If you know a mother, and you certainly know one, you know maternal guilt. This feeling of not always being up to the task, of having possibly failed in the task, of not having done everything, at all times and in all circumstances, so that your child has access to the best for its well-being, its development, its future.
“Do fathers also experience the same unhealthy guilt that overwhelms many mothers? The endless “It’s my fault if…” or even “What could I have done to make…”? It’s exhausting at the end! “, noted this week a friend, after reading an article on the subject in the washington post.
The answer, Isabelle, is… not really. I could, to show more solidarity, speak at the beginning of the chronicle of parental guilt. The truth is that I recognized many mothers, but no fathers, in the portrait painted by the journalist from Washington PostAmy Paturel, in her text ” Why we feel “mom guilt”– and how to stop ».
The journalist explains that she cannot get rid of a feeling of guilt linked to the fact that her youngest son suffers from a heart defect and that he had to be operated on several times at a young age. “Is the cause to be found in my family’s genetic background? “Would I have been drinking before I knew I was pregnant?” “, she wonders, while it is more the alcohol consumption of the father which could have an impact on this kind of disease, it seems.
Women worry so much about themselves, according to experts consulted by the washington post, that they sometimes come to believe that everything that goes wrong with their child is their fault. And that they are on the contrary the only ones able to solve these problems for which they would be responsible.
These “irrational reflections”, which are similar to magical thinking, could be explained by a maternal defense mechanism.
The pressure to be a perfect parent, created by society, simply does not apply to fathers in the same way that it applies to mothers. It will be judged that a mother broods too much, or not enough, on her child. Whether it is invasive or negligent. “She decided not to breastfeed him, we see the result. » « She overprotects her, it’s not for nothing that she is always in the skirts of her mother. “His anxiety is rubbing off on him,” etc.
Believing that you know better than a woman what is good for her is an international sport. And we are surprised that some women are afraid of suffering from comparison with others or of being perceived as “bad mothers”. And that they sometimes come to think that they are responsible for the health concerns of their children.
Do we blame a father for not having held the bottle well or for having brooded over his daughter when she was little? We know the expression “unworthy mother”. “Unworthy father” is rarer…
Things are changing, fortunately, but in 2022, except of course in homoparental families, mothers are still more likely than fathers to put their careers on hold to take care of their children. They are generally the ones contacted by school, daycare or medical services when there is an appointment to be made or when an inevitable glitch occurs.
You won’t hear many dads complaining about that. Me first. Just last week, I cowardly avoided going with my son to his orthodontic appointment for fear of being snubbed for not wearing his rubber bands at night. His mother accompanied him. I have nothing to do with it…
Mothers set the bar high, are demanding of themselves, and that’s why they sometimes feel inadequate. The fathers ? Okay.
This is not a general rule, but experts agree that this feeling of shame or guilt is more prevalent in women.
They are more likely, in their spare time, to carry out research worthy of a doctoral thesis on a health problem, even benign, that afflicts their child. And to draw tendentious conclusions, making them bear personal responsibility, in order to explain their child’s attention disorder or hyperactivity, his lack of academic motivation or his addiction problems, electronic or other.
This parental guilt can be helpful up to a point, experts argue. It makes it possible not to repeat certain behaviors. I have already almost, out of patience, lost my voice from reprimanding my boys. We learn, motivated by the shame we inspire, to develop other strategies. But I never thought that the real or potential health problems of my sons were related to my behaviors or my lifestyle.
“It’s exhausting, in the end,” says my friend Isabelle, and she’s right. Maternal guilt can cause stress, anxiety, even depression. One of the solutions suggested by the experts, in particular for the mothers, is to show more compassion, for them and for the others. Fathers, on the other hand, should aspire to remain zen… while avoiding mothers carrying the bulk of the mental burden.