Dear Serena, I Understand The Guilt of Missing Your Kid’s Milestones
Tennis star Serena Williams recently tweeted that she missed her daughter’s first steps as she was away at a practice. The ensuing guilt and sadness, reduced her to tears. Most parents, more so mothers, live with this guilt of missing out on the major milestones of their child due to some commitment or another.
She took her first steps… I was training and missed it. I cried.
— Serena Williams (@serenawilliams) July 7, 2018
Numerous moms and peers reached out to Williams and assured her that this was part and parcel of parenthood. No matter how involved you try to be in your child’s life, among the million little and hundreds of major milestones, you do end up missing one or the other. But the guilt of being absent, often nags the mommies perhaps more than the daddies.
While daddies feel sad about not being present for major milestones too, they regard professional commitment as a valid reason for their absence. Mothers, on the other hand feel neglectful, as if they have failed to be an “ideal mother” somehow.
The guilt is more about choosing professional or other duties, over being by their child’s side on such occasions.
Just this weekend, I found out at my daughter’s PTM that she is now able to recognise and recite Hindi vowels. As a working from home mommy, I missed out on this major scholastic development. I am with her for the most part of the day. I ask about what she learned at school almost every day after finishing my work. Yet being the secretive little devil that she is, she conveniently omitted out that she was being introduced to Hindi in school.
But I felt guiltier on missing out on this development, than my husband must have felt for missing out on her first steps. It has something to do with the ideas about motherhood which we are fed socially. A mother must be there for her child all the time. She must know the child’s likes and dislikes. She must maintain a book on her child’s milestones with dated pictures and expert comments. And if she doesn’t, the resultant guilt will riddle her conscience until she is on her deathbed.
But missing out on some milestones is as much a part of parenting, as is witnessing them. It is bound to happen feeling guilty is just our instinctive reaction, to the generations of conditioning. It is the way of the society to bound women to their homes, to keep them from choosing her career over her family. What is a mother if she is not ever-present? If she isn’t a witness to her child’s firsts.
THE GROUND REALITY
- The guilt associated with missing children’s milestones plagues mothers more than fathers.
- It is our social conditioning about ideal motherhood, which makes us more susceptible to guilt.
- Children who grow up in households with working mothers, don’t resent them, for being absent during their milestones.
- In fact, they grow up to respect their mother’s commitment towards her professional duties.
Mothers must accept the baggage of absence from major events in their children’s life just like dads do. Why is it that their absence gets labelled as reasonable? Why isn’t the same courtesy meted out to mommies? We now live in the digital age. So, missing out on first steps today means watching the incident later on our smartphones as many times as we like. There is a difference, yes, but this digital privilege does make sadness of not being present for a baby milestone a lot more bearable.
The guilt, however, is something which cannot be reduced, unless we want to.
I am still bummed about the Saturday’s revelation on Monday. A clean conscience doesn’t come so easily to us women. But if we reach out to shield each other from the judgmental remarks from family and peers, which accuse us of negligence, it would be a lot easier.
I want to reach out to Serena and tell her that it is okay. That on growing up, her daughter will adore and love her no matter what. The fact that she was out practicing, while she took her first steps wouldn’t lessen her respect and love for her mother. In fact, she would respect her more, for her commitment to her work. This incident would shape her outlook on women’s professionalism.
Picture Credit: IndianExpress.com
Yamini Pustake Bhalerao is a writer with the SheThePeople team, in the Opinions section. The views expressed are the author’s own