Thursday, June 07, 2007

La Mère Coupable

I was riding home on the train last night when a woman in a nearby seat asked about the shawl. (Two more rounds to go, thanks.)

At this point, I've been carrying the thing with me for three months. Questions have been commonplace. My 30-second spiel was primed and ready,* and I delivered it.

What I wasn't expecting was her response: "Seeing you do that makes me feel so guilty."

I asked why. She said that she has two small children but doesn't knit, crochet, or sew. What's more, she doesn't want to. And so, "You're a guy, making something for somebody's baby, and I'm a mother and my kids get all their stuff at the store. I feel bad about that."

Her children weren't present, but I'm guessing they're not running around Chicago naked. More likely they're as well-fed and nicely groomed as she. And yet the fact that their clothes were bought, not handmade, troubled her.

Here was an aspect of the knitting-and-gender issue I've never pondered. Men sometimes get flak for knitting. But a woman suffering guilt for not knitting? Still? Now? In 2007?

Honestly, I figured that last vestiges of that sort of thing had drifted away when I was a kid in the mid-seventies, buoyed aloft by the heat rising from a million brightly burning brassieres.*

Is this just a mother thing? Or does it affect womenfolk in general? Needless to say, I'm interested to hear your thoughts on this.

More on "Missed Connections"


I didn't pursue the fellow on the subway because I couldn't recognize him from his description, and you'd have to experience the Freak Parade that is my commute to appreciate what a can of worms a blind hello might open for me.

I don't know why he didn't/doesn't just come over and say hello, unless he's painfully shy or was crushed to death by a bus immediately after posting his notice. In which case, I sympathize. But I have to finish this shawl, so honestly I'm not looking around much between my stop and the university.

Oh, and my guess about what happened to Patrick? My guess is that when the gangway hit the dock, Patrick suddenly remembered he had a boyfriend at home. They're called shipboard romances for a reason.

Or so says Dolores.

*Little-known fact: Large-scale lace knitting in public is the perfect training for making "elevator pitches" to film and television executives. Hollywood, here I come.

**In a moment of uncharacteristic candor, my grandmother once said apropos of this topic, "No way in hell I would walk around without a bra. But I would have burned my darn girdle if they asked me."

112 comments:

Rachel said...

Thank you for bringing this up, Franklin. I think women can agree that feminism is good thing. However, I think sometimes we receive mixed messages, and in the long run wind up confused. Decisions such as whether to stay home, or work full time; Make clothes by hand with love, or dispose of "domestic" art forms; wear a good fitting bra, or let the girls free. Women as traditional care-givers face guilt in many situations. (Not that men don't) but I think sometimes that we either have a long way to go, or we need to stick to our guns (decisions, whatever) and feel whole no matter what those decisions may be.

Ann (yet another) said...

Ah, she's probably Irish Catholic. We do guilt on a big scale. 8-) That would be why I'm now a Taoist. 8-)

Thorny said...

RE: The Mommy Guilt - my friend, I think it shocks all of us, even us hard-core Missy Feministy liberated mamas, how easily the Mommy Guilt comes upon us and the directions from whence it springs.

I remember saying to Meg, at one point when my twins were just a couple months old, "Oh my god, and I haven't done a /thing/ with their scrap books. I'm such a terrible mother." And she gave me That Look (even though we were on the phone, I could feel it) and said, "Yes, well, when you start averaging more than two showers a week, then you can worry about their scrapbooks. Until then, I think you should focus on getting more than four hours' sleep a night."

It should be noted that I've never actually been a scrapbooking kinda gal. I got a couple scrapbooks for my kids as shower presents, but it's not I am, was, or ever have been "a scrapbooker."

Anyway. I could go on about this subject for days, but I'll spare you the dissertation. :)

Helen said...

Cette mère n'est pas coupable. Elle se sent coupable, voyez-vous. Je vous le signale parce que vous aimez la langue et vous sentirez bien la différence.

-Hélène

Anna-Liza said...

Very nice thinking point. Having never, within my memory, been male (and therefore not a Daddy), all I can say is that Mommy Guilt lurks at all times and will spring upon a mother at any time with the slightest provocation. Or none.

I have two kids who are now adults, and are (as far as I can tell) really wonderful people, but I still feel guilty about, well, almost everything. It's like free-floating anxiety. I feel guilty and then start listing all the things about which I should feel guilty.

I also have two small kids, and am discovering whole new worlds of guilt. (Like, what was I thinking having more kids in a world like this? And, how can I possibly be a good mother if all I want to do is knit and read?)

Still, it is interesting to look at the perception of gender and activity. I'm going to enjoy mulling that one over for a while.

Anonymous said...

Oh Hélène, so true. And the guilt feeling may just comes from her fond memory of those little mittens with embroided rabit faces made by her mother and she simply wished her kids had the same good memories.

This being said, I knit for pure personal pleasure, not to please someone. If the later happens, it's a bonus.

Manon

AuntyNin said...

The lady's comment may have been sparked by her being a working mom who wants to be stay at home but can't. Many such women feel very strong guilt, though they are doing their level best to be good parents.

However, I think your grandmother and I would get along very well... because that was my reaction to the whole bra-burning frenzy as well.

Judy G. said...

Thank god I do knit (although not for the kids- they've always been too hot) or that would be one more thing to feel guilty about. I don't know if it's a gender thing, or if I "sweat the small stuff" like DH says (or maybe he's just shallow), but I do know that there are certain mothers with whom I could never compete. You know the type- the perfect birthday parties, the perfect house, the perfect yard, yadda yadda yadda. I take a small measure consolation from the fact that one of my "perfecter" neighbors likes to go for "Vietnese" food. I guess I'm petty. I'm okay with that.

Kristen said...

Oh women's guilt is quite a complex thing. I can't speak to mom guilt, but I can speak to the whole feminist guilt complex. For example, when I was an up and coming feminist in the 80s I remember feeling very conflicted over my desire to wear make up. Could I wear that fabulous Marilyn-Monroe-Red lipstick and still be true to my feminist self? Ahh, we are a bizarre lot sometimes. (In case you're interested I did wear makeup--limited amounts, tastefully done--until a few years ago when problems with dry eyes rendered that impossible.)

K8 said...

Interesting food for thought. I think women get alot of mixed messages (as said above). Have a career, be independent, but don't desert your family and be sure that dinner is ready on time and didn't you do the laundry? Or maybe that's just my perception - but I think women sometimes feel a need to do it all to prove that they can. I'd be offended if anyone expected me to cook for them, but I'd like to be able to prove that I can.

KnitNana said...

I LOVE your grandmother's quote! Smart lady.

I think it's the same thing that's been going on for generations. Society (read Freud and everyone else since) is very, very good at making women think they are the *ONLY* reason their kids have "problems" - as in, if Mom had been present, had cooked, had not worked, had sewn, had taught Sunday School, had driven the school bus, had stayed married to dad, had divorced dad,... (fill in the extended "ought to haves")

We mothers have a way of taking all that in. We're never good enough. We always are one "ought" short of perfect...Huge guilt complexes.

And when the kids turn out to have problems, it's all our fault.

(Even if they're Magna Cum Laude at Harvard, and turn out to be stellar contributors to society, there's always SOMETHING wrong...)

Mothers can't win.

Rant over.
(((Hugs)))

pamela said...

As a Mom, I have knit and sewed for my girls. They loved it. I wish I had had the time to do more, but I also work full time. I would have felt guilty if I hadn't done it, simply because I have the skills and I love doing it. However, I would never think less of any Mom that does not do those things. I'm sure there is something that I didn't do for my kids that the Mom on the train did wonderfully for her kids.

Carol said...

My first question is how does one get a polyester or nylon garment, particular one with wire in it, to burn? I imagine a smoking, stinking, petroleum-byproduct filthy mess. Can't we burn tighty-whiteys instead? At least they are mostly cotton.

As for mom guilt, Tom and I often joke that our kids will end up bitching that they never were allowed to buy a sweater from the damn Gap. "We always had to wear the ones my mother made!" We have taken to telling them when they are unhappy at one of our parental decisions: "At least you will have something to tell your therapist when you get older."

Plus ca change, plus c'est la meme chose.

Nancy said...

Mommy-guilt comes up, for those of us non-mommies, as housewife-guilt or professional-guilt or any number of other guilts. My mother was excellent as training me to feel guilt about most anything! (Protestant-Irish in my case...)

Kristin said...

Never underestimate the power of the so-called 'Mommy Wars' (the media's term, NOT mine) to rear its ugly head in the most unusual of places. It's truly a shame that we are never allowed to be enough - either for ourselves or for our children.

I became a stay at home Mom 4.5 years ago, and have been horrified since then to discover the truth of feminism and motherhood in today's world. No one should be made to feel less than for making the decisions that are right for her family, but all too often that's exactly what happens.

I'm grateful that feminism gave me the choice to do what I felt was best. I do think, however, that we have a very long way to go towards accepting one another's decisions.

I'm truly blessed to have a group of friend who celebrate each other and our differences. Love comes in many forms, after all, and what works for one family doesn't neccessarily work for another.

Katje said...

My first baby got a handmade (although tied, not quilted) baby quilt from me. My second baby got some handmade dresses. My third... well, I did take a few photos of him before he hit six feet tall!

The fourth... well, thank goodness I married into a quilting, knitting family full of productive grandmas. Otherwise, the kid would be nekkid and cold at night.

Yeah, I wish I had time to do all that stuff for my own kids. But they don't know the difference, and there will be time if/when I have grandkids. If not, well, there are plenty of other folks to knit for.

Tina Shrader said...

I think women are socially programmed to feel guilt. Women who have children are constantly told that they're not being the right kind of mother. No matter what kind of mother they actually are, there's social pressure saying they should be different in some way. Women who choose not to have children are viewed by large segments of society as being deficient and abnormal, and often feel guilty about that.

I don't think that guilt is a product of feminism-- I think it's a product of a society that really wants women (and men, for that matter) to fit into a defined set of roles so that social interactions don't require actual consideration of each human being as an individual.

Err... sorry to rant in my first delurk in your blog. This is a subject near and dear to my heart.

Ruth said...

As has been said, Mommy-guilt is limitless. If I went back to my 100-hour-a-week, soul sucking profession and rarely saw my two kids, they would have much more "stuff" (albeit not made by me), expensive lessons in... everything, my son would attend the most cutting edge brain developing daycare, etc. Instead, they have me, and a few hand-knit sweaters, and I have guilt from the other side of the fence as a terrible example of a "successful" woman, setting the clock back by failing (choosing not)to "do it all", etc. How will that glass ceiling ever burst if women like me decide to be happy instead of break ground?

On another note, I believe in hand-made clothing for many reasons, both socio-political and esthetic, but I also think it has been sentimentalized to a ludicrous degree. I had quite a lot of hand-made clothing as a child - because money was tight. Some of it was very nice, and some of it was hideous and a source of much teasing. My mother was/is a wonderful woman, but she did not become less so when buying our clothing became a better use of her time and money.

I think an enormous challenge for women is to tease out what we actually want and believe in and prioritize accordingly.

Cherice said...

Ah Mom guilt. My kids will probably have to have years of therapy because we refuse to have cable tv (we have 4 channels, one more than I had growing up), we eat home cooked meals (my 6 year old daughter doesn't know who Ronald McDonald is). There are so many many things to feel guilty about (do I do too much for them? Or not enough?) I'd like to think that I'm not affected by mom guilt, but with 4 kids ages 20 down to 6, it is just a part of life.

Rabbitch said...

Oh, the mommy guilt, the mommy guilt. On top of being a bad daughter I'm also a bad mommy and deal with it daily.

I make more than twice what my husband does, and on top of that do 90% of the housework, all of the yardwork, almost all of the household admin (finances, shopping, etc.) and I think you know how many hours a week I work.

And yet, if I send a box of store-bought cupcakes to a school event (and thank the FSM for stores that are open at 6am so I can buy them on the way home from work) I feel like I'm failing.

I still manage to make hand-knit stuff for my kidlet, but ... yeah.

She was just feeling like many working moms do; that somehow we're failing by not being Betty Crocker or Martha Stewart or something.

Thank god we make enough to pay for the therapy.

Erika said...

On darker days, I feel guilty BECAUSE I knit. Like, millions of women fought hard all their lives so that I would have the right to vote, own property, work any job I like, and choose not to raise children or get married. And I want to take all that hard-earned freedom and use it to KNIT? How dismayingly gender-typical.

This feeling is worse when I knit dishcloths. I love knitting dishcloths, but I won't knit them in public, because, honestly.

Abby Franquemont said...

Interesting question, to be sure. I'd concur to a degree with the other commenters who've mentioned mommy guilt; mommy guilt is an irrational, visceral thing whose roots are, I believe, somewhere in the fact that at some point as a mom, you realize that without you, the kid wouldn't be here, and in fact, never asked to be, so it really IS "all your fault." Strong, intelligent, educated, motivated, high-achieving women can even be felled by it, thinking as it hits, "Who is this in my head thinking this? It isn't me; I don't agree with this!"

I'm a 30-something feminist; I was raised by a 1960s feminist mother, who was raised by a feminist mother herself, and HER mother in turn was a cigar-smoking, bloomer-wearing suffragette. And in my home right now are textile objects, household items, clothing, and so forth, made by each one of those women. Whether or not to be a feminist was something that never occurred to me to ask -- nor my mother, nor very possibly hers; but neither was the question of whether or not to master textile skills. My family, I suppose, has long been filled with people who argue that such pursuits are not inherently gendered, boring, demeaning, outdated, and so forth.

I will say, though, that when I was in my teens and thereabouts, handmade stuff was definitely viewed by my peers as being bad. It meant, apparently, poverty. I had peers in multiple parts of the US who believed -- as did their parents -- that if it wasn't storebought, it was not as good. In those times, if I, my mother, grandmother, or anybody was seen making something by hand, it was not viewed as lovingly made by hand -- it was viewed as weird, outlandish, and probably due to being poor. After all, if you could afford to buy things, you'd do that instead of making them, right? I think that belief had a huge impact on the passing-from-prominence of household skills involving textiles. And probably others as well, but hey, textiles are the ones I know about. ;-)

(oh, I guess this is me delurking, btw! FWIW, I definitely believe that Abigails benefit greatly from having things lovingly handmade for them by their family members.)

marie in florida said...

how 'bout some kid guilt? my kids preferred Kraft mac-n-cheeze to my home made mac-n-cheez...did they feel guilty, no sir, they did not!

i do feel a bit guilty about not providing them with more money but; since i knew i wasn't going to , i provided them with the attitude one needs to go without money sometimes. that worked out very well.
they're the kind of kids who might buy books and go hungry for a few days. Can we get the rest of that story dear?

kalkette said...

I don't know if this falls into the category, but I am a knitter, crocheter and a bit of a sewer (I don't have any children yet but plan to someday) and my mother-in-law says that she feels bad that she doesn't make anything for her grandchildren (our nieces) but I think she means it in a more "things to pass on to the next generation" type of thing.
Interesting question though.

Jamie said...

When I first started knitting, I was embarassed to do it on the train/subway. I was a 20 something doing "that grandma" thing. (it was a few years before it became trendy). Plus, there was a period of time where I was a professional seamstress, and I got talked down to a lot - by classmates studying engineering in college and people I ran into in daily life. It's not that I can't do other things, it's just that sewing for other people makes me really really happy! So i guess I feel guilty in another way - doing those "female" things are the things that really fulfill me! (like happy faces after a I made a really good dinner!)

Jennifer said...

I think this kind of mommy guilt is very common. As a mom, I sometimes feel very guilty for not doing things that seem to be beneficial for my children. Of course I do take very good care of them, and love them to bits, but it always seems to me that there's something else I could be doing for them. I suppose it's partly biological, the drive to give your offspring as much as you can.

pacalaga said...

I struggled a lot with the idea that I had to do my tech job, my commute, and keep a house the way my (stay-at-home) mom did. Even now I'm much more comfortable with the career side of me than with the homemaker side. I was amazed - astounded - by how natural it felt to suddenly be a mom, in light of that. I still haven't knit my kid a single blessed thing, though.

Taphophile said...

Ah yes, the guilt thing. I get the reaction from older women. I find it perplexing and my standard response to it is that knitting is not compulsory.

It seems not to occur to younger women that they should feel guilty about not hand-crafting. They shouldn't, of course, and it's just wonderful that it doesn't cross their minds.

Alwen said...

Ouch, nerve duly touched.

I confess, when I gave birth, I was instantly flooded by love and guilt. My post-natal "depression" was more like floods of tears: someday someone was going to be mean to this beautiful tiny baby boy. My heart was just broken at the thought.

Where does that quote come from, that the heart has to be broken, to love? I didn't understand that until he was born.

While I worked full-time, while he was an infant (at home with his father: an education I heartily recommend for any man), I felt terrifically guilty that I could not be home with my baby. Any woman who has left a 6-week-old infant to go back to work can probably sympathize with the feeling. They are so tiny and dependent.

Now that I have been a full-time stay-at-home mom since my job was downsized during the big dot-com bust back in 2001, I feel terrifically guilty when we go grocery-shopping and I tell him I can't afford some toy or treat or other.

Guilt gets us coming and going!

I guess there will always be something or other that I want to give him that I can't.

Lise in NJ said...

You can also thank Martha Stewart for creating a fad in handwork, decoration, presentation and so forth, and making it look so easy that anyone who doesn't follow the fad feel inadequate.
Just add "handknitting for the children" after "serving three nurturing home-cooked meals" to the list of things we haven't managed. You'll find it well below "attain and maintain Size 4 figure" and on the list of things whose neglect renders us worthless.

Erica said...

My personal experience has been just the opposite of guilt over *not* knitting...when people find out I knit, I usually get some crack about how I'm doing something an "old" person would do...which just makes my blood boil. I don't tell people to not wear that too-short skirt because they're doing something a "young" person would do or stop with the comb-over because only "young" people have hair.

Can you tell this annoys me? :)

kate r said...

Oh Franklin...another clever post. I do have guilt. I think everyone has guilt about one thing or another. My guilt stems from wanting to make others happy. I like to see the people around me happy and if I feel that they are not, I start to think about what I could do to help them to happiness...I know it's all about what's inside a person and you can't make others happy, but that's how it is with me. Usually I remember to do what makes me happy. Making things for people is high on that list.

elizabeth marley said...

I think that so many of our mothers and grandmothers were taught to knit by *their* mothers and grandmothers, but my generation's mothers did not pass the tradition of handwork onto us. I'm sure they had good reason for it, but when it comes down to having children...So many of us still have the illusion of being mothers who make all of our children's clothes and pack perfect lunches, etc, etc, and we feel the guilt when we realize we aren't that ind of mother. Society doesn't want that kind of mother anymore!

Carol said...

Here's an interesting thought for all the biologists out there: perhaps there is a scientific or evolutionary reason for mommy guilt? That survival of your children (back in the days when it was all about survival in its most elemental sense) depended on a mother devoting herself wholly to protecting and nurturing her child, physically mostly but also emotionally? And now that we don't have to lug buckets of water from the spring or kill gnus with stone axes, that "I'm not doing enough for my child and s/he will not survive" instinct survives in the form of mommy guilt -- translated into the 21st c. into our relatively affluent society?

becky c. said...

I have never been a non-knitting mom, so I don't know about the guilt. I will say, I don't look down on people who don't knit, sew, etc. for their kids. Feed 'em, clothe 'em, love 'em - good enough for me.

Molly said...

It's not just Mother Guilt, it's Woman Guilt. Our whole societal structure makes women feel guilty about everything. You need to be a supermodel, first and most importantly. You need to "please you man," with so little emphasis on your own desires that the average high-school or college woman has no idea what she wants in a lover or in bed (but does know that, whoever he is, he'll expect blowjobs and perfect tits). Then you need to be the perfect wife, but also the perfect career woman. If you choose one--either one--you're a bad person, that's it, don't collect $200. Of course, if your husband so much as picks the kid up from school, he's a saint. If you forget, you're Satan herself.
And don't forget those other guilts: you have to be "presentable" at all times (Buy! Buy! Buy!), and so does your house (Clean! Clean! Clean!) and your husband (Nag! Nag! Nag!). You have to be smiley, or you're a bitch. If you compromise, you're a doormat; if you stand up for yourself, you're mannish or aggressive. Etc, etc.
THEN comes the Mommy Guilt--when you're primed from decades of Woman Guilt. So it's not any worse, but by then you've gotten the message: if you're not feeling guilty about some kind of failure, you need to feel guilty about not realizing what a failure you are!

MonicaPDX said...

Along with other commenters, I think it's women in general. While I've never been a mother, I'm the third grandma to my stepdaughter's son. I was her father's 2nd wife. Her mother is living with them, and of course there's also her husband's mother. Bad enough that with the depression and agoraphobia, I hardly ever get over to see him; so at age 7, he's probably still not quite sure who the hell this woman is they keep telling him to call Nana Monica on rare occasions. [g] But have I ever successfully finished knitting something for him? Well-- Ok, one thing; a big baby blanket before he was born. After that? Nada. (Although finishing anything is a rare event with me.) Do I feel guilty, despite the fact that his other grandmothers give him presents all the time? (Even though I know his maternal grandma has been jealous from his birth of his paternal grandma, so I figured from the start it'd be a good idea to keep family harmony by not being too pushy. I'm literally a 3rd wheel already.) Do I feel like a bad grandma anyway? You damned betcha.

But then, I wasn't the perfect wife, either, and my late husband seemed to think I was doing pretty well, so I tell myself screw it, you do what you can do.

Doesn't always work, but you know, if you're lucky, the older you get, the better you can do at feeling less guilty. I'm 52, and still working on it. ;)

Carson said...

Well, I'm not a mother (that's if you don't count the dog) but I've got a minor attack of the "I don't do enough gift-knitting" at the moment.
Is knitting almost everything for oneself selfish? Hmmmm

Julie said...

As a knitter, and the parent of a toddler, I occasionally get crap of the "Oh, why don't you knit for your child?" variety. I'll tell you why; the kid grows like a weed and even the simplest pattern will be outgrown in less time than it takes me to knit it. (Seriously. She's been known to jump a size in clothing in a MONTH.) When she quits growing and I can count on her not to grind raspberries into the elbows of her clothing (yesterday's fun), I will be happy to knit her works of art. In the meantime, forget it.

Oh, and your grandmother sounds like a hoot. Go, Grandma!

Julie said...

Oh, and Franklin? Suggest to your sister she read these comments. I imagine right now she's running slap into the Mommy Guilts (or it's relative, Mommy Terror - "Oh holy **** I'm responsible for another human being.") and it'll do her heart good to know that she's surrounded by a lot of perfectly sane women who feel the same way. And best wishes to her.

Craftygrrrl said...

Or Patrick suddenly remembered he had a wife and kids at home in deepest darkest suburbia who thought he was off at a sales conference.

jenfromRI said...

Damn. I was hoping for more under the "foundation garments" label.

calamity rach said...

A rant on feminism:

I love wearing my bra. Some days it feels great to go without, but sometimes they're just too damn heavy to deal with not wearing one. Plus, I don't like getting intently peered at by my best friend who exclaims, "...you're not wearing a bra today!" or leered at by the men I see walking around.

I love wearing make up! Sometimes it's tasteful and enhances my natural prettiness and sometimes it's garish because I like feeling like I'm wearing a costume and thus, someone completely different.

I love knitting! I love wearing things that I made myself! I feel so proud when someone tells me how much they like my [insert clothing item].

I don't want kids! I am a maladjusted young woman, and more than likely would not make a very good mother. At least I know this before I have a baby and then find out I don't want it anymore a few days/weeks/months/years later.

So where does that leave me? I think I'm more of a feminist than most who actually claim to be feminists because I love and fully embrace my femininity. I love being able to do things that guys can't. I love being able to ask for help if I need it. I'm all for equal rights, but I don't consider myself a feminist because I don't think I'm any better than any man just because I have tits.

Donna said...

I have to agree with the majority of responders that there exists some sort of "ideal" out there that we must be all things to all people. But at some point, you have to stop reading all the magazines, and listen to your gut when it comes to being not just a wife or mother, but a REAL person. I knit whenever I can scrape a few moments together. Some items have gone to my son, others get gifted or stored to be a gift someday.

I've always taken pride in the fact that my son sees me creating something. If it's a sweater that he wishes he had in a certain color, or a sleeping bag for one of his stuffed animals, his first reaction is to ask if I can make him one. I love that he doesn't immediately assume that it has to be bought. So, even though he doesn't get that many knitted items, and he may never grow to be a knitter himself (although he has learned!), I feel like he's gotten value from my knitting beyond a warm piece of clothing.

Let's stop beating ourselves up; that "perfect woman" you think you see over there is likely more of a mess than you can imagine!!

Mama Cat said...

I can't even bear to read the other mother guilt comments ... at least not until I brain dump my own here. Then I'll read 'em and feel the angst.

Look, a day doesn't go by that I don't worry that I'm doing something wrong or am inadequate as a mother. I am a (quite happily) working mom with a high-falutin' job & fancy title at a university, yet I still make ALL my own whole wheat bread, homemade yogurt, and hand-knitted socks for my kid. AND I STILL feel guilty.

If I do too much for her - she's not independent enough. I do too little - I'm neglecting her. I push her to do her best - I'll give her an ulcer. I don't push her - I'm encouraging her to be lazy. I get her nice clothes - I'm spoiling her. I get her stuff at Target or the concession place - the other kids will torment her. It's never-ending.

I mean honestly I know I'm not a terrible mom, and might even be a good one. I have no idea where the guilt comes from. But it's always there, like background static.

Ella said...

I think you opened a big can of worms!
It's funny, I'm taking a textile arts workshop this week, and we had pretty much the same discussion today. How much we are prepared do for ourselves compared to what we will do for others in our family.
I have a great husband, he's happy to do things around the house, but when he cleans or cooks I feel guilty. I work out of my house 40-50 hours a week, do the laundry while I'm working, shop for and prepare all meals, etc, etc. Yet when I have free time to myself to knit or sew, I still make things for the kids! My daughter moved out 4 years ago and I'm still doing stuff for her too, I think it must be some gene we're stuck with. Maybe in another 1000 years we'll get over the guilt and move on.
Oh yes, I took a week off work to take my workshop, but I'm still working in the evenings because I felt I was letting my boss down if I didn't! Gotta learn to say NO!

Laiane said...

I don't have any children. I don't want any children. I knit only for myself (well, I did knit two felted beds for my cats...). I don't wash my husband's clothes. I enjoy my job and I'm perfectly capable of "not taking it home with me."

No mommy-guilt, no housewife-guilt, no professional-guilt.

I guess there's something wrong with me. LOL

Laura said...

I love that you created a "foundation garments" label just for this post.

Cindy G said...

When I was a little girl, I thought my next door neighbor, Brian, was the luckiest person in the world, because he always had home made bread at his house. He thought I was the luckiest kid in the world because I actually got to eat Wonderbread every day. Probably both our Moms felt guilty, if not on account of the bread, then over other issues. I'm sure there were plenty.

Lot's of pressure out there (much of it commercially motivated) to live up to some imaginary ideal of perfect parenthood.

Andrea Rusin said...

I think feminism is a red herring in this phenomenon. We're neither spared guilt nor dealt an extra dose of it because of feminism. Or so I think, anyway ;) It's just that the stakes are very high in this parenting thing -for the children, for our own self-esteem, and for...you know... the freakin' PLANET- and there aren't a lot of external indicators that we're on the right path, until the active parenting stage is almost over and then the opportunities for drastic change are somewhat limited. It can get a little crazy-making.

If something MIGHT help create safe, secure, balanced, generous, careful tenants of the planet... we need to be doing it. (Or so we imagine.)

Knitting the little darlings yummy things clearly isn't essential. But it's one way of telling the child, symbolically, that s/he is cherished and worthy of our time, talent, and money. That part is essential, and we're always looking for healthy ways of doing that.

Unfortunately, there are also a jillion OTHER ways that we never get around to. Enter guilt, stage right.

Some nights I go to bed with the Sweethearts of the Rodeo song "Have I Done Enough" running through my head. Because society, my mother, television... don't inflict enough guilt on me, I thought I should probably heap some more on.

Linda said...

Lots of good comments here.
Don't men feel this sort of guilt too? Is it only women?

I have no children, nor do I want any. But of course I still feel guilty about not doing enough. I work full time, but when I was first married, I felt guilty if the meals I cooked several times a week weren't wildly approved by my husband. If I didn't cook dinner at all, I felt even more guilty. Now after nearly 10 years of marriage I've moved on to "This is what I'm cooking tonight. If you want some, have some. If not, there's more for me!"

Instead I feel guilty about not interacting more with my dogs. I feel like I should be taking them out for long walks or playing fetch with them in the yard all the time.

There's always something to feel guilty about!

nessagr said...

I think the woman's comment comes from the growing appreciation many people have for authentic, hand-made things, whatever they may be, and the human connection tied to them. It's nice to know that even in this consumerist, disposable-goods brand-obsessed society, many people still cherish things made by hand. As a mother, she is probably lamenting the missed opportunity to pass this appreciation on to her children in such a creative, loving way. Though hopefully she did so in other ways.

Anonymous said...

Yes, but Mommy guilt is what nice gay uncles are for!

Rachel said...

Thought-provoking, insightful, and intelligent comments from everyone.

I don't have children - which comes with its own guilt. I'm a happily married woman in her early thirties, and not a week goes by where I'm not quizzed on why I don't have any children. Beyond the unbelievable nosiness of this question comes the implicit suggestion that I have somehow failed as a woman by not procreating. Not to mention the comments from my grandmother about how nice it would be to hold a great-grand-baby before she dies.

Sadly, I think there is some benefit to corporate America, advertisers, and the patriarchy to keep women feeling guilty.

And I think it is very likely that the mothers who posted here about their feelings of guilt are all great moms - seriously, do really bad moms feel guilty about it?

lizbon said...

Oh I think women are still culturally trained to feel guilty about anything and everything, especially the welfare of anyone remotely connected to them.

But that is not my main comment. My main comment is I just have to point out the superfabulousness of a blog that has a whole subject tag for Foundation Garments. I mean, seriously. Rock star status.

~Lori said...

Touched a nerve, Franklin. I know I'm at least the third commenter delurking to make a contribution.

For once I guess I'm in the majority. Count me among the irrationally guilt-ridden.

My daughter was ill almost from the day she was born. My husband and I spent 10 weeks trying to get her to eat; figure out why she couldn't keep down what little she did eat; convince the @#$%! complacent pediatrician that she was not "just a preemie" but rather extremely sick; figure out whether or not he was right and we were just delusional with lack of sleep; pump my breasts every 3 hours around the clock; oh yeah, and also take care of her (healthy) twin brother.

I felt guilty for not putting her in cloth diapers. How wrong is that?

Indie Mama said...

Hmmm....I've often thought that feminism, by allowing women to choose their own path, has brought up so many options that the pressure to choose the *exact best one* can be quite overwhelming. We no longer have an excuse - we can stay at home, ban TV, clothe diaper, and breastfeed until our nipples won't take it anymore...we can go to work, join playgroups and enrichment activities, exposure our children to all sorts of stimuli...but now we must find the best option at any given point, because we can...we have no excuse...

Not that feminism is bad (at all), but...it can become rather *overwhelming*.

Lone said...

I'm with those who refer to this as woman guilt. Just yesterday the local news had a report about how suicide attempts at a local high school were increasing, especially among the girls. They did interviews and the girls all talked about the pressure to be perfect.

It is time that women learn to let things be but I also know how difficult it is. Society expects women to be the care keepers, even when it says something else.

I've had long talks about this with my boyfriend because he didn't understand why I got so upset about the house cleaning. I work more than him and am studying as well so I simple don't have neither the time nor the energy to do everything and don't want to either but if strangers were to see the state of the house it would still be my "fault". When a man's house is dirty and messy it's because he's a man and can't help it. When a woman lives in the same way she's a slob... Personally I can live with the mess in itself but I know a lot of women can't and even though I know it's silly I worry about other people's thoughts.

Linda said...

I laughed our loud at the crushed to death theory.

Cate K said...

We are supposed to be all things to all people. We must work a full time job (either in partnership with significant other or alone), give birth, grocery shop and cook and clean (sometimes you get help here and with laundry if you have a decent partner) and still play Martha. I knit for other people mostly, but sometimes, when I knit for myself I feel guilty... this sweater/shawl/sock/etc should be for someone else.

Carol said...

I rarely do guilt (or think I'm wrong but that's another story). I have a J.D. and I stay home with 2 children. I participate in environmental action and make cookies. I write letters to Congressman and knit. I'm fine with the dichotomy but see others struggle constantly. People feel like Jekyll & Hyde if they have to be strong corporate types and/or Mommy homemaker because we've always been told you can't be both. Well, why not? Feminism is about choice, not decision. On the other side - American society is not ready to allow both or, indeed, give you the time to do both.

Rachael said...

Oh the guilt. There's always guilt! I'm not a mother, so I don't have that guilt. But as a working wife, I have guilt that I want to hire someone to clean the house, I work less hours than my husband, why don't I have enough energy to keep it clean?

I did pose the option of the fancy dinners I like to make OR a clean house and we decided hiring someone to clean was the way to go.

But still, I feel guilt. I feel guilt that I knit so much for myself and only a few things for other people. I know, I know, there are people who sit around and watch tv without MAKING anything - do they feel guilty about that? Realistically the people I make things for are probably quite pleased, but how do you determine at what holidays people get knitted items? b/c if they all did every holiday I wouldn't have time to make things for me, and really with all honestly I knit because I want to make pretty things for ME. The gifts are just a random offshoot of that.

I guess I'm a bit selfish - see there's the guilt kicking right in!!

Peter of Walla Walla said...

Stay at home dad here, father of 7. Parents feel guilty because they have expectations that are too high for what they feel like they have to do for (and get for) their kids. We live in a very materialistic society and age, so one must ask oneself: Who sets my standards? More of us need to sit down and knit ourselves a pair of lime green socks and in so doing, come to terms with the drummer to which each of us marches.

Anonymous said...

Franklin, I think you summed it up best in your blog the other day "both needed and sufficient". That feeling is so elusive yet so desired it becomes what we chase. Through love, possessions, learning, religions, writing, knitting......
How many of us feel we are ever sufficient? Not me. No matter what I accomplish, how beautiful my knitting. I want ot be more.

Steph said...

My mom sewed me a lot of clothes when I was growing up (mostly in the '80s). She'd sew me something, and then she'd go on a rant about how she couldn't believe she was sewing me something new when I never wore any of the things she made me anyway, ungrateful, blah blah, all that work for nothing, blah blah. She knew how to share the guilt around, at least.

The thing is, I did wear the stuff she gave me (which was remarkable given that in the '80s kids would flog each other for not wearing the right labels). But it was never enough for her. Now that I'm a knitter I understand her perspective: when you put such effort into something, you want to see your kids love it, and they'll probably never love it the way you want them to. It's most satisfying to knit for newborns, because they have to wear whatever you put on them, as often as you want. And by equal measure, if you don't make them anything by hand, they won't notice or care, so guilt is unnecessary--if, sadly, somewhat unavoidably preconditioned.

This is a delurk. I love your blog, Franklin, it's one of my favorites. :)

Mary Lynn said...

Guilt . . . hmmmm . . . I just thought it was a Catholic or Jewish thing . . . I'm Catholic, my boss is Jewish and we compare guilt trips on a regular basis!

Anyway, there are times when I have felt guilty. With my oldest daughter we did EVERYTHING. I made her dresses with scallops and crocheted collars and doll clothes to match. We "did" gymnastics and swimming and dance and recitals and . . . all kinds of other stuff.

With our next daughter, we didn't do nearly as much. For one thing, she loved everything that was her sister's and since there was eight years between them in age, her sister was thrilled to pass her stuff along (which is great when they were 3 and 11 . . . but is much more of a problem at 13 and 21 and the 13 year old gets angry when I say lovely things like "no, you cannot wear Sarah's dress, it is not age appropriate nor do you have the boobs to fill it" (not pc but what the hell, I am the Queen and my kids know it).

With my youngest, we do more fun stuff cause I've discovered that "I don't care." Stuff isn't important. Fun is. He is seven years younger than my youngest daughter . . . yes siree, the kiddos are 21, 13 and 6 . . . it is a lovely thing.

Yes, they have to pick up their stuff. Yes, they have to help do the laundry. If they are going to have their friends over, then they had damn well better clean, because both of their parents work full-time. I bought a new sewing machine because I don't like hand sewing hems. I make bread because I LOVE MAKING bread. I knit because I LOVE TO KNIT. And, sometimes, I even knit for them but not anything that cannot be left out in the yard after it has been wrapped around a snowman.

What I find amazing, is the number of people who feel guilty for not doing something that they don't know how to do and have no desire to learn.

For me, guilt should be reserved for those who haven't called those who love them because they are too busy.

dragon knitter said...

i think the biggest deal with this is finding what is appropriate for you, as a mother. some women cannot cook. they burn water. they find appropriate ways to feed their children without poisoning them, be it the spouse cooks, or they eat out.
i suspect this woman comes from a crafting family. she probably had sweaters and hats and mittens made for her by a grandmother, great aunt, or maybe even her mother (she may have been one who kept her bra as well, lol). she feels guilty because she's not providing for her children as her family did for her. it's a thought

CarolineF said...

We all have mommy guilt. It takes different forms for different people. I don't knit for my kid anymore because no matter how much she seems to love what I've made for her, she doesn't wear it. My mommy guilt is that my kid has to be up and out of the house by 7am every weekday of her life because I work.

Dianne in WI said...

Mother-guilt is a really bizarre thing that strikes when you least expect it. I think it's due to knowing that you are responsible for guiding the development of another person's character and well being. Religion has nothing to do with it, I was raised UCC - which is about a liberal as you can get other than Unitarian!

Elizabeth said...

Even though I was an avid knitter before kids, I wasn't motivated to knit much for my kids. They grow too fast, they're too damn messy, and they treat their clothes roughly. Even though I sew, I don't sew much for them, either. I'd rather pick up quality clothes at a thrift shop and save my effort for things that really matter. So, I have no "mommy guilt" about not providing hand-made stuff for my kids.

What I do is teach my boys how to make stuff for themselves. Both my sons have had knitting lessons and the older son has done a little spinning and some sewing. I consider that a far more valuable gift to them than me making stuff for them.

In my teens and 20s, I used to feel guilty about my interest in traditional "female" crafts. Maybe because I'm not very girly in general, it felt like something a modern liberated woman shouldn't bother with. Glad I got over that!

Grumpy said...

Hi Franklin. Just adore you're blog. Thought you might be interested by this fascinating fact. Some misogynist pig once said that a woman should not go braless if she can hold a pencil under her boob (using said boob to hold the pencil in place you understand). I've tried it (out of sheer fascination although I don't think it is a skill of much practical use) and I can - be I still do none the less.

Cobbalicious said...

The pride I take in my knitting isn't gender-based. It's about liberating myself from a life where everything is manufactured who-knows-where and lacks personal touch and we have to trust that it's okay. Perhaps this woman feels guilty that she doesn't fit the 1950s definition of "feminine," but that's not the case in my circle of friends... who are not mothers.

MaryB said...

Maybe it's not just a matter of guilt, but more a matter of envy.

We envy what other parents/aunts/uncles are doing for the children in their lives and think we should be doing that. This mom-on-the-train-who-felt-bad-she-didn't-knit-for-her-children probably does lots of other nurturing/care giving things for her kids that another parent/aunt/uncle might envy.

It's so easy to say "don't feel bad about things we don't do for kids in our lives," and so damn hard to not feel the guilt. I think this transcends just "mommy guilt" but I also recognize that mommies get the brunt of it -- societal pressure, I guess.

I've always knit or sewn for my kids, and if they have turned out ok, it hasn't been because of the knitted sweaters, blankets, etc. There's a hell of a lot more to parenting than that.

MaryB

amysue said...

Oddly, I do often get other moms telling me they wished they were as "crafty" as I was and that my children had the quilts, clothes, knitted items etc that I made them and so somehow I was "better" at the mom stuff.

I look at moms who can hike and camp and coach soccer and do other more physical stuff as being "better" moms because I can't do those things.

It's a sad sign of how we denigrate ourselves sometimes.

FiberQat said...

There are some very interesting comments on Mom Guilt. I have no children of the two-footed kind but have many nieces and nephews. Aunt Guilt creeps up on occasion but when you're the last of six and have two nephews and a niece already before you've taken your first breath it doesn't hit as strong as Mommy Guilt.

You could leave a notice in the Missed Connections indicating that Subway man could ask you what you're making. He may not be the freak in the parade.

tb said...

My grandmother would have said the same thing, but it would not have been an uncharacteristic moment of candor! Good luck with the finishing of the shawl. The last rounds always seem to take the longest!

I've got a niece now, but her mother--not the best person in the world and my brother so love blind he doesn't want to see her faults, nothing I ever knit for her will make it onto her or into rotation. I've gifted a blanket, hat and booties so far and none have I even seen since. **sigh** You're lucky.

Susan said...

I told my mother the other day that I was a bit worried about my baby (due August 30th) because I've been so busy trying to move halfway across the country before the big date I haven't thought about clothing my child. Other than the pair of socks and 2 sweaters I've knitted for when it starts to get cold. So I am suffering from the opposite feeling as la Mere Coupable- I only have handmade garments for my child, and I think a wool sweater in August would fetch Child Protection to my house, lickety-split. I told Mom I was worried I might have to wrap the child in paper bags. She said she'd start saving the small ones.

Carol said...

Grumpy,
I think that rule only applies if you can hold the pencil under your boob AND write your name with it without dropping it.

-- A non-misogynist chick

PICAdrienne said...

Her guilt probably stems from her mother or grandmother making similar items for her, and she is not 'holding up her end' of the deal.

Carol, as an aside, back in the day when they were truly burning bras they had a higher percentage of cotton in them. By my Mother's account, they were not as comfortable as the bras of today.

marie in florida said...

wow* franklin; you sure picked a way a make people talk
isn't it true that in tibetan there is no word for 'guilt'

Rhonda the Stitchingnut said...

Nope, no quilt here. But I've always done some sort of stitching and worked a full time job as well. My Mom did neither, and she always feels sorry for herself rather than quilt. I probably didn't get a chance to do a lot of things that my kids might THINK I should feel quilting about, but I won't dwell on the past. No quilt here. ;-)

Andrea Rusin said...

For the record, there wasn't a day "when they were truly burning bras". That's an urban legend. It's a reference to a tactic used by the feminists of the 60s -they called them zap actions- specifically at the Miss America pageant. They crowned a sheep -or some farm animal and carried signs about judging women for more than their appearances. And they threw bras and girdles in a trash can. There was no fire. There were no bare-breasted "radical feminists".

An errant newspaper headline -retracted 40 ways from Sunday- has placed a memory of an event that never actually happened deep into the public consciousness.

Lecture over.

Cal said...

*an evolutionary biologist waves from the sidelines*

For Carol who wondered if there was an evolutionary basis for guilt? No, I don't think so. Can't say for sure what went on in the minds of women in the past but looking at what bits of European Iron Age society have survived in texts, guilt doesn't seem to play much of a part in child-rearing. Amongst the wealthy boys were valued for martial prowess (and fostered out from a very young age) and girls were frequently a tradeable commodity.
Amongst the poor it was more likely to be a simple choice of work of starve. The idea of childhood as we have it now didn't really come into play in a major way till the Victorians got their strange morality up and running.

Guilt, I feel, comes from the feeling of having made the wrong choice. The choices we have today would have been unknown. It was simpler - do what was necessary to ensure survival of the family and/or clan or die out.

Now we have to figure out what to do for the best. Which of the many voices telling us what we should do, ought to do, must do do we listen to?

So many more potential choices, so much more communication bringing those voices to us - no wonder we're all floundering!

It's sad. The original message of feminism was meant to give women more choice. but it got politicised - now we are meant to make the 'right' choice. But 'right' for who?

Katie said...

Hell yes to mixed messages. I've been interested in knitting for forever, but I could never bring myself to pick it up because I hated the idea of people thinking I was knitting because I was a girl. I still get really irritated when I get the feeling people are thinking: "Oh, of course she's knitting. She's a girl!"


But this past December, after meeting other knitters, I was like: "Fuck it, I want to knit." And so I learned.

But yeah, I can definitely see where this woman was coming from. Damned if you do, damned if you don't, honestly.

Adrianne said...

Hmm, I'm not a mother, so I don't have any sort of mommy guilt at the moment. Although, I know that I really valued the bits of homemade, homecooked, homegrown things that my mother did for me and I think that if/when I have kids I'll really want to do that for them and If I can't/don't I'll feel a bit guilty, not with any sort of male/female dilemma though. I currently have more personal crafting guilt. If I see something I like that was handmade or could be, I feel that I shouldn't buy it because I (as a crafty/have any art degree person) should be able to make it. I try to justify some things by thinking about the good points of supporting other artists. And, I just try not to buy too much mass-produced stuff. Really I do try hard not to feel guilty in general though, it not generally being a useful feeling, although perhaps occasionally.

Knitting Painter Woman said...

I thought "everybody" still knew that mothers are supposed to do everything possible for their children. Now only would this include knitting, crocheting, wrapping hockey sticks wit tape, building pinewood derby cars, donating kidneys, but making sure the child is well adjusted and working up to potential. It's crazy. And it's hard to let go.
I think one of the MOST generous and creative things I did for my kids was drive to multiple fast food joints when they could agree on the same kind of food for dinner. Now, I wouldn't have to because Taco Bell, KFC and Pizza Inn are sometimes in the same spot.

jessie said...

I don't think it's that complicated a feminist issue. To me, it's the same as feeling guilty for not taking the dog on a long enough walk or not calling a friend who you know is lonely.

Knitting is love, right? Knitting for people makes us feel good. We love our children and it makes us feel guilty if we are knitters and we don't make anything for our kids.

However, I do think that women do feel guilt about a lot of things (even those not in our control) and it goes hand-in-hand with the nurturing thing (not that you are any slacker there, Mr. Christening Shawl Knitter). My dreams at night frequently center on finding a small animal or baby that hasn't been fed in weeks and weeks but is somehow still alive and I rush around trying to find something to feed it. Doing caring/nurturing/caretaking things is programmed in me, and I think it goes beyond societal influences.

(The upshot of this is that I have a very dependent family who drive me crazy with their learned helplessness, a quality that I practically forced upon them. Sigh.)

Tracey, in MI said...

hmmm have wrked with mom's for nearly 18 years.....have heard lots of guilt but this one's new to me.

The only time I ever feel guilty about knitting- is when I knit for someone elses kiddo- and my own kid has no hand knits that fit;) (my youngest- my 2 teen sons have no desire for knits- and would let the cat sleep and hack hairballs on anything I'd knit for them)

But it usually just provokes me to knit myself something...

My opinion- that poor lady was a guilt riddled kook.

ps- i love your grandmother. Must wear bra. (ummm I think mannequins should too- at this point- when exactly did it become necessary for mannequins to have nipples? And WHY?

Anyways- Bras are a must.

Girdle? Not so much.

Anonymous said...

God, I haven't thought of the pencil test in years. If a pencil could be held under your boob they were droopy and you were forbidden to horrify innocent bystanders by going braless.

No mommy guilt here, but one reason I never made a push to find someone to breed with was b/c I was convinced I'd mess up their little minds and they'd end up at the top of a clock tower or something. Now I (sort of) wish I'd taken a shot at it, I couldn't have done worse and would probably have done better than some people I know. But then the urge passes, thankfully.

C. Knoflick said...

Franklin,

After the wealth of comments you have on this one, I'll go for the petty. Are you going to be in Seattle in July? I might just have to come south....

. . . Lisa and Robb . . . said...

"For the record, there wasn't a day "when they were truly burning bras". That's an urban legend. It's a reference to a tactic used by the feminists of the 60s -they called them zap actions- specifically at the Miss America pageant. They crowned a sheep -or some farm animal and carried signs about judging women for more than their appearances."

I'D WAGER THAT DOLORES HAS A DIFFERENT MEMORY OF THIS EVENT.

MaryB said...

You're coming to Seattle in July? Really? MaryB

Flavaknits said...

I wanted a member of my family to knit the christening gown for my youngest, and was "cut to the bone" when my MIL suggested I ask at the LYS if somebody would knit it for me!
If I'd had the time I would do it myself, but I was too busy changing nappies/feeding/being deprived of sleep. When my sister presented me with a gown knitted by her own fair hands - I SAW the love!
The rest of the time, the little beggars get their stuff from the store - they don't like handknits!! lol

Andrea Rusin said...

"I'D WAGER THAT DOLORES HAS A DIFFERENT MEMORY OF THIS EVENT."

LOL.... Bless her heart, I'd love to hear what Dolores was up to on that fateful day ;)

Kathy said...

Guilt from ourselves is one thing but the guilt heaped on us from our well meaning (or not) family and friends is just unneeded. I went from a working wife to a stay at home wife and mother. I love my choice. Note the word choice! I think all women should have that choice and when we make it, we should embrace it. Nurture it and live the best you can with it. Women, be kind to each other, enjoy our differences, Wow, you are a homemaker! And Wow, you run a corp., should be the kind of responses we give to each other. Both of these jobs take courage, determination, will power, knowledge and sacrifices.
Just my thoughts
A Wife, Mother of a challenged student, Native artist, Knitter, Daughter, Sister and Friend

Brewgal said...

Wow, Franklin. Can. Worms.

I always believed Feminism was designed to let all people, men and women, choose their path rather than be constrained by pre-existing gender roles. That idea seems to have been sidetracked or forgotten.

Mommy guilt- there is a neverending source. I buy clothes a thrift stores to save money and promote recycling, then I feel guilty when I see other kids in perfectly matching outfits. I handknit scarves for all the teachers then feel guilty because I don't buy them lavish gift certificates. I work full time protecting the US public health but I feel guilty for not attending the Afternoon Tea at my daughter's school. As my husband says, you can only do what you can do. But the guilt lingers. The best we can do is to accept the choices we make and try not to judge the choices of others.

Samira said...

I have knit for my daughter, who is now 14, and many nieces and nephews, but it is never enough. I attribute my vagues sense that it is never enough to this equation: infinite love + the passing of time = panic.

As a middle school teacher I will say that too much guilt is not good for kids when it leads parents (moms and dads alike) to try to give them everything. Nobody can have everything and we all have to learn to accept that!

Elephunning said...

Until a few years ago I too felt that guilt. Mostly because my mom had made my clothes, her mom made her clothes and I had never had the urge to until my little one was born and my grammie made her a blanket...I realized it was time. It took me about 10 minutes to decide that I loved making things for them. But even more now all THREE of my kids can at least knit and purl.Thanks for posting that one.

Sara said...

And the irony is, of course, that handmade clothes and baby items have become, through the cost of materials and the time it takes to make them, "luxury" items in some sense. When the yarn for an infant sweater can set you back $50 and you have to find the hours to make it, while you can go to Baby Gap and pick up something intricate and cashmerey for the same amount.... the handknit item is almost a status symbol of its own.

My grandmother knit because she couldnt' afford to buy sweaters for her family. Now I can buy a sweatshop-produced sweater for a fraction of the cost of the yarn to make it myself, and I knit ... for other reasons. Partly, maybe, in solidarity with my grandmother and her kin.

Anonymous said...

Your grandmother must be a hoot :-)...and the not-knitting-mother-guilt...yeah, from my perspective of a mom who knits, not knitting for your children would be cause to feel guilty, but since this Mom doesn't knit at all, that's equilvalent to me feeling guilty for not building my child a house (i.e., silly; I am not a builder).

twollin said...

I have three kids aged 20, 23, and 25. I worked full time with all of them, many times being away a week at a time at trade shows, cooling my heels in hotels in garden spots like Anaheim and Atlanta. I missed every prom my eldest ever attended, though I made every formal she ever wore. I got my best friend to come over the do her hair. My husband, bless him, managed the household by training der kinder to do laundry, take care of the livestock, and do food prep. When I had the chance, I used to make them sweaters and tee shirts and the odd bits of clothing, taught all three of them to use the sewing machine and knit (it stuck in certain spots to all three: the eldest likes to make home dec, the middle child sews and knits, the son sews when he's inspired which mostly revolves around Japan, samurai and Halloween. I refuse to feel any guilt about a) parenting, b) the quality of the clothing my kids had whether it was from garage sales, my hands, or brand new from the store, or c) the amount of time I spent with them. We all had to do our parts in the family "economic unit" to make ends meet; we all did our parts with everything else. Whatever the kids wanted to do badly enough was supported by us and we made sure someone was there to cheer them on. "Mommy guilt" is just another media-generated thing put on American women to sell magazines. In the end, all that counts is: are the kids warm, fed, clothed decently, get their homework done, cuddled and hugged. Period. Everything else, as the rabbis say, is commentary.

nosenabook said...

Do me a favor. Next year at this time, go back and look at the christening shawl photo. You will see what we see, an amazing work of art. Not cheesecloth. (I've seen cheesecloth; I've put cheesecloth through the washing machine; and let me tell you, THAT is not cheesecloth.)

Tracey, in MI said...

just a thought- the bra burning phenomenon began in a time frame that directly coincides with global warming amd the "hole in the ozone layer"...could the following hypothesis be true:

Feminism caused global warming by encouraging the burning of millions of toxic synthetic fabric bras?

junior_goddess said...

We screwed up in the '70s. Instead of getting maternity leave or mommy-insurance, we examined our feelings. Now we have to juggle a job and a house. Screw my feelings, I want pay. And I want my daughters to get paid.

This topic brings up another weird tangent. Most people I run into would not pay for hand-knitting. After all, their grandmothers knit, crochet, quilt, whatever....so your commuter pal was kicking herself for participating in a devalued activity. That's wrong on a bunch of levels.

And concerning your Red-Line admirer...you are as bad as a woman. We make horrible choices because we don't know that we are worthy of admiration, nice dinners, meeting fun people, etc. You stop it right now! You can deserve nice too...whether it's a friend, or something else. Maybe he just wants to learn to knit. Take a later train home, go have a cup of coffee at a kiosk....Delores will hold the fort down. heh.

Jennifer Dickinson said...

Another one de-lurking. As I was reading through the comments, I thought, "I don't feel guilty about jack shit. I am not a parent, I am not a feminist, I don't care if I am not a supermodel, I knit for myself almost exclusively," etc. etc.

I am riding the fence on what kind of guilt it is. I do think there is a parental guilt, and perhaps it affects moms more than dads. It is a complex phenomenon, and while it may largely be a native instinct to protect, nurture, and raise our kids into functional adults, we also have this culture of competitive child-rearing that just isn't helping things.

There's woman-guilt, too, and while it is no doubt fostered/promoted in the media, by industries/business that make money off our insecurities and stuff, at some point, we have to stand up and say "enough already," if not publicly and en masse, then at least to ourselves. I can't remember the last time I read a women's/fashion magazine, and I have to say, I've never felt better about myself.

And then while I was thinking all my smug thoughts of guilt-free living, I remembered feeling HORRIBLY guilty last week. My husband's allergies had gotten worse and worse -- so bad he finally got the full battery of allergy testing (no small thing, he hates anything medical). The two worst things on his test were pet dander and dust mites, and I felt guilty for not keeping a cleaner house, because obviously, that's what I should be doing instead of knitting.

That night after work, I cleaned until my back was sore, vacuuming every room twice, dusting all the furniture and the objects thereon, pickup up dog hair wedged at the baseboards that the vacuum couldn't grab, mopping, and refusing his sincere offers to help (I did let him bring me a glass of wine, which I did sip whilst vacuuming).

Jennie said...

I don't know if it's a mother-only thing, but I sure thought I'd be knitting little baby sweaters while pregnant. Finally made the first sweater for the kid when he was 5. Years. Yeah, there's guilt.

Julie said...

As a mother, I can say whole heartedly that I feel a lot of guilt about a lot of things that I shouldn't give a second thought to. I feel guilty every day that I'm not doing enough and not living up to the standards I think society has set for motherhood - especially a stay at home mom, which is a whole other ball of wax!

Interesting observation!

New Jersey Laura said...

What that nicely dressed woman, who was probably commuting to a great job, said is right on, baby. Everything and nothing has changed. What has the revolution brought? Today there's there's guilt if you do work, guilt if you don't, no kids or female gender required!

2eclipse said...

I think my mom suffers greatly from the kind of thing your non-knitter experienced. my grandmother was a force of nature in her crafting. she did everything and did it well.
my mom made me a few costumes growing up, but really doesn't like sewing or cooking or doing crafty things very much. the craft bug skipped a generation and bit me hard. i knit, soap, grow herbs, cook....and my mother looks at me, remember her mother and feels like she should be more like us.

kdy12570 said...

It's totally mommy-guilt! I'm a knitter, I have knit many things for my daughter (in fact, since the moment I found out I was pregnant until now, most of the things I have knit have been for her) BUT, I still feel guilty that I never made her a blanket. She doesn't even like blankets, but I still feel guilty. I even startedto crochet one, but I just loose interest in blankets--can't do 'em! So, I hang my head in shame, as a mom and knitter, in fact, I still have baby blanket listed on my unstarted objects list on my blog....

Pat DeLeeuw said...

One of the difficult things about being a woman is the mixed messages we receive. Be a good daughter, wife, mother and don't forget to go outside the home and work to help support the family. I don't see this working well in 2007. I see super stressed women without a moment to themselves. Sleep deprived,not taking care of themselves all in a quandry about trying to balance the guilt of the stay home/career issue. While feminism suffered I think things were simpler when our roles were more defined. Our Guilt is built in our DNA. This quandry and it's by products seem detremental to the American "family" and the kids suffer. I don't know the answer-I was a stay at home mom who felt guilty(sometimes made to feel guilty by "Career Women" ) not to be adding to the family income. But, on the bright side-now that my kids are grown,they have all told me how much it meant to them that I was home when they came home from school!! I hope they can be as lucky- but todays young parents all seem to "need" to work so they don't have to go without anything. We went without a lot(only one car for awhile in an area where car transportation is it)but didn't think too much about it. It's a different world. Some better, some not.

Krissy said...

I am a knitter and a mother of an almost four year old. I have knit her cute items, mostly to her request as she loves "shopping" in pattern books. But honestly, if it weren't for ready-wear clothing, my child would be naked still. Or wearing a potato sack.
As a child, I remember my mother making many of our outfits because she loved sewing...I hated my clothes. I used to beg for the frilly pink dress on the rack and received a simple dress made from left over material.
In conclusion, I don't think that a mother should feel guilty if her children are happy. I do still feel a pressure to be a 1950's mother. Heels, lipstick and living in the kitchen.
I get the most pressure about being a working mother. I stayed at home for two years, but if it weren't for daycare/preschool my daughter still would not talk much and not have nearly as many friends as she now does.
Even if I were a homemaker I imagine people would guilt me for not being an "independent" woman.
In the end there is always something to feel guilty for, you just have to stand up for life you do live. No stereotypes allowed.