Sep 28, 2010

Am I Also Allowed to Feel Guilty?

Today, Liz over at Mom 101 (she needs no introductions, of course!) talked about the guilt she feels about being a working mom and missing out on some important events happening in her kids' lives -- from first words to routine pediatrician visits.

As I told Liz, guilt and motherhood go hand-in-hand; it's an intrinsic part of the parenting experience. The large majority of working moms feel like they are missing out on what ought to be their natural right to watch their children grow up and are trying to juggle too many things at once. All this guilt seems to be rooted in our aspirational image of the perfect woman. You know, the one who can attend every soccer game while nailing it at boardroom meetings, the one who has a fully cooked meal waiting for her family after she's worked a 10 hour day and not a single hair out of place. Being a woman, a wife, a mother, a working mom, all strung together so effortlessly. We all know this delicate balance -- whether we experience it first hand or not -- and empathize deeply.

Which led me to wonder: Am I allowed to feel guilty too for not being the perfect mom and wife even though I don't work? I wonder what would happen if I talked about feeling guilty for letting my 21 month old watch more than his daily 20 minute allowance of television or for procrastinating to make his check up appointments or for willing the day to go by faster because I cannot physically do another Lego tower. After all, this IS my job, right? My "job" allows me to be present for every "first" in my child's life, every pediatrician appointment, every laugh and every cry. And perhaps therein lies the issue: there is no more novelty. It becomes difficult to decipher what would be deemed a "special event" from just another milestone.

The reality is that I do feel guilty for not always giving K. a hundred percent. We have good days when I can look at myself in the mirror and say "You get a gold star!" But then there are days I know I could have done better. I could have played more, read more, been more patient, less frustrated... And yet, I don't feel like I'm allowed to publicly admit of my occasional meager performances. What would the reactions be? A few eye-rolls? Some "lazy-mom" comments?

But like Liz's kids, I know that K. doesn't feel less well taken care of than the next kid at the playground. Most importantly, he knows he has two hundred percent of my love. I see it in the way he looks at me, in the way he shows his affection towards me and others, and in the incredible personality he has (He knows my love for him is and will always be there, which allows him to be himself).

Working-mom or stay-at-home-mom, we're all doing our best. And unfortunately, our best isn't always good enough. The quality of our mothering will only be truly judged once our kids are grown (how much time they're spending at the therapist about their mom-issues) and can understand why parenting is the toughest job there is. Until then, we shall all continue to feel guilty about our perceived shortcomings.


JJ said...

I hear ya! Ive been a part-time working from home, SAHM since Oman was 3 months old--and there is NO great balance--any way you look at it. I constantly question whether I am doing enough work, being a good wife, being a good mom...
But we just do the best we can, right?!

Julie @ The Mom Slant said...

I think you'd be surprised by the empathy shown by other moms where it comes to those days where you'd like to have a do-over.

Nico said...

This hits very close to home - I work two days a week, which mostly is a good balance for me - but at the same time I feel like I have so much going on right now that my kids might actually be better served by being in daycare five days a week. Guilt that I'm not doing all the activities with them that I feel like I should on the days we're at home. I think that whatever choices we've made, we are always critical of ourselves - at least I have yet to meet a mom who isn't! I try my best, and try very hard to convince myself that really that's all I can do.

Post a Comment

I love comments. Good ones, bad ones... ok, mostly good ones. I will write back to everyone.