If you are a mother, you know the feeling. You're at work instead of field day.
You're at one child's band
performance while the other child has an academic bowl meet.
You missed that baseball practice
out of sheer exhaustion and that's the one where he hit it over the fence.
"Mom, can you pick me up car rider? Can you check me out early
like all my friends? When are you going to be off work again?
Mom, why are you on your laptop so much?
Mom, are you listening?"
Some of those innocent but real questions can cut me like a knife,
leaving me gutted and riddled with GUILT.
Mom Guilt. It's a thing.
And I think we should talk about it.
AND we certainly do not help ourselves as a gender or a community. Not only do our KIDS make us feel guilty, our fellow moms can inadvertently or purposefully trigger shame and guilt at any given moment. Pam made homemade Christmas cookies for the entire class while we can barely pack lunches each day. Trisha made Halloween goodie bags with a punny handmade tag using her Cricut. Allison sewed personalized pencil pouches for the
entire third grade while we are struggling to sign each kid's agenda every night.
Then there's social media. Be sure to only buy non-GMO Organic foods. Is your car seat in the top 3 for safety?
How often is your child brushing their teeth? Gluten is the devil. ADHD is real - oh wait, no it's not -
you're just a lazy parent. Discipline your kids. Don't discipline them, let them find their own way.
All babies should cry it out. Babies who cry it out have attachment issues and end up
in therapy before age 30. Limit that screen time.
Make sure they play outside, but you must watch them outside
AND still get all your paid-work done and maintain a spotless house with home-cooked meals.
Cloth diapers. Breastfeeding. Well, if you work then store-bought baby food might be okay-
but only if you work now. And don't forget to recycle.
Make it stop.
When my boys were 2, 4, and 12, I walked into my CEO's office and said "I quit. Other women are raising my children and I quit." I didn't have another job lined up. Fortunately, I had some savings, but that was mainly because I was working SO HARD and barely had my head above water that I never had time to shop or vacation (ie spend money). I was justifying myself to a man (my CEO) whose wife did not work and I "knew" he was coming home to beautifully home-cooked meals, a clean house, freshly washed and ironed clothes, and a wife who probably still had energy for sex instead of one who was collapsing into bed every night. OR SO I THOUGHT.
He kindly and calmly asked me to take a deep breath, sit down, and reconsider. What about part time or PRN (the medical term for as needed)? Did I want to lose my 6-7 years of tenure with the company? Did I always want to stay home or did I just need a break? Did I still enjoy being a nurse practitioner?
The truth was, I did not know the answers to his questions. I had ZERO plans, which goes against my basic core (search "plan" on this blog and you'll quickly see I plan everything). I had not asked myself if I enjoyed my work because I barely knew what day it was. I felt pulled in every direction by every person in my life and I was dreaming of ways to "get off the treadmill." My husband's lawn business was booming, and I was quickly running out of bandwidth to help him with that as well as my other demands at home and work. I felt like I was choking, but I wasn't sure WHAT was choking me the most. I just knew in my SOUL that I had to make a change.
I prayed about it. I took a few days to write it all out - not my feelings - I had not found a therapist yet. 👀 Who had time for therapy? BUT, I did somehow remember some of my high school and college skills for decision making and scribbled down ALL the reasons that quitting my job would make me happier overnight. In the end, I heeded my younger-than-me CEO's advice and worked PRN the first year and part-time the second year before returning full-time when my youngest started pre-K. Since I am not independently wealthy, I did eventually have to bring home some more bacon.
So, then what happened? Was my life immediately better once I was home more?
Did the MOM GUILT end over night?
Was I making beautifully home-cooked meals, providing freshly washed and ironed clothes,
maintaining a perfectly clean house, and bursting with energy for sex every night
since I no longer "worked" every day?
Turns out, the joke was on me. Not really a joke though my friends. It's the truth.
My 4 year old was in Pre-K, but my 2 year old was suddenly out of daycare.
My 12 year old was in honors classes in middle school and I found myself juggling
potty training, phonics, and puberty. 3 P's that should never go together. 😜
I was waking almost as early as I had been when I commuted to my demanding NP job.
I was feeding kids, washing clothes, and picking up toys all day it seemed.
I was helping with homework instead of paying my babysitter to do that.
I was making brownies for the PTO instead of money for retirement.
I was just as tired, but it was more of a physical tired than a mental exhaustion.
I was able to go to the gym regularly, and THAT was amazing.
Our gym had childcare, so I would tell the boys if they wanted a
"nice mommy and not a mean mommy"
then we would be going to the gym, thank you very much.
I DID have more downtime. I laughed regularly. For the first time in YEARS.
I WAS able to take and pickup my kids from school.
I had never before and never since had that luxury.
The pure joy of seeing my boys' faces when I picked them up each day
was worth the frequent melt-downs when I had to wake the 2 year old
to go pick up the 4 year old. (How do we do these things and no one discusses it?)
I learned lyrics to Disney movies instead of new treatment guidelines for diabetes.
I never took the kids to school in my pajamas, but I suddenly realized why so many women did.
I dropped ALL judgment of other mothers, because I was IN THE TRENCHES.
I missed adult conversation. I missed feeling important- there - I said it.
I lost my temper, and I raised my voice on occasion.
Sadly... and this really does make me sad... I simply had not been around
my babies enough HOURS of the day to really, really lose my patience with them.
Not until I was home. Cutting coupons. Cutting Play-doh with tiny plastic scissors.
And realizing that THIS was the real work. THIS was the important work.
And so I sit here tonight with tears in my eyes.
One launched and doing well.
One in middle school with puberty and insecurity competing for his time.
One who still lets me hug him in front of his friends.
And I don't know much more than I did 8 years ago when I walked in my boss's office overwhelmed and undone.
I'm still in awe of and in love with those 3 beautiful minds and faces that call me Mom.
But guilt? Will I wallow in guilt when I reflect over my presence in their lives?
Maybe on a bad day. Maybe for a minute or two when I have a "mom fail."
BUT I BEG OF YOU. OF ALL OF US. TO MAKE IT STOP.
WE ARE WARRIORS IN OUR OWN RIGHT.
WE KISS THE BOO-BOOS AND SCARE AWAY THE MONSTERS.
WE QUIZ THE SIGHT WORDS AND TIE THE LACES.
WE FEED THEM SOMETHING SEVERAL TIMES A DAY, AND WE ENSURE THEY ARE CLOTHED.
WE ARE DOING THE BEST WE CAN.
WE ARE FLAWED BUT PHENOMENAL.
WE ARE IMPERFECT BUT IRREPLACEABLE.
WE ARE MOTHERS.
LET US UNITE AND HOLD SPACE FOR ONE ANOTHER.