Posts Tagged ‘ mom guilt ’

Mom Guilt: Why Do I Have It? How Can I Get Rid Of It?

Tuesday, March 26th, 2013

When I walk in the door after having a sitter, my mere presence sets Emmett off. He is like a cat that can sense me a mile away. He starts howling. This has happened with the previous nanny, with every sitter…. basically everyone but Phil. Phil is excluded because the same thing happens when he walks in. Emmett wails.

He could be perfectly happy playing or eating, but wham, we walk in and he is suddenly aware that he hasn’t been with mom or dad and starts to cry. Often real tears stream down his little face. I usually walk over to him, pick him up and hug him. “Emmett,” I say, “it’s okay. Mama’s here.”  His crying immediately ceases. He burrows himself into me, his arms down at his sides in a little cocoon. We call it “pod-ing” like he’s a pea going into his pod. I kiss his head. And every sitter says the same thing, “He was fine until he heard/saw you.”

I know this is part of an infant-toddler’s development. But it gets me every time. I have this heart pull. It’s not even conscious. It’s a visceral reaction. I know my kids are in excellent hands when they aren’t with me. Three days a week Fia is in preschool and absolutely loves it. She is really blooming there too.

I know Emmett has loads of fun with our sitters. I honestly don’t believe in the extreme version of attachment parenting–where you’re supposed to be with your kid 24/7 until they’re 3. Or 13. I’m not judging those who do it, but for me, I know exposing my kids to different people, different races, different environments is good for them. So why is it so hard to NOT feel guilty? I wish I knew…

I’ve said before that I think moms with full time jobs in some ways have it better. They have a purpose, whether it’s career aspirations, or providing for their family, etc. I’m in a murky place because I’m freelance and I don’t have a set job. Each time I plan my week I do it in a way that I get enough play time with Em, enough with Fia and enough with both. Then I fill in the gaps with a sitter. But why do I even have to make sure I clock in with my kids?

In November I stopped having a nanny. Now I have about 15 hours a week of help. But the fact that I want to say in the next sentence “but I try and book my sitter while they are napping” is just whacked. It’s like I have to continually justify to myself that I’m not abandoning my kids. I have to make sure people know that “Hey, I’m a good mom. And I’m around.” It’s ridiculous on so many levels.

My sitter Michele is amazing. She was our night nurse for, oh, 7 months. I didn’t feel guilty about that at all, because with Fia, my lack of sleep led to an insanity that wasn’t pretty.  I am terrible without sleep. I never pulled an all-nighter in college. So justifying my night nurse for Emmett was easy. I have no regrets. I was a better mom to everyone. I don’t feel like I “missed out” on anything.

When we didn’t need Michele anymore she offered to babysit during the day. And get this: she has 5 kids. Yes 5. Her oldest is 19. Her youngest are twins Fia’s age: Maci and Cruz (pictured below).

As a veteran mom, Michele is always telling me to stop feeling guilty. She pounds into me that we all need our own time.  I know she is right. But in going to my yoga class this morning, leaving to the cries of Emmett, I felt that usual pull on my heart. It sinks deep into my stomach. Not for long, but it is always there. Should I be doing this? In downward dog I noticed how bad my toes look. Damn, I need a pedicure. I guess I could do one while they nap tomorrow, since I have Michele again, I thought.

I am seriously pissed at myself for thinking this way. I would have slapped myself silly in my pre-kids day if I ever thought I would be like a walking blanket of guilt.

I often ask Michele to bring her twins. They go to daycare most days, but if Fia isn’t in preschool, the three of them have a near perfect chemistry. Plus, instead of saying to Fia, “Michele is coming today!” and her replying, “No mama, I only want you”, (cue the guilt) I can say, “Guess what? Maci and Cruz are coming!” She jumps up and down. “Yay! Yay! No Way! [pause] Ballet” (her new thing with rhyming words). I am reassured she won’t miss me. That I am ok. 

It’s like the rational side of my brain can’t reconcile with the primal side of my being. Logically, I know I need a break. I know it’s okay to go to the store by myself. I know it’s okay to do yoga, get a pedicure, write a blog, and have time to myself. I also know it’s good for my kids on so many levels. If it weren’t, I wouldn’t even consider it. So this is all on me.

So how to get rid of the guilt? Maybe I need to go back to my hypnotist. Or maybe this is just the way it is when you’re a parent… battling conflicting emotions that put your heart and head in the middle.

 

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(My) Milestone Monday: No More Mommy Guilt! I Refuse It

Monday, August 13th, 2012

 

Last weekend Phil was away. I don’t have help on the weekends. I was by myself with both babies.

Here’s the scene:

Up at 6 a.m. Throw Emmett on the boob. Park Fia in front of Super Why.  Make coffee. Get Fia breakfast. Switch to Sesame Street. Let Emmett roll around on the carpet while I supervise and sip coffee (2 minutes of quality time). Feed cat. Emmett poops. Explosively. Put Fia in her high chair with a coloring book and bathe Emmett. Then feed him again. Fia starts to whine for eggs. Put Emmett in the swing and make eggs.  Plop eggs in front of Fia. Emmett starts to fuss. Pick him up. He poops again…a crazy amount. I am covered. In sh-t. I keep Fia locked in her high chair and give Emmett a sink bath. Put him back in swing, go change my clothes. Fia is finished. Begins to throw crayons. I am so happy she earned herself a time out, because for those 2 minutes I take my Lexapro, my Wellbutrin, and debate a shot of tequila.

I look at the clock. It is 7:30. Well f–k me.

At that moment, standing in my kitchen, dripping with sweat and both babies screaming, I had a complete and utter revelation. NO MORE GUILT.  Divine Intervention of the Non-Guilty Mom spoke to me.

I’m totally going to “out” myself here. I have full-time help and a part-time job. Not even. I’m a freelancer. I even have a night nurse a few times a week. It was almost every night in the beginning (I’d pump and bring her the bottle.) With Fia, I lost my mind with lack of sleep. It was so stressful for all those around me; I decided with Emmett I would do things differently. I would take my therapist’s advice and throw money at the problem. Lots of it. I could have sustained a village in Africa. Maybe two. Instead, I’ve sustained my mental health. And my marriage.

Up until now I’ve been afraid to fully confess. I’ve been nervous about the backlash from moms who will say I’m indulgent, that I’m not taking care of my kids, or even the “extremists” saying, “Why did you have kids if you’re not going to raise them?” Because here’s the thing: I am raising them and I now know I am doing a far better job with hired help than I could ever do on my own.

I shouldn’t have to justify this, but before I go further here’s why I have a full-time nanny: with Cleo in my life, I can pick and choose which child I want to be with. I can get quality time with both. That is key. But, I can also go to the bank, the grocery store, the nail salon and get a massage, all without carting a kid around. I can pay bills without sticking Fia in front of the TV. And blog. Added bonus: Cleo sometimes cooks for us. I still feel like I have zero time and I practically have a staff. Yet I often battle the demons of guilt. Shouldn’t I just plow through this on my own and be with my kids every hour that I can?

First of all, carting my kids to the store isn’t quality time. But now I think holding down the fort alone with your kids isn’t quality time either. For me, it was about keeping them alive. It was S-U-R-V-I-V-A-L.

Yet, my battle is constant: When I’m not with them, I feel like I should be. When I am with them at my house with the to-do list staring me in the face, I think of everything else I have to do.

While I’m at it, here’s another confession: I don’t love to “play.” As in, sit on the floor and build blocks or have a tea party.  I love watching Fia play though. I like to see the creative way she invents characters or stacks things. But pretending to pour tea over and over again? Honestly? I get bored.

So what I’ve done is carve out specific mornings and afternoons that Fia and I “do” things. We ride the kiddie train near our house, go on playdates to waterparks, museums, whatever. But usually it’s somewhere outside of the house. To me, that’s where I find my quality time with her.

Granted, throughout my solo-parenting day, we did have 9 more minutes of pure fun at home.  Fia and I were watering the lawn and she took the hose and squirted me. A mini water battle ensued. We chased each other around laughing. Emmett was taking one of his 20-minute cat naps (which is about all I ever get). “Ahh, see I’m doing it,” I thought to myself. “This is what the full-time moms get.” But then she fell, screamed for a Band-Aid, Emmett woke up arching his back (ready to release 11 more fart bubbles), and the moment was gone.

So why do I feel guilty for having help? Without it, I wouldn’t have quality time. Or maybe I would for a mere 11 minutes per day. Hardly enough to justify the guilt.

Sometimes I envy the full-time working moms because they can totally justify their nannies or  daycare. Other times I envy the SAHMs (Stay-At-Home-Moms) who I picture doing this in an orderly way.  I think I fall in this in-between area and perhaps that is where my guilt comes from. Or used to come from.

But ever since my revelation last weekend, I am trying to stop second-guessing how I raise my kids and just feel lucky I have this luxury.

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What Travel Does For Me…And Fi

Friday, February 25th, 2011

Before I had Fia, travel was my lifeblood. It sustained me, gave me purpose and left me humbled. No matter how harried or remote the trip, I would always come back grateful for having gone; for having left my comfort zone and experienced life a different way. It never let me down.

From the moment we started dating, Phil and I were on the same page. We wanted big careers and a life of globetrotting. We implicitly agreed that kids weren’t going to be part of our equation. To make a long story short, it was upon our return from Mali, West Africa a few Christmas’s ago that we realized maybe life wasn’t all about exploring the next country. Maybe it was about creating and adding more to the life we had here. And perhaps in the process, god-willing, raise a good child who would do good things.

So now we have Fi. And my globetrotting consists of taking her to Kidville for wiggle-giggle, keeping her from getting mangled by the cat or falling on the steps, and all the other joys that go along with parenthood.  And I dig it. Far more than getting my passport stamped. But now I am realizing I can have both. No need to choose.

When I took a trip to Belize a few weeks ago, I wasn’t sure if I’d be homesick and heartbroken leaving Fi. Turns out I was neither, but unlike other trips, I didn’t want to race off to another country or adventure before returning home. Five days was the perfect amount of time and just enough to make me feel alive again in my travel shoes.

It was also important for me to know that Fia could survive without me for that short time. In fact, I had my blackberry all programmed to send and receive texts, thinking I’d torture my sitters hourly. No such luck. (I’m sure they were quite saddened). We were 3 hours away from the airport in the middle of the rainforest. And once I accepted the reality that there would be NO SIGNAL, I immersed myself in all the joy and empowerment that travel brings to my life.

(Once a day I borrowed someone’s computer at the lodge in exchange for a drink and did a quick check of email. Click here to see what was happening on the home front.)

On the drive to Black Rock Lodge we passed little villages, roadside stands, and fruit and vegetable peddlers. We saw people walking along the side of the road, and waiting for the bus (many don’t own cars).  Just day-to-day activity. Life. But it was that, and things as simple as billboards and store signs that re-ignited something dormant in me.  It’s different. It fascinates. It stimulates.

Once there, we were truly in the wilderness, at a place that is completely self-sustaining, meaning they generate their own electricity and grow their own food. Check out the website to see how they do it. (Luckily they do bring in alcohol and had a fully stocked bar).

One of the women who worked the reception desk was 8-months pregnant. She had a lively spirit. Good juju. She was married to one of the managers and they live in a cabin on the property.

“How are you going to get to the hospital when you go into labor?” I asked, barely able to mask my alarm (the 7-mile road off the main highway is barely that—it could better be described as a rocky, pockmarked bike path).

She shrugged and said, “Well, hopefully I’ll labor here for awhile, and we’ll leave in time to get to the hospital.”

Of course.  What is wrong with me? I’m rusty. I had to pinch myself to remember that most of the world isn’t privy to weekly ultrasounds, hospitals within five minutes and the insistence on getting a “private bed” after delivery. By most standards, Belize is up there. She had had an ultrasound (they’re having a girl. Congrats!). And they do have the capability to perform C-sections, etc.  So while it’s different, (and I think fair to say, more bare-bones) it’s not without modern amenities.

As I hear the whir of my washer, I laugh at how good—no, I shouldn’t say good, that’s relative—about how easy I have it. In Belize, this is what we passed one day.

Baby in a Bucket

Baby in a Bucket

It’s brilliant in that it reminds me why travel is so crucial to my life. It snaps me out of my mom-self world and into one where Exersaucers, bottle sanitizers and wipe warmers aren’t part of the vocabulary. I need to make sure I never lose that perspective or become so self-absorbed that my awareness for the bigger picture disappears.

My hope is that when Fia is a little older, she’ll understand why occasionally Mom needs the adrenaline rush that comes from setting foot in unfamiliar territory. And I hope she’ll want to strap a bag on her back, take my hand, and go crossing borders with me. I bet she’ll love it as much I do.

Quick Update: Before I left, I wrote about how worried I was that Fia would miss me. I’m happy to report that she didn’t! As for that magical reunion when I thought she’d squeal with delight? Well, that didn’t happen either. I got home late and picked her up out of her crib. She looked at me, blinked, and then fell back asleep. The next morning (at 6 a.m.), my grand entrance was met with her usual crib stance, hands out, calling for the cat. Seriously. Wayne Sanchez even trumps me when I go on vacation.

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Return From My Baby-less Vacation

Thursday, February 17th, 2011

Okay, so it wasn’t as bad as I thought it would be–leaving Fi for the first time. Truth be told, it is rejuvenating to know my individuality is still intact.  I wasn’t sure, considering how much I squeeze and smother her. It wouldn’t surprise me if one day I woke up and was missing a limb because my body partially morphed into hers.

But alas, I had all my body parts with me to jump off rocks into pools of water created by waterfalls; hike the lush rainforest where palm trees soar higher than three-story buildings; canoe through caves with ancient artifacts; do yoga overlooking the jungle; and bask in the sunshine and warmth that Belize kindly gave us.

he's cute, but he's no Fia

he's cute, but he's no Fia

Meanwhile, back at home, things weren’t so carefree. Phil got sick. Then a sitter got sick and he had to scramble for a backup. Then that sitter told him he needed to take Fi to the doctor for a couple bumps under her eye (I had already asked the doctor, and she gave the universal cure: Aquaphor.  Sidenote: aren’t teething and Aquaphor the cause and cure for everything with babies?). Our regular doctor couldn’t get him in, so he spent a morning carting her to another one, losing half a day of work. And me, well, I was probably stretched out on a beautiful mahogany deck with hummingbirds, reading a book, with zero cell signal.

cut off from the world

cut off from the world

Here’s where he gets mountains of credit: once a day I would log onto someone’s computer and check email. There was always a quick update, telling me a little bit about how Fi was doing; how everything was great; and how he hoped I was having a fantastic time. Only when I returned did he tell me about his struggles.

For that, I humbly bow and sing his praises. I do, indeed, have a fantastic husband. Having said that, do I feel guilty? Not a bit. Do moms deal with this sort of thing everyday? Of course.  It’s life in the motherlane. It’s always fast, with twists and turns, and no matter how thoroughly you map it, there are times you’ll get lost.

So with that said….two days after I came home, I got hit with a wicked stomach flu. The following day Phil flew to LA for work.  Perhaps it’s penance. Or the universe laughing at me. But realistically, I think it’s just another U-turn on the map of motherhood.

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The Fog Will Clear

Tuesday, June 15th, 2010

I was strolling in Prospect Park yesterday. Fia was sleeping in her stroller. A couple of moms strolled past me with their newborns. They had that glazed over look I remember all too well from those early months. I was enveloped in a fog, but was okay with it (until my husband proclaimed me certifiable). As time went on, I began to lose my sanity. Lack of sleep, this huge life change and the monotony of it all started to get the best of me. My mom friends would reassure me, It’s normal. It will get better. Trust us. For the life of me, I didn’t know what they were talking about–even leaving the house felt like a chore–but I had no choice other than to hang in there. And wait.

Today, I feel like I am standing on the other side of a huge mountain. I’m not alone, but rather with all you other moms who have been there before me. And it’s my turn to say to those with the glazed-over look, It will get better. Trust me.

From my perch now, I want to share some of my most significant achievements and insights I’ve learned in this  journey. And for all you expectant moms and new moms who hear, It will get better, my advice is not to over-think or question it. Because it does. It is that simple.

Try and get out once a day. Even if it’s only walking around your backyard or to the mailbox. My first outing with Fia was around our block. Small steps but a huge sense of victory and accomplishment.

–The irrational, fearful thoughts will lessen over time. When I first had Fi, I was convinced a brown recluse spider was going to fall out of the ceiling vent into her crib. Seriously. This, despite the fact that I have never even seen a spider in my house, much less the reclusive one (which as the name suggests, isn’t an overly social insect). I went so far as to buy netting to put over her crib. My husband had had it at this point, stormed in her room, ripped the netting from my hands, and threw it out.

–I never thought I’d feel like my old self again. I was overwhelmed with both love and responsibility; angst and self-doubt. From the other side, I now feel like Fi and I are rocking this world together. And I’m not my old self. I’m better. Kinder. More compassionate. More patient.

–Pumping, feeding, washing bottles, doing laundry, changing diapers. Never sleeping. My life was never so tedious in those first months. That changes drastically. Hang in there.

–Now my day goes like this: wake up well rested. Go in to a smiling Fi. She stands in her crib, overjoyed to see me. I feed her. We play. We laugh. We laugh more. She naps. I write this blog. We meet friends. We go to the zoo. The park. The museum. We run. She tortures Wayne. We bathe. We feed. We sleep.

This is one of the few times in my life I’ve felt so content. I want to bottle it up and freeze it. But all the moms before me are saying, Just wait. It gets even better. And now, I don’t question them. I simply believe.

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