Photos shamelessly borrowed from this post.
Here’s a parenting confession, of sorts; until recently, I had never taken Eliza swimming. Cue gasps from the back. I’m not sure what it is about swimming, but once your baby is out of the aquatic confines of your amniotic fluid, there seems to be some unwritten rule that you have to take them. And every time we still hadn’t been and the subject came up, I felt a feeling wash over me. An attack of the mum guilt.
I did always mean to take her. But our local pool was too cold, other ones were slightly trickier to get to. Lessons were always oversubscribed and took place at the wrong time, or nap time. One or both of us didn’t have a costume that fit. And I couldn’t quite get my head round the logistics; what do you do with the pram? And so on and so on. So it just never seemed to happen. And I felt guiltier and guiltier.
Before I became a parent I swore I wouldn’t give in to mum guilt, especially because as an ex-Girl Guide I would always just do my best, of course. But it seems that mum guilt is a complicated metric and not so easy to rinse off. There it is, lurking in the changing rooms, hiding your locker key, splashing at you from the shallow end when you’re trying not to get your hair wet.
And it strikes at such unexpected times, for such strange reasons. Swimming is not a massive deal in the grand scheme of things; she’d have lessons at school like I did, and it’s not like I’ve left her alone in the woods with some wolves while I swan off to drink cocktails.
I mentioned this to my husband – who has also never taken her swimming, mainly because he passed over responsibility to me based on me being a better swimmer because I once won a race in the pool on holiday about six years ago – and he doesn’t feel guilty about it. So why do I?
I did take her to baby massage, baby yoga, baby singing and rhyme time, breastfeeding groups, playgroups, playdates, soft play, the eternal earworm that is Gymboree, and millions of all the other middle-class mum activities that you’d expect. As well as countless trips to the park (and Sainsbury’s). Why is it we feel guilty about the things we don’t do, instead of happy about everything that we do?
Predictably, Eliza loved swimming when she finally went on while on holiday. So I’m actually going to try and take her from now on. And hopefully this will help to keep the tidal wave of mum guilt at bay. Maybe.