The Guilt Market

by Kathy Radigan
Originally Published: 
A ginger toddler girl dressed up as a fairy with an orange flower band on her head, messily eating a...

The news always has stories about the volatility in the financial markets, but there’s one market that CNBC and Bloomberg don’t cover: The Guilt Market.

Mothers are very familiar with this market; it starts the minute the line turns pink on your pregnancy test. Suddenly, you feel guilty for the coffee you had that morning, or the calcium you didn’t. Heaven forbid if you had a glass of wine with dinner or ate your hamburger rare.

Perhaps you were like me and had sushi the night before you found out you were pregnant, because surely the cramps you were feeling meant another month of the baby dance, so you might as well live it up.

Now as you look at the line you have spent months waiting to see, you are convinced that all your missteps will doom you and your baby.

From there the ticker just takes off.

This is one market where I have a better eye for picking value than Warren Buffet.

Just like the stock exchange, the guilt market has a contingent of analysts, specialists, and investors — all of whom are willing to weigh in. It may be out of true concern, or maybe they just have a need to put their two cents into your portfolio.

Some of my personal favorite “guilt tips” are:

“Don’t worry about having another miscarriage, I read that stress can harm the baby and cause a miscarriage.”

I had four miscarriages. I always found my guilt index climbed anytime someone gave me that recommendation.

“You have to at least try to nurse your third child because you nursed your other two children. It’s only fair to the new baby.”

I’m pretty sure my youngest child, Peter, has never gone a day worrying about the fact that he was bottle fed while Tom and Lizzy were breast-fed. I’m also pretty sure he appreciated having a sane, happy mother. I know Tom, Lizzy, and my husband did.

I will say years later I do think of that tip whenever Peter goes nuts if he doesn’t have the same exact amount as his brother and sister. I have socked a little extra money into his “money-for-therapy-for-all-the-things-I-did-to-screw-you-up fund,” just in case this is the reason.

“You should talk and play with your children more. Maybe that is why they have speech problems.”

A few times I wondered if raising my children in a convent where we had taken a vow of silence was a bad idea. How was I to know that most parents interact with their kids?

That comment paid a high return to the original investor.

When I realized that something was wrong with our daughter, Lizzy at only six weeks old, I racked up so much guilt I could have singlehandedly paid the national debt.

The idea that if only I had done something, anything, differently, my daughter would live a more normal life has eaten up more time than I care to admit.

As a mom, I want to believe that if I only follow the “rules,” everything will work out just fine. If I read the right books, feed the kids the right foods, and take them to their scheduled check-ups, nothing bad will happen.

When something does occur that’s not in my plan, it’s easier for me to blame myself. If I was at fault, I can control it and make sure it never happens again.

I wish it was that easy. Experience has taught me it’s not. Or, rather, Lizzy has taught me it’s not.

Though Lizzy’s challenges were not in my plan, they’re a part of her.

As she marches through the house wearing three crowns, my shawl around her waist, a sock for a glove, and a hair tie for a bracelet, it’s hard not to admit that Lizzy is who she’s supposed to be.

Lizzy doesn’t blame me for the things she can’t do. She’s too busy living her life and turning her brothers into frogs with the magic wand my cousin gave her. Thank goodness.

Plus, there are more important things that she does blame me for, such as not letting her play with my jewelry or my favorite blouse.

Related post: Why I’m Embracing The Mommy Guilt

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