The Free Motion Quilting Project: Reading Guilt as Guilt

Monday, April 15, 2013

Reading Guilt as Guilt

I intended to post this yesterday, but taxes, school, family, and the giant quilts on my table all kept it from happening. It's officially spring and busy as all get out. What is it about this time of year that just makes everything need to be done RIGHT NOW?!

free motion quilting | Leah Day

I digress...yesterday I spent most of the day in the sewing room working on stitching out all of the designs we've learned since the magical day 365 into 4 inch squares. There's something about this size and shape that just makes my organization-needing brain happy. It's easy to photograph, it's easy to organize. It's easy to stitch!

I still need to edit the photographs, but it already feels good to have "official" shots of each design. I also worked a lot on Duchess Reigns, though you wouldn't know it to look at her. It seems I can dump 4 hours of work into that quilt and empty 3 bobbins and she just laughs manically and declares, "I will NEVER be finished! Muwahahahaha!"

free motion quilting | Leah Day
So leaving my sewing machine, I was feeling...guilty. I'd quilted for most of the day with the door shut. Remember, my door has a very specific sign on the front. No one was dying, so I wasn't interrupted, but I still felt guilty for quilting most of the day.

But here's the thing about guilt - it doesn't always read as guilt. It's kind of a tricky emotion to get your fingers around, and certainly to identify without a microscope.

Previously, pretty much for the last 29 years of my life when I felt this way, I always misread it as being in a "bad mood." Yet I wasn't in a bad mood! I'd just stitched out a ton of stuff that had been weighing on my mind. I was HAPPY!

But I was guilty. And my guilt began to come out in temper and snappishness. James had torn yet another Lego figure into a massacre of legs, hands, head, and torso, which just weirds me out in general, and I didn't yell, but I did make James cry by threatening to throw the pieces into the trash. Monster mommy had come to play!

My goal this year was to try to figure this out. Why DO I do this?! Why do I act like this? This isn't ME! I don't WANT to act like this!

Figuring out that this particular emotional roller coaster stemmed from guilt was SO helpful. I'm not sure what tipped me off exactly, other than just knowing that I SHOULD feel very happy with all I'd accomplished, but only feeling terrible for being unavailable all day.

The funny thing about this is Josh never minded one bit. He really couldn't understand why I was feeling guilty as he certainly didn't need me around to have a good day. We always have a big Sunday breakfast and I had made eggs and french toast before heading down to quilt so James was fed and happy too. Mom was not needed. A guilty mom was absolutely unwanted!

So this guilt was totally useless. I didn't hurt anyone or do anything wrong by stitching all day on a Sunday afternoon, but this empty feeling of guilt was definitely turning me into a monster the second my quilting session ended.

Rather than let it ruin the whole day, I stopped everything. Literally I sat down and stared at a wall and asked myself "Can you chill? Can you just drop this?" At first, I couldn't let go of the bad feelings, but very soon I could see how pointless it was. I reminded myself again and again that no one had missed me, I hadn't flaked out on anything, and I just needed to let myself feel good.

Have you ever done this? Reading guilt as guilt was certainly a breakthrough for me! I'm just wondering if anyone else has experienced this kind of thing before...

Let's go quilt (without the guilt!),



  1. I never feel guilty of quilting because I always quilt when everyone is sleeping or my toddler is taking nap.

    The other fun thing I'm trying to do is getting my daughter involved in sewing/quilting, she will be 6 years old next. We're working on a doll quilt for her. That way I don't have to feel guilty about quilting anymore ;).

  2. Leah, right there with you. Or used to be, when my sons were growing up. The reason? I was trained in guilt. My mother, the dominant force in our family, used it to manipulate all of us (and I was the oldest) into doing whatever it was she wanted us to do. She tried it again as recently as 2 years ago, when I was 58 years old, at which point I let her know I wasn't having it anymore). Yet I still have major issues with guilt...even over the tiniest, silliest things. I'm coming to terms with it gradually though, mostly through reading Toltec-based and Buddhism-based books, along with A Course in Miracles (I know, sounds counter-intuitive, but for me they all seem to work together). Anyway, the guilt might have just come from your programming, as it did mine. I read somewhere that it only takes 21 days of steady work to re-program yourself for any one issue. I haven't found it nearly that easy, but then I'm not working on it every hour of every day. But I *am* working on it. Best of luck to both of us! One thing I love is that you are realizing these issues while James is still young. How I wish I had done that when my two boys were young! Awesome!!

  3. Oh Leah, I really appreciate your honesty. I can so relate to the negative feeling that invade my creating. It's been such a big challenge for me to think through being a mum, building a little crafty business from home, and then also creating for fun. I can end up feeling like it's never the right time to do anything! I'm also trying to learn to rest in the moment, trust myself, give myself wholly to whatever I'm doing. A friend of mine had a book on her shelf that I noticed once called, "Get out of your mind and into your life!" It's my new mantra. :)

  4. Oi, I totally do this too, especially when it comes to behaviours learned in childhood. Trying to make personal choices that go against what I was taught was the 'right way to behave' (even if those choices are better for me) inevitably leads to guilt and being completely horrible to everyone while I try to deal with it. I can recognize that it's happening, but am often powerless to stop it until it has run its course (or I help myself to a nice stiff drink :).

  5. I have always said "Guilt is a wasted emotion" . If you can't live with the consequence then don't do it. You can feel remorse, say sorry and move on.Leave the guilt for the criminals of the world ( who often feel neither guilt nor remorse)

  6. Yes, definitely...particularly since I have set up my own sewing room and I am physically removed from the rest of the family. I often feel very selfish, just doing my own thing but equally resentful about what the rest of the family might be thinking...yes, definitely all in my head. Have not exactly worked out how to deal with this, but am definitely aware of it.

  7. Leah,
    Guilt is the gift that keeps on giving. Sometimes, when we are shackled with the baggage of persistant negativity, we need to find a concrete place to unsnap the cuffs and drop the baggage where it lands and never pick it up again. Sounds easy, hard to do. The visual is extremely helpful. I keep giving mine to God and let Him sort it out. Problem is....I keep taking it back and fiddling with it. It's a process.
    Over time, you get better at moving away from the negative baggage and leaving it lay. You are making tremendous progress, be encouraged. Blessings to you in your journey. :)

  8. YEP, I have all of that guilt. I beat myself up all of the time. I'm my own worst doormat. My kids have caught on. They are very good at using my guilt against me. Teenagers are good at that:/ I have had many less than stellar mommy moments. Just remember, there are no perfect parents. We are all doing the best we can.

  9. Quilty guilt and mommy guilt--- oh yeah, I get it! So wonderful that you're learning to recognize it, think it through and either let it go or take action.

    I think I need to borrow your sign. Especially now there's a door to my sewing space. Saturday I was supposed to be working on quilting/blogging/cleaning/homeschool prep and hubby had the kids outside where he could 'watch' them. Guess who they kept coming to all day? Me! Instead of identifying the problem and doing something about it, I let it rob me of much of my day.

    Since I'm taking your sign, I'll leave you with one of my lego solutions: Any legos found loose on the floor at a particular time of day, usually after I've warned them I'm going to sweep, get put into a container and held until Christmas.

    With minifig dismemberment, it's hard for them to keep track of the body parts. My 8yo will use hands as spike-like decorations on his creations and legs are great articulating parts for crazy things he builds. They lose some, they learn to be more careful. If not, well, they get a big, free, mismatched container of legos for Christmas.

    BTW, now that my 6yo daughter has learned to use a sewing machine, it's hard to get my quilting time in without being derailed by helping her. I try to set a specific time in our weekly routine to sit down and create with her.

    Supposedly, it gets easier (or at least different) as they get older and more independent.

  10. I was raised feeling guilty over one thing or another. I still fall back into that mode at times. Today for instance, I went to San Francisco with my daughter and her boyfriend to spend the day with them. I don't see her as often as I would like. I felt guilty leaving my ninety year old father home. I didn't see him all day. Logically, I know he doesn't mind. I know that he understands that I need time with my kids, but I couldn't help feeling guilty. I don't feel this way when I spend all day at work! Just when I am having fun...

  11. I think more so when you have a family, especially a young family, it is easy to feel guilt at not being there for them every moment.
    When we have a tiny baby and they are 100% dependant on mum it's hard to do much else. But as they get older we do more for ourselves/by ourselves, but we still feel we should be there for them 24/7, hence the guilt.

    I think you have to try to accept its important for you to have to do your things to enable you to be a good and happy mum. Accepting that as long as they are happy and healthy then you don't need to feel guilty.
    I'm sure no one was hungry or sad or crying at the door while you busied away at your quilt.
    Realising what the emotion is and why is a huge to step to overcoming that bit of negativity. :)
    Enjoy your quilting and your free time :)

  12. I could literally talk ALL DAY on this subject! I think it is a struggle for every Mom at some point, especially during those pre-school years. Like you said, the guilt is because you perceived that you let someone down, or did something wrong. But as long as you know that you have spent time with James, it is extremely healthy to take time for yourself and let Josh and James hang out together. I find that I have less guilt about it if I spend the day beforehand doing things with my family, or even just with my son. Remember that children are born as needy little babies. They literally can't do anything for themselves. It's easy for them to feel like they are the center of the universe! It is our job as parents to make them self sufficient over the next 18 years. So when you take time for yourself, you are actually helping him to learn that you (and others in general) are more than just his caregivers. Of course Josh will be in the best position to explain that to him if James is asking where you are or why they are leaving you alone :) And to top it all off, James will be learning a valuable lesson about the needs of his future wife! Best of luck to you!

  13. Yes! I do this often. I have intense Mommy guilt, and often. My boys are young enough that we have baby gates everywhere and my sewing room is behind one. They can't get to me, and when I sew in here I feel awful the whole time. It's almost like I won't let myself be happy no matter what I am doing. Sewing DOES make me happy though, I think it all comes from being unavailable to my boys. Thanks for sharing.

  14. I hear you loud and clear. There’s so much pressure on us from ourselves and the social ideas of what makes us “good” contributors to the family and to the world. Those two little words – supposed to – really cause a lot of trouble! I found it liberating to do what is right for me, even if it doesn’t fit in the "supposed to" box. Even more liberating, I never put anybody else in the "supposed to" box or measure myself by what they do or don’t do. Life is really great when you just love everyone, including yourself, – just as they are!

  15. As the above comments have stated, you are not alone in the slightest! We have a large family (soon to be a family of 10!), I home school the school-aged children, and we own a catering business with the commercial kitchen in our house. Because of all this activity (and people), I don't have a sewing room. Everything is in our dinning room. I suppose some people might think I *need* a room to escape to, but it just works better for me to be in the middle of things before something blows up!

    Our mornings are set aside for school. I don't touch my machine or any material until school is done (although I am on the computer at times. Oopps!). My sewing time is reserved for the afternoons and/or evenings. I don't usually stay up late, for my children have not learned the art of sleeping in yet and my husband likes me to go to bed with him.

    Would I like to sew more? Sure. And there are times that I feel guilty for sitting down and sewing in the time I've set aside for it. I think "I should be(fill in the blank) with my kids". But then I remember that I probably spend more time with my kids then many parents.

    I think guilt can be a good thing, if it leads us to examine our lives and change the area(s) that need to be changed for the better. But it also can be a bad thing, if it is used to take away our joy and it stems from an idea or impression that isn't based in reality.

    When this emotion rears is ugly head, I think it's very important to not ignore it and important to not to obey it right way as well. It's a lovely balance, isn't? :)

  16. I think women in our culture (maybe all cultures?) are trained from day one to feel more guilt than men. Maybe it's in our DNA. Maybe it's because we're women, not men, who knows... I don't know, but yes, I can relate, and I bet so can every woman here...

  17. thank you for sharing! i also deal with this. & my husband definitely makes me feel guilty if i'm quilting all day. he doesn't understand the "creative" urge. i do understand where he's coming from, but i don't think he's completely correct in it. after all, i'm making something for one of us! result: i mainly quilt when no-one is around (naps, night, etc.) so lots of projects pile up... anyway, the guilt is there & it's good you recognize it. sometimes putting it aside for a bit is better for me. as i realize, my little ones are only little for a while & as long as i have the fabric & ideas, & Will get to it, i'm okay... :) (glad someone brought this up, though) :)

  18. Thanks for blogging about this, it happens every day I leave to work in my shop. The feeling of not been where I'm needed, makes it harder to concentrate and deliver 100% into what you are creating. I read somewhere a phrase that has helped me overcome this guilt, "Only a happy woman, can raise a happy family" so I try to take time for me and I try my best to give quality time to my family.

  19. "Only a happy woman, can raise a happy family", that has been my mantra since I discover that I felt guilty of not been available during my "working schedule" (from 9 to 4). and I try my best to dedicate quality time to my family.


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