There was so much I could have felt guilty about today. That Milin had ice cream for lunch. That none of us left the house all day. That Jasmin was definitely exposed to more television time than a three-month-old should be in a day. But none of that really made me feel bad. What did bring about the mummy guilts, however, was that I forgot that it was parents’ evening at Milin’s nursery.
I don’t know what made me remember, or in fact, for what made me forget it. But at 4.30 it hit me. Parents’ Evening. My appointment had been at 4pm. I looked at the clock and felt a shallow breath escape me. It was Milin’s first parents’ evening and neither his mum nor his dad had been there. His dad was at work, while I simply just forgot about it and was probably drinking a cup of tea at the very moment his nursery mentor realised I wasn’t going to show.
In some ways it is ridiculous that Milin, who is 22 months old, has parents’ evening. He goes to nursery for two mornings a week. I am given a slip of paper every time I pick him up which tells me how many times his nappy was changed, what he ate, and what he did in the few hours I didn’t see him. I talk to the staff at length about him because I want to know each day what he has done in that time without me. I miss him in those hours, and although I know what he is scheduled to do each day (yoga on Tuesdays, zumba on Thursdays) – I still want details. Did he enjoy story time today? Did he get really involved in singing?
Each week, Milin’s nursery send an email newsletter. I dutifully read what his class will be doing that week. I look up the menu to see what home-made organic meals he will be served up. I take note of the parents’ actions section and make a mental note of anything I should be doing.
I’m an at-home mother. It is part of the job description to do this stuff. But isn’t parents evening for my one-year-old taking things too far? What more can the nursery staff tell me? (Of course, I can’t actually answer this because I didn’t go, so I have no idea what more they could have told me.)
In some ways though, I see that it’s not ridiculous at all to have a parents’ evening for nursery-goers. For parents who can’t pick up their children themselves and want feedback about how they are doing – parents’ evening must be useful. For parents who perhaps don’t have time to ask lots of questions each time they do the pick up – parents’ evening must be a welcome time to do that. For parents who have specific worries – again parents’ evening is probably the place to address them.
None of that applies to me though. It’s taken Milin ages to settle into nursery, and he still has some screaming fits when we leave him there. As a result, I spent a lot of time talking to the staff there. I feel sure already that I know how he is getting on.
Yet I still feel so guilty about missing parents’ evening.
If I’ve missed this one, what does that say about the future. Will I always be one of those mums who just forgets to show? What else will I forget? Does it mean I don’t care?
Of course I care. It probably means nothing. It probably means I was preoccupied because Milin had a temperature and didn’t eat anything apart from a small bowl of ice cream and one digestive biscuit all day. It probably means I’ll make sure I never forget parents’ evening again.
But that doesn’t make the mummy guilt go away. It’s like there’s a new reason for it to rear its head every single day. I know there’ll be plenty of other parents’ evenings, and they’ll be at times in Milin’s life when they matter more. But today, when I was the mum who forgot to go and ask more questions about her child, the mummy guilt was there, taking me by surprise and pressing down on my shoulders for the rest of the day.
Tomorrow might be a new day, but I know that guilt will still be there. It might be something else that sets it off, but now it’s in, it’s hard not to let it creep into my consciousness and linger there like an unwelcome intruder.