A friend of mine is also a mom of two, and, like many of us parents, she feels the guilt that goes along with having any sort of me time. She’s written about it, for Quinte Pediatrics and Adolescent Medicine, and I wanted to share her words with you. No doubt you’ll find yourself nodding in agreement at what she describes. It’s all part of this giant job we call parenting. 🙂
Hi, everyone. I’m Allison. (“Hi, Allison!”) I’m here today because I have a problem. I have “Mom guilt”. And I need help.
I’ve always prided myself on being a laid-back, easygoing person. Definitely not your Type A personality. My shoes and boots aren’t in perfect pairs inside my front door. I have no less than 3 novels on the go at one time. I squeeze the toothpaste tube from the middle. Every. Time. And “guilt” was NOT previously a word in my personal vocabulary.
Then I became a mother. Twice.
At first, I thought I was being irrational due to those ridiculous postpartum hormones. However, I still have this “Mom Guilt” thing LONG after that weird postpartum period. My kids, a boy and a girl, are ages 6 and 3, respectively. For the most part, they’re very good kids (especially for people OTHER than Mom and Dad). They’re well behaved, easy to entertain and aren’t a flight risk if you take them out in public. Every person who keeps them for me says great things about their “child-watching” experience. So why, dear reader, do I still get this nagging feeling, this uncomfortable sensation in the pit of my stomach that keeps me thinking “They SHOULD be with ME.”
It started when my eldest child was just a few months old. My parents kept him overnight on New Year’s Eve, so my husband and I could have some friends over and try to celebrate in a childless fashion for the first time since babe was born. Of course, as it turned out, I didn’t really enjoy myself, thought about my 2-month-old the whole time, then couldn’t get up and dressed fast enough the next morning to go and get him. But that’s normal, right? Right. It was the first time he’d been away from me for more than a few hours, so these feelings were natural. I worried about how he’d slept (if at all), if he cried too much, and all of the normal newborn worries. But, honestly, I wish it had stopped there.
This problem with “Mom guilt” plagues me to this day. I’ve lost track of the number of times I’ve turned down invitations for dinner with friends, shopping trips, overnights with my husband because of this feeling. The feeling of “It was MY decision to have these kids, so it should be ME taking care of them. ALL. THE. TIME.”
I worry about putting people out – that these lovely people could be doing something ELSE with their time rather than fetching juice boxes for my kids. I worry that they won’t sleep well at Nanny’s. I feel guilty if I linger too long at the restaurant the three times a year I DO go out for dinner. And THEN I feel guilty because I’m trying to listen to what my dinner companion is saying, but instead I’m ruminating about how I should have stayed home and taken care of my kids myself! (Sorry, everyone I’ve gone out with over the past six years!)
It’s hard to believe that I still have this problem six years later. And that now there are TWO children to “worry” about instead of just one. It’s not as bad as it once was – I mean, taking care of a 6-year-old versus taking care of a 6-MONTH-old is a whole different ball game – but it’s still there. It even happens when I leave the kids with my husband, which is RIDICULOUS. My brain wants to recognize that they will be totally and completely fine, and that their Dad is honestly not even a little bit “put out” about being in charge of them for the time I’m gone, but that little nagging feeling always seems to be all “Step aside, spleen!” and push it’s way into the pit of my stomach. I’ve just become really good at living with it.
I know a lot of parents who are able to leave their kids with their grandparents, or aunts and uncles, and go to a sunny resort for a week. And I don’t begrudge them that. I APPLAUD them for that. I wish that I were able to do that, without guilt, but I know I’d be miserable. I’d constantly be thinking about what a wrench I’d thrown into their plans, into their otherwise normal and easy lives that they would lead if they weren’t in charge of my kids for a week. Let’s face it – no one wants to think about/cry about that when they’re trying to enjoy an oceanside pina colada.
This guilt feeling IS lessening as my kids become older, more self-sufficient human beings, but it’s still present. It might always be. I AM trying to get out more, to do more things on my own, without feeling like I should be staying home. I know some of my friendships have suffered because of this problem. I know I’ve turned down one too many invitations to go to Toronto or Ottawa overnight to see people who were some of my best friends. I have a lot of lost time to make up for. And it needs to start soon.
This isn’t an instructional blog post, nor does it contain helpful tips for keeping diaper rash at bay, but if it resonates with just one other person out there (hey, I’m sure “Dad guilt” is a thing, too), then I’ll be content.
This was a hard post to write. A lot of it was written through a haze of tears. But while my 3-year-old sits happily on the floor watching Imagination Movers, I’m gonna slip into the bathroom and fix my mascara. Guilt free.