Parenthood. There’s countless articles & books, they all tell you how to do it right, and they all tell you different things. Spare the rod & spoil the child, or helicopter parents, none are all right, and none are all wrong.
The one thing they all have in common (well the ones I’ve read), is that not one of them mentions the guilt. Before H was born I was told about how wonderful the bond between mother & child was, I was told I’d never know a love like it, and I was told I had a bucket & she’d drop out (boy was that midwife wrong – 12 days late, 42 hours, 10lb 11oz & she got her elbow stuck on the way out. She’s an only child.) But no one told me about the guilt.
H has never known me healthy. She was 9 months old when my back problems first started. A bad back from sleeping on a caravan bed developed into sciatica, then into full blown prolapsed disks & constant nerve pain. I was hospitalised for 2 weeks, then housebound for months. I couldn’t sit or stand, let alone walk. The only comfortable position was lying down, if I sat up for longer than a couple of minutes my whole bottom half would go completely numb. Intensive physio therapy got me upright with crutches & I’ve walked with at least one ever since.
It must have been incredibly strange for a not quite one year old. One day she had a perfectly healthy mum, picking her up, playing on the floor with her, then all of a sudden mummy can’t even get out of bed.
Because of my limited mobility, H has always had to do things for me that other kids wouldn’t, especially for the time when I split with my ex & it was just the two of us. She’s been getting herself ready for school from far too young an age, as mornings are my worst time.
So the guilt for me has two levels, the run of the mill, common or garden guilt variety that most parents experience (the “am I doing enough, am I doing too much, am I spoiling them, am I being too hard on them, am I making the right decisions??” sort), and the extra cherry on the cake level of worrying that she’s not had a “normal” childhood and that she’s missing out on being a proper kid because she’s brushing my hair for me when I can’t reach & putting my pants, socks, shoes etc on for me. Am I making her childhood a chore? Am I making her subservient? Am I just plain failing at being a Mum?
So on Thursday when Mr W and I went to her parents evening, hearing that she’s a happy, bright, chatty, well adjusted student, (well, as much as any 15 year old is), the relief may well have been tangible.
Today we went together to have our hair cut, and did some light retail therapy afterwards, and I can truly say I thoroughly enjoyed her company. She talks too much about internet people who I can barely keep up with, and can belch better than a beer drinking redneck, but I am insanely proud of her.
So maybe, just maybe I’m not failing. Maybe having to care for me hasn’t ruined her, just given her a healthy appreciation for people less able than she is. Maybe, even though her childhood wasn’t “normal”, it was normal enough for her.