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Non, Je Ne Regrette Rien! (Terms and Conditions Apply)

Updated: May 3, 2023



I’ve been thinking a lot recently about the idea of FOMO, and how its biggest victims might not necessarily be the young, free, singleton stereotypes with a penchant for partying, but instead the hamster-wheeling parents with a palpable preoccupation for the parable of…‘blink and you’ll miss it!’


As the equally contentious cousin of ‘cherish every moment’, this much-peddled platitude has a LOT to answer for, especially when it comes to plight of parental guilt!


I for one, can relate to the heavy burden of ‘blink and you’ll miss it!’, and how a subsequent determination to not miss a thing, can so often be counterintuitive.


It was in the 2am night feed moments especially, when every single fibre of my being just wanted to defy the Aerosmith allegory and close my eyes (even if it meant missing a thing - or two) that the Mumsnet musings of in-the-momentness hung heaviest on my conscience.


The fear of missing those ‘precious’ moments - and of not having cherished, savoured, diarised, absorbed and enshrined EVERY. SINGLE. ONE into either memory, pixels or plaster-of-Paris - created a pressure that can’t be underestimated… and should be talked about more!


Until recently, I thought I was alone in carrying the overwhelming ‘fear of regret’ that came hand-in-hand with the old 'blink at your peril' tripe… and with the fourth-trimester territory especially.


The dread was/is that any one decision or oversight, at any one time, might transpire to be a stick my future-self would use to beat herself with.


The decision to close my eyes rather than revel in the sight of those beautiful sleeping eyes!


The decision to NOT go to baby sensory classes!


The decision to rain-check a play date in favour of ‘self care.’


Would I ultimately look back on that one missed opportunity to bolster my baby's ‘social development’ as THE sole and over-riding explanation for some later and as-yet un-eventualised 'issue'?


An issue which could have been avoided had I scraped the bottom of the post-natal strength barrel just enough to make it to Jungle Mania on that rainy, sleep-deprived Thursday morning?


As a form of ‘regret prevention,’ I took to doing ‘all the things’ that I could pre-empt my future self telling me I should have done, and which my rapidly-waning energy could stretch to.


Frantically grabbing at those golden moments with the over-zealous enthusiasm of a game show contestant who's finally made it to the 'Crystal Dome' was, in hindsight, always going to be an ambitious and disheartening undertaking.


With the best will in the world, some (many) of those baby-soft skin/gummy smile 'tokens' would always get away, and especially given the world of washing, nappies and sleep deprivation thrown into the mix!


In truth, I’m not sure where this kind of thinking originates from, how common it actually is, or even how proactively I should try and ‘fix’ it…but what I do know, is that I have always admired those with a resolve so water-tight that 'what-if' can never manage to worm its crafty little way in!


Those who can live free from fear of future regret.


Why?


Because the need to avoid regret (Regret Aversion, or so it is called) is something that underpins my exhausting compulsion to do it all, and my rather annoying habit of back-tracking on even the most confidently-made decisions.


Some would call it self-gaslighting, where even the right choice in the moment, can quickly become the wrong one under the influence of low self esteem.


Some examples?


The 'childcare' that felt like a saviour at the time, but in hindsight, seems like a decision so epically bad, that it would cost me precious time with my then (and-never-to-be-again) toddler.


I guess it could (at a push) be viewed as a good thing… this Minority-Report-esque ability to pre-empt and anticipate what 2025 me will find to chastise myself about...and take steps now to prevent it.


As much as I try to put a positive spin on this somewhat unconventional life rationale, however, of one thing I am all but now convinced.


That is, that the self-doubt that underpins it all, is probably robbing me of more peace, than it is staving off regrets.


This year, therefore, I’ve decided to give the hindsight monster the heave-ho, and take steps to silence the ‘shoulda woulda coulda’ soundtrack that’s been sounding out through almost every life chapter to date.


The incentive?


Not just the fact that it’s my 40th year, and a fitting time therefore, to embrace all the f*c*-affixed cliches I can (-it, -off, -that, -this... for starters) whilst stepping into a new, satisfying era of self-assurance!


Also, there’s the fact that I’ve come to the conclusion that NOT blinking - it’s not really very healthy, and it probably blurs one's vision of reality more than a little!


By reality, I of course mean that bigger-picture perspective, which is wholly necessary to see the error that exists in mandating the thinly-spread maternal mind into perpetual gratitude.


Nowadays, I want to be able to look back at this most life-affirming chapter to date, not through a lense of footprint-pottery-shaped regrets, but from a vantage point of this realisation...


That there is nothing more regrettable, than letting the need for future peace of mind (the avoidance of doubt that 'I did all I could!') interfere with and in-validate those very real 'survival mode' instincts and behaviours on which successful parenting is almost entirely hinged!


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