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mother guilt

To pit moms against each other is just cruel. No matter how our children are behaving or if and what they are accomplishing is worth mentioning or not -- and again who is the judge of that? -- to create a hierarchy in which one mother deserves the mom of the year award over another mystifies me.
Out of the blue, my daughter said: "Daddy, when I get up in the morning, you are always there. When I am hungry, it's you who puts food on the table. When I need someone to play with, you always play with me. Thank you, Daddy." This story should have made me feel utterly happy, but instead I felt like I was simultaneously kicked in the stomach and stabbed in the heart.
My dearest little girl, sometimes I forget that you're only four years old. Actually, a month ago you were just three. Maybe I expect too much from you at times because you're a big sister now. Maybe it's because I just haven't taken the time and effort to see things from your bright little eyes. But my darling, I am slowly learning to do exactly this, and I'm sorry I sometimes forget.
"Mom, will you snuggle with me?" my 10-year-old will ask, her arms outstretched from her bed, as I turn to leave her dark room. "Not tonight, sweetie." That's the answer I've been giving her all too often these days, even though I feel a stab of guilt every time I say it.