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Amanda Prowse Headshot

The Parental Guilt Trip

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I think it should come with your Bounty Pack - a certificate of remorse, just you know that you are a fully paid up member of the 'I feel soooo guilty club.' No one told me that growing a human would give me automatic membership, but it did. From the outset, I felt herded through media and social pressure to conform, I recall the widening of eyes and pursed lips in the room when I mentioned my uncertainty as to breast feeding, or the fact that I was planning on going back to work as soon as possible.

I remember at one family gathering, being asked why I thought it was okay to place my son in the care of someone else and trudge back to the office? I replied that I felt it was better, as a single mother, to place my child in the care of someone else and earn the money that put a roof over our heads and food in our mouths, rather than live on the streets. That shut him up. The reality, despite my outward bravado, was me, howling in the nursery car park each and every time I handed him over and day after day spent glancing at the clock with a boulder of concern in my stomach, every time I pictured him. He was of course too busy eating play dough and napping to notice I had gone.

School years didn't erase that guilt, far from it! I found myself eyeing other mum's at the school gate and feeling very inadequate. Why couldn't I bake cup cakes, sew in nametapes and provide organic homemade snacks? I was so busy; my son was the one with his name written in permanent marker on the inside of his collar and his snack was a bag of Wotsits hastily grabbed at the petrol station. While other mum's seemed to be up awake at the sparrows fart to grill organic bacon and place it on a rice cake, while all conversing in Mandarin (good practice for Jolyon) I was scrabbling in the laundry basket trying to find him clean pants!

I think my guilt pinnacle arrived when my son was eight and I met a man I wanted to marry, not just any man, but superman, a hero. It was with a twist in my gut that I began to change the mechanics of our home and our tiny family, daunted by the idea that it would no longer be just him and I, there would be a dad and a stepbrother! I worried how this momentous change would affect him. To give you a clue, it took a couple of years, but now I am very much the outsider! The three men in my life share a bromance that I can only comment on, like a fat girl with her nose pushed against the bakery window when its closed.

Our boys are big boys now and can be found at various music festivals or pub gardens where they travel in a pack. If they are here, they are sleeping or eating while standing in the kitchen in their pants. And this my friend leads to a whole new level of guilt. You see I like it when they are not home. I know, bad mummy, but the joy of being able to hold the remote control or buy food that stays in the fridge for longer than an hour is unimaginable! Superman and I even managed to have showers (separately of course, way past all that) without shouting out 'who's flushing the bl**dy loo?' or 'Stop running the cold tap!' it made a change to get clean without getting scalded or hoarse!

They are due home any minute and I sit here with tears streaming down my face. They are tears of joy at the prospect of them coming home - honest. Because anything else, would make me feel terribly guilty.