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Queen of Mommy Guilt, by Heidi Barrett

There are things in life that I am good at doing- drinking coffee early in the morning comes to mind. There are things that I am just not good at. I cannot tell you how many times I have used a hot glue gun and burned the tips of my fingers. Okay yes, I can tell you how many times I have burned the tips of my fingers with a hot glue gun, every dang time I have used a hot glue gun! Then there are things in my life that I excel at. Number one on this list is mommy guilt. Do I have mommy guilt? Do trees have leaves in the summer? I felt horrible that I loved my job that took me away from my babies. Yes, somehow, in my mind me loving my job meant that I was not a good mom because everybody knows good moms are Betty Crocker and June Cleaver. Yes, I judge myself as a mother based on fictional characters.

I am also Catholic. We know how to do guilt. It is part of our DNA. I am confident that I could give a basic talk at a medical school on the science of my children’s chronic disease (juvenile psoriatic arthritis).  We can talk about scientific facts all day long. I read medical journals for pleasure (yes, I just might be a french fry short of a Happy Meal).  I can also tell you with a straight face why this disease my children have is 100% my fault. The irony is that if you told me your child’s disease was your fault, I would talk you off the ledge and explain why it does not apply, and that is just silly talk. Who can control what genes your child gets? I have never claimed to be rational. I don’t blame my husband John for the genes my kids have acquired which is completely silly.

I don’t blame God, nor have I spent much time exclaiming, "Why oh why?". In the deep recess of my mind, it's just silly to think our Father caused this. A parent loves their children and doesn't purposely do them harm.  At the end of the day, though, I am the one who is 100% responsible for my children. The buck stops here. I have a friend whose oldest child years ago had nursemaids elbow. Once in the doctor's office, she exclaimed it was her fault, which made the nurse’s eyebrows go up. I understand that statement. She did not hurt her child, but her child was her responsibility, and to no fault of her own, her child was hurt. 

I have wrestled with mommy guilt for years. There is a certain amount of arrogance to saying, "I am 100% responsible for my child's genes." I have tossed this thought around and around for years. A good mom provides food for her children, so me working is not a bad thing, even if there are certain people who tell me a good mother cannot work outside the home. God can see past the arrogance of my guilt and know at the bottom there is a mother who loves her children dearly.  I can use that guilt in my favor. I did this to my children, so I can make sure they get the best care possible. I can be their number one advocate.  I can surround my children with the very best doctors. I can keep myself educated, so I am ensured they are receiving the best care. When the insurance company says "No", it just means I have not talked to the right person. I will keep on knocking on the doors until I hear "Yes". If I repeatedly get told "No", then I can advocate for a change in the law at the state and federal level so this never ever happens to another family. Guilt can be a great motivator.

My 13-year-old daughter Maggie has been in and out of the hospital the last month. I was told by one of our healthcare providers that my youngest son Liam feels horrible guilt because he believes it is his fault Maggie is so sick. It appears at this time that Maggie might have another disease, which Liam also has, and it's a particularly nasty one. Silly boy! He did not give his sister crappy genes, not in a million years. Let us just put this all to rest, I am the one to blame for all the bad genetics. 

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