Each day the news is filled with stories about the volatility in the financial markets. But there is one market CNBC and the Wall Street Journal don’t cover: the Guilt Market.
Mothers are extremely familiar with this one. It starts the minute the line turns pink on your pregnancy test. Suddenly you feel guilty for the coffee you drank that morning, or the calcium you didn’t take. Heaven forbid if you had a glass of wine with dinner, or had your hamburger rare.
Perhaps you were like me and ate 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 forever.
From there the market just takes off. And it’s one market where I have a better eye for picking value than Warren Buffett.
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 need to put their two cents into your portfolio.
Some of my all time 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, and I always found my guilt index climbed anytime someone gave me 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, happier mother. I know Tom, Lizzy, and my husband did. But, I will say 11 years later, I still think of that tip whenever Peter goes nuts if he does not have the same exact amount of ice cream as his brother and sister. ·
“You should talk and play with your children more. Maybe that is why they have speech issues.” 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 we first got the results back from our daughter’s MRI that showed significant damage to her brain when she was only two years 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 sings her version of, Do You Want to Build a Snowman, substituting the words, do you want to buy a juice box, because I have banned her from having any more since she decided it was more fun to explode it on my new floor than drink it, it’s hard not to admit that Lizzy is who she’s supposed to be.
She doesn’t blame me for the things she can’t do. She’s too busy living her life and blaming me for ruining her life because I won’t let her have my iPhone, or wear my favorite blouse on her head.
“I’m sorry mommy. I love you. You are my best friend,” is a common refrain I hear whenever I have the nerve to say no to her charms.
She’s no fool, she knows how valuable a commodity guilt is.
After all, she is my daughter.
This piece was first published on the Dishwasher, April 14, 2011, under the title, The Guilt Market. It has been edited.