, burped and ballyhooed is not in his baby book. I had new mom friends who not only did baby books, they progressed to videos and scrapbooks, all duly noting every baby movement and milestone. I had new mom friends who crocheted baby blankets and knit darling, cozy, fleecy hoodies and booties.
I did nothing.
I tried. Once, I attended a photo scrapbooking class full of good intentions of making a beautiful leather photo album he could one day show his grandchildren. I bought the starter kit, the special scissors and the album. But, then, I did nothing.
Nine years later, I spied a column in this very newspaper asking for column ideas by then-editor Scott Stanford. Still plagued with guilt about the darn baby book and that all of Peter’s photos and artwork were gathering dust in boxes, I called. I begged. I badgered. I babbled. Because Scott is from South Carolina, he has impeccable manners and just to placate me he very politely suggested I e-mail him some sample columns. I’m sure he hoped he’d never hear from me again. But I sent him some samples and hounded him until he gave me space in the Sunday paper. When Scott became advertising director and Brent Boyer took his spot, Brent moved me into my current position on page 2 of Wednesday’s paper.
Today marks my two-year anniversary of writing, “Life in the ‘Boat.” My hope is to self-publish these columns into a book Peter later can give to his therapist.
“This,” he’ll say, choking back tears, “chronicles my childhood. No videos. No photo albums. No baby book.”
Until Peter grows up, or I run out of motherhood guilt (never!), I hope to keep writing this column. Heartfelt thanks to Scott and Brent for taking a chance on me. And thank you, dear readers, for your support.
As always, you can e-mail me ideas, gift cards or comments to firstname.lastname@example.org.