Monday, January 4, 2010

The Term is Mom Guilt

MOM GUILT - The overwhelmingly crappy feeling working Moms have most days of the week when they’re not unconditionally available to their children and their children’s caregivers.


This definition should be adopted by Webster’s because it’s the real deal.

I was sure of it in the parking lot of school this morning while I stood consoling another working Mom who is convinced that our children’s teacher doesn’t like her because she’s always late. I’m not personally down with the late thing, but I also don’t have twins at home while I am trying to get out the door with a 5 year old. I get it. But more than that, I get how it feels to always think you’re one step behind the perky Moms in work out gear enjoying their coffee and chatting in the parking lot. The ones that will go run a mile or so and cruise home to shower and pick up fresh ingredients for dinner before they’re back at school for the midday pick up. My days don’t look like that. And if the truth be told, I know that theirs don’t either, but in comparison to our tearing out of the parking lot in 3 inch heels at 8:02 am on the dot, the shorts and ponytail look like bliss.

My friend Kellie first identified Mom Guilt for me when we were working together on a program. At the time she had one young son and a booming career. She has a sweet baby girl now, too and a career that still gets in the way sometimes. We commiserate over how ambition and professional contributions don’t mesh easily with scheduled vaccinations and play dates. It presents itself in myriad ways during the week and when we’re lying in bed at night wishing there was a way we could be at tomorrow’s performance. It hurts. It’s real. It’s life.

In the frenzy of updating ALL of our calendars this weekend I realized that I will miss The Princess’ “Bridging Ceremony” to Kindergarten and My Athlete’s First Reconciliation. I’m not happy. But I am resolute. I simply can’t change it. The freedom I have in my heart is knowing that when I am with my children I am present 100%. Having a career forces me to focus more on what’s important and less on what park we’re going to on Tuesday. It’s not right for everyone, but it works best for us. After being home with my babes for two weeks I was delighted to get dressed today and hug them tight at drop off. I will be more thrilled to see them tonight than for the last several days we’ve been together constantly. Call me selfish. I’m OK with that.

It broke my heart this morning when I hugged the other Mom and told her that I was sure said Teacher didn’t dislike her for her lack of punctuality. We had a brief conversation about how hard it is to work and be there for our little people and I told her the thing I tell myself a hundred times a week. The opinion that should matter the most to you is your children’s. The others will come and go and usually won’t be favorable, but the mark we’re leaving on our children is permanent. If you can feel good about what you’re doing there everything else will take care of itself.

Did I sound convincing? I sure hope so, because hours later I am still questioning myself.

15 comments:

Tooj said...

I keep questioning this myself. I am so torn. With child one, I was a huge advocate of daycare, the socializing, the lessons learned about dealing with other adults, sharing, having them in an environment where the teachers are on top of learning and not potentially getting lazy like I might be as a SAHM.

Baby two made me reconsider, somewhat. He stayed home with dad for nearly ten months, and his demeanor was entirely different than baby one. Was it because he didn't get the "outside environment" of the daycare, or was it "just him"? Questions piled on top of questions with zero answers.

Baby three on the way has me desiring to stay at home. Plain and simple, I fret when my kids get sick, or appear on the verge of getting sick. I don't enjoy my job (see: not a career) nearly enough to want to stay, but unfortunately the cost/benefit of staying at home versus the daycare bills aren't adding up in favor of staying at home, yet.

What do I do? When would I ever feel comfortable making a huge decision like leaving the workforce? Ever?

I feel guilty every single day, and baby two doesn't help when he cries every morning at drop off. Baby one is giving me fits right now as he coughs and coughs at school, suffering from either a cold or asthma, probably both.

Your post hit a nerve today. Obviously. :) I'm torn. So torn. With no answers. Unless the powerball comes calling, I'm stuck in limbo.

Tooj said...

Holy crap that was long. Oops.

Emmy said...

Sounds very good and convincing to me. Everyone has different things in their lives that can be distractions, cause time crunches.. but like you said, when you are with your kids you are there 100%, so I don't think you could do any better than that.

McVal said...

SOunds good to me! I remember having Mom Guilt at 2am when I got up with my little boy and changed his diaper. I felt so guilty that I wasn't there for him while at work that I sat on the couch with him and read a book at 2am. After 3 nights of that and then a mention of his schedule being off at daycare, I figured I better knock that off... I got over it. When we had kid 3, we asked my MIL to move in with us and babysit. That worked out ok, but it brings up tons more issues...

Menopausal New Mom said...

That was terrific advice you gave that mom. I can hardly manage with one 3 1/2 year old and no outside career.

Yes, you are so right about that permanent mark and nothing should matter more than how our children feel about us.

Helene said...

I think everything you said to her was wonderful...it's exactly what I would want to hear if it were me in her shoes.

I had to laugh when I read the part about the moms who stand in the parking lot chatting. There are always 5 or 6 moms like that in Cole and Bella's kindergarten class. They show up in designer track suits to drop their kids off and then they stand in the parking lot (starbucks coffee cup in hand, of course) and chat about the latest (gossip, I'm sure).

I've come to resolve that I don't care what the other parents think of me, while I drop off my 5-yr old twins at class and drag my 2-yr old twins behind me. I look like hell and I don't care...not right now, at least. I figure when the kids are older and I'll have more time to myself to pretty myself up on a daily basis.

You are spot on about the fact that it's only our children's opinions that matter. If our kids are happy then that's all we need!

Beautifully written post, as always!

KaLynn said...

You said it beautifully! I was home with my two oldest but by the time the 3 youngest were in school I was a single mom. So I understand where you are coming from. You are doing a wonderful job and never ever doubt yourself!

sitting on the mood swing at the playground said...

I love this post...every word.

Jules said...

I think every mom knows what Mom Guilt is. I just never heard it explained to well...

JenJen said...

came by, because I noticed you are following my tweets and wanted to check your blog when I looked through your previous status-es (is status plural statii? or statuses?...hmmm.)
Anyway
I've done both; work like a dog at home then leave home to get paid to work like a dog for someone else, and now I'm right back where I started. Smarter, yes. And with less guilt. Seeing things-wait. Doing things both ways put life in perspective for me.
great post!

Jenny said...

Unfortunately Mom guilt never goes away...it just morphs into Grandma guilt. Great post.

MiMi said...

I stay at home with the boys, but I still have mom guilt. I think it just comes when you have kids...it's made of a really strong material that will never die. Ever. Dang it.

KID said...

Great post and great advice. I'm at home with my kids and have mom guilt because I'm NOT 100% present all the time. Sorry kids, mommy needs you to watch TV so I can get some things done ;)

shortmama said...

I think what you told her is awesome! I honestly dont know how working moms manage. It wasnt something I was cut out to be for sure. I worked until Rhiannon was 2 and couldnt possibly imagine trying to work with 2 kids, or more.

Emmy said...

P.S check my blog I have an award for you

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