Heather Hill: I'm learning to forgive myself for my choices

Just suppose you went through life without ever looking back. ­Never ­pausing to reflect; never wishing you'd pressed delete on ­certain ­sections of your younger years.

Parents can tell children how they learned from mistakes
Parents can tell children how they learned from mistakes

That time you took the wrong road, the day you settled for the wrong partner. The 477 packets of beef Monster Munch you ate in 1997. Your challenge, should you choose to accept it, is to go on living from this day forward with no regrets. Not one. What’s the worst thing that could happen?

I’m 46 and didn’t reach this age without testing the waters from time to time. I’ve pushed boundaries, made mistakes and tripped up on the odd professional decision. By contrast, I’ve raised five children who are each now giving back to society and done more than my fair share of listening to other people’s problems.

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Wearing one of my many career hats, I’ve given comfort to the dying and saved lives. I’ve changed ­dramatically as a person over the years – through tough times and smooth sailing. Yet what are the things I call to mind most frequently? You guessed it: it’s the Monster Munch section. I’m not patting my own back; I’m beating myself over the head with 477 packets of crisps. No wonder my head hurts.

Why, as women, do we wear guilt so well? And when we’re not ­wearing it, it’s tucked away in the wardrobe ready to be tried on again, oddly when we’re nearing an area of personal or professional success. What are we so afraid of? For me, it’s being found out. If three ­people tell me I’m brilliant then it’s the fourth who says this wasn’t my finest hour that is, to my mind, correct. My ­conclusion is likely based on something I got wrong 20 years ago; an early decision that first made me suspect I was in some way inferior.

Funny that the choices I beat myself up about most are things I did as a younger woman. Now I’m teaching myself, slowly but surely, to let it go. After all, how many of us are the same person we were 30, 20 or even ten years ago?

The heaviest garment I’ve taken out and tried on again over the years is parental guilt. Women have historically been the homemakers. Therefore, even though four of my five offspring have left to make their own choices out in the world, I still worry that, as a working mum, I wasn’t at home enough when they were growing up.

I never think, ‘What was their father doing at the time?’ Now I tell my eldest daughter not to give up on career aspirations because she’s a new mum. I ask her why she thinks everyone else’s opinion is more important than her own. Yet I still question myself for the same reason she is doing so today. Then I remember the words of my late grandmother, a mother of five ­herself. Whenever anybody questioned the decisions she made as a parent: ‘Ach, they’re aw deed that I kilt.’

She has a point there.

Heather Hill is a comedy writer and author. She lives near Elvanfoot, South Lanarkshire. www.heatherhillauthor.com