It lurks dormant in the dark, murky waters of a women's psyche, like a slippery snake of anxiety just waiting to slither around our fair necks and slowly but surely deprive us of oxygen.
Does this sound like some really bad "B" horror movie? Yes? Good. I'll continue.
The disease flows into our blood stream, penetrating the bones and seeping into our hearts and lungs. Inert and innocuous, its true terrors only unveiled at the pull of the trigger.
The trigger? Motherhood.
The disease? Mater Culpa, or in plain English "Mothers' Guilt". An elusive, prolific sickness of women with parental duties.
What are the symptoms? A state of prolonged muted agony, a constant background nagging in your head... you're not doing enough, you're not giving enough, you're not being enough with your children.
I mean, what causes a talented, successful and confident women executive to take the 0615 flight to join her colleagues who all took the 1845 flight the night before, because they wanted to get a good nights rest, go to the gym in the morning and have a few drinks with the team, because "I felt so guilty about not putting the kids to bed".
and...."Oh God!! Another school bake!! I feel so guilty sending my angel to school with Tesco biscuits, again!" (even if they have been stripped from their packet, put on a designer plastic plate and artfully sprinkled with icing sugar so they look 'fresh out of the oven').
Beware! This disease is XX chromosome specific. Either that or men have developed a kick-ass antibody.
I mean have you ever heard a man use the word "Guilty" when describing his absence from home? Of course he may feel regret, sadness and misses his kids dreadfully.
But Guilt? Never.
Don't get me wrong, men DO want to spend more quality time with their children, they really, really do.
But Guilt? The G word? No Way Jose!
The thing with guilt is that it eats away at your inner core, it gnaws away at your confidence and it takes the fizz out of your spark. Just like opening a bottle of coke and letting the bubbles slowly escape through the unscrewed cap, until it's totally flat.
That's not cool!!!
BTW (trivia, or not so trivia, moment) did you know that mums today, including working mums, spend more quality time with their children than in the 70s? The Universities of London and Seville reported that mums spent 15 minutes quality time with their children in 1974, compared to an hour today, while fathers have gone from 5min to 35min in the same period. That's a four fold increase for women, and a seven fold increase for men.
Hhhhmm, certainly made me stop and think.
Dare I add that another piece of research by the University of Maryland "How Does the Amount of Time Mothers Spend with Children Matter?" authors found that the pressure to spend so much quality time with our children was to the detriment to all parties' emotional wellbeing. Yiiikees! More trips to the therapist!!!
So what's going on? Could it be the media? Is the role of the "mother" on the long list of media casualties?
Is "being a mother" like the "perfect body". Having been immersed by a constant onslaught of imagery and language which tells us that skinny is beautiful, we have a nurtured a generation of anorexic teenagers.
Have mothers been badgered with images of the perfect mother, her perfect family, her perfect, house, her kids are perfect, her home-baked alaska, her perfect rose garden... oh and don't forget perfect biceps?
It's time for a reality check. In most cases of "having children" there is another parent involved... somewhere. So let's actively involve them. And in MANY cases let's allow them to be (more) involved. If they don't know how to do it, teach them or let them find their own way. Did anyone teach you? Just let them do it!
If Susie has the wrong top for Kung Fu, or if Phil left the house without flossing his teeth, or god forbid the kids got sandwiches made out of white bread instead of healthy grainy, omega 3 enhanced, gluten and GMO free bread... aaaaaaarrrrrrrggggghhhh... let it go. Rise above it. Focus on your breathing. Breathe in, breathe out, breath in, breath out... let it go. With the white bread thing, maybe a glass of wine will help.
The antidote for Mater Culpa lies within us and our own situations - we mothers hold the key to the cure.
I found the antidote to my Mothers' Guilt in my husband - he helped cure me, or at least on the path to recovery (I could not put my hand into fire and swear that I'm cured). He's the one who tells me the kids are just fine when I have to go on business trips, he's the one who says the kids are fine when I have an event to got to, he''ll also say "I think you should stay at home this time, because...".
AND I am the one who knows the kids are more than just fine when they're with him, and I am the one who knows "today my daughter(s) need me".