The guilt started when I was pregnant with my eldest daughter. Since about my 5th of pregnancy I feel guilty anytime I do anything for MYSELF, anytime I am not deliberately working for our family unit (in the direct sense, not like giving myself a break is good for my mental health and thus good for our family init) and anytime I WANT to do something that does not include my children. I’ve been feeling this way for 3 years and I am only NOW realizing that is totally fucked up.
I was working freelance during my pregnancy and even though I would meet all my deadlines and technically be ‘off’, I could not let myself take a break. I felt guilty for napping, guilty for day dreaming, guilty for having free time (which is all that I longed for a year prior when I was stuck behind a desk). When my husband came home from work and asked what I did all day and how my day was I would be wracked with guilt. I justified every nap, (“everyone says sleep while you can”), rationalized every quiet moment, (“walking and alone time is essential to the creative process, in fact that is what is wrong with society today, we no longer take time just stroll”)… yes I really said that! I was so busy feeling guilty, so wrapped up in my own need to be (or be seen to be) productive that I didn’t even let myself enjoy what could have been one of the most fruitful periods of my life. Years ago I jotted down a bulletted list of goals in an old scrappy journal and those goals included, ‘being able to work remotely, by my own creative means.’ Yet, when I finally arrived at this point in my life, when I had finally achieved one of my goals I was too stuck in societies vision of what productivity looks like that I failed to appreciate all the work I had put in to arrive in that very intentional place.
So that was then and this is now. I now have two little munchkins under the age of 3 and since delivering my first daughter I have yet to experience the quiet, stillness and LACK OF RESPONSIBILITY that I failed to value during my pregnancy. Now I work from home, I work THE home and I’m dedicated to being a present, hands on parent. If I’m not working I should be doing house chores or dealing with life admin and if I’m doing none of the above I should be playing with the kids. Nothing else is acceptable, everything else is a guilty pleasure. Don’t get me wrong, I end up doing other things. Sometimes I get my hair done or go for a quick lunch with friends, but I ALWAYS come back feeling guilty for having been away. I have created a prison for myself and it is the inability to let myself have a break without feeling bad about it. I am lucky though, I have help (for which I also feel guilty) and I am ABLE to get away. Not all moms can, or believe that they can and thus don’t make it possible for themselves. This is not a ‘woe is me, I have Mom-guilt’ post, this is MOM GUILT BE GONE. Still, help aside, I’m doing a lot, I have absolutely ZERO free/me time and yet I STILL feel guilty taking a break and doing something just for me.
…And that is STUPID!
Yesterday my husband worked a 12 hour shift and came home at 7 pm. I was pissed. I was angry at him for coming home late, for not spending enough time with the kids, for not being around for all the school run/breakfast/tantrum chaos I endured on my own at 6 am on 5 hours sleep ’cause I have a boob zombie 8-month-old, but most of all I was pissed because he had a legitimate and socially acceptable reason to be away from his kids for 12 hours and felt absolutely ZERO guilt. But, he does feel guilty and he does feel sad when our daughter pushes him away and says, “no, mommy do it,” he does have feelings and they do also get hurt, but he also goes to work everyday despite all of that so that one of us can stay ‘home’ and get to spend these precious few years watching our kids grow into budding little humans. Sometimes I forget the privilege I am living. Knowing this gives me some perspective, but it does not take away the mom-guilt, so…
This post is my deceleration against mom guilt. I see you Mom-guilt, I’ve got my eye one you, when you pop up next…I’m telling you what’s up. I’m telling you…
- I work hard and I deserve a break (and piece of mind) just like all those other people with days jobs, so YES, I just switched off my phone at dinner with the girls and YES…everyone at home will survive without me
- It’s OK to want to be MORE than ‘just a mom’. Nobody is ‘just a mom’ and to believe that anybody actually wants to be, ‘just a mom’ is not anti-feminist it’s anti-bullshit. Every woman has desires and ambitions, they may not be to have a crazy career but I guarantee they don’t all revolve around perfect homemaking
- I’m pissed off that I am even having this discussion with myself.
- I deserve to feel good about myself and that does not make me a ‘bad mom’.
- Wanting to be more than just a mother does not in turn make me a bad mother
- I can live and breathe for my kids and STILL put a high value on my happiness and personal life
- I’m done talking to you Mom-Guilt, you bore me and you are useless and I’m now going to go do whatever it is that you are trying to stop me from doing.
So there….then I will toss my head and stomp out with some super sass ’cause I have a toddler that taught me how to say NO!