Most mums and dads are familiar with The Guilt Fairy. She’s that lairy little hag who sits on your shoulder and jabs you with her pointy Guilt Fairy wand whenever you stuff your kids with smarties, sack off bathtime for the second night in a row or shout too much in Morrison’s.
We were already on a first names basis before my cancer diagnosis but now it seems we’re inseparable. She’s my judgmental, shrew-like Bonnie to my chemo-frazzled Clyde, sprinkling her evil guilt shit dust everywhere and clogging up the Dyson.
At some point during chemo cycles, bribery went from a handy parental option to a full-blown necessity in our house. Allotted TV time ratcheted up from an hour a day to five, our trips to Build-A-Bear became a monthly thing instead of an annual event and beige food became a staple. Sorry Jamie, I really do understand the dubious virtues of Turkey Twizzlers but every night at 5pm I had exactly three minutes to cook my children dinner before the contents of my stomach became their entrées.
I kept telling myself that it was just a phase, a blip, a momentary kink in the space-time continuum. I’d finish chemo and we’d all go back to weekly reward charts and chomping on broccoli (tenderstem for that added health kick). But my brain’s been well and truly pickled after four months of liquid platinum and I keep putting the butter away in the washing machine. Normality is still lost in the woods somewhere with WTF Happened To My Life.
The Guilt Fairy has gone and metamorphosed into something much uglier now. She’s making me feel guilty for things I MIGHT NEVER BE ABLE TO DO. As a result, birthdays have become major spending sprees and treats like magazines are a daily event. It’s almost like I’m trying to buy my children’s future love and affection and The Guilt Fairy is constantly reminding me of this. And what about all those extra naps that my exhausted body needs? Oh boy, she’s having a field day about them. It’s time spent away from my family. Do I really have enough of that to waste?
A cancer diagnosis is all about the illusion of choice. You can choose to have the operation and chemo offered to you but if you don’t then it’s Goodnight Vienna. I can choose not to let The Guilt Fairy take up residence on my left shoulder but I’m sort of grateful for her too. It means I still give a shit about how my kids turn out. It means I’m still around to call the shots – questionable as they may be sometimes.
Either way, she’s getting her mouth gaffer-taped shut from now on…