Monday, May 5, 2008
mother's day guilt
two months after our oldest child (who just turned 6 in december) was born, i began my career as a working stay-at-home mom. what i mean is, i got my first set of proofs for a journal and started learning what it means to be a full-time mom and to work full time from home.
i remember being so bleary eyed staring at those proofs, wondering how in the world i was ever going to catch any typesetting errors when i was working on about 1 or 2 hours of sleep (gillian was what some might call a difficult baby...at least that's what i called her!). i was grateful for the opportunity to be able to provide extra income at the time. and i honestly thought the work was easy. and it really was at that point. i wasn't doing any copyediting or having to sit at the computer just yet.
by the time gillian was 5 months old, though, i already had editing jobs lined up and was somewhat tied to the computer. i spent time holding her, trying to type. lucky for me, she was a very calm baby. she didn't try to hit the keyboard or type her own additions to the articles i was reading. (this is what rhys has been doing lately!)
on top of my paid work, i also decided to make my own baby food. and i couldn't stand living in chaos (i still can't)...and i also didn't want to end up as one of those families who has so much kid stuff in their living room that it is off putting to visitors, especially those without kids (but sometimes even for those WITH kids!). so i was also very diligent about cleaning up after playtime, which, for those of you with babies know, occurs multiple times a day in between various naptimes. i also took the subway when i had errands to run (ok, except for the grocery store, which would have been WAY too complicated), which took extra time, but we only had one car and plus, i liked taking public transportation.
then, six months after gillian was born, we found out we were expecting baby #2. surprise! i tried to prepare by taking on extra work so we could afford to buy the things we needed plus pay for health insurance and various other costs that go along with having kids (most of which you don't realize until they are there, living and breathing in your house, and then you go, "oh crap! you cost a lot!" at least that's what i did.).
ok, fast forward to today, where i carry a full workload, editing anywhere from 8 to 10 to sometimes 12 hours a day (depending on where i am in a project). my husband is an amazing dad, and he does a fantastic job playing with the kids, holding rhys when he's fussy, feeding him (especially now that i'm done nursing), and cooking dinner sometimes.
there are a multitude of other things around the house that i just feel ultimately responsible for, though, even if rick were willing to take care of them. it's just in my personality. like take laundry for one. it's easier for me to do it, plus i really enjoy the motion of washing and drying clothes. (putting them away, though...now that's another story) and doing dishes is something i hate, but i'm super fast at it, so i end up wanting to take over even if someone else is in there helping me out. i really, really, really enjoy cooking, so i usually don't want to give up that job to someone else, even if i need to so i can get some editing done. vacuuming...well that's pretty much up to me most days, and that's ok, because i never dust...rick always does it for me after it gets seriously bad. :)
so here's my problem: i read this list of what a good mom is on my friend J's blog the other day. it took my breath away. it almost made me cry. but not because i was waxing nostalgic about how i fit into the list. it made me realize what kind of mom i have NOT become. i am not the mom on this list. i want to be (well, mostly), but life experiences and struggles have not allowed that.
i want to say right now that J is my friend. we were in close community together for a year and a half in houston. we haven't talked much since we moved away from there, but i still think of her and her family often and still very much consider her a friend. so i am not trying to criticize her list. after all, it's hers! but after thinking about commenting, and feeling at such a loss for words and feeling pretty much empty inside about what kind of mother i have become, i realized i needed to blog about it instead.
i blogged a while back about feeling a sense of relief when my older, wiser friend shared how we really shouldn't feel such pressure to entertain our kids. i also heard another wise friend with 4 kids joke, "when my kids ask me to play, i tell them, 'go play with your brother or sister; that's why i had more than 1 of you!" even though i know she is kidding, i know there is some truth to that, and it was refreshing to hear her honesty.
so i've been trying to embrace the more honest side of motherhood, like just facing the fact that i have to work all the time right now and can't stop sometimes to look at what the kids have drawn, or listen to their stories. it's painful, but it's just the truth. some days, i spend so much time trying to get them to be quiet so i can concentrate, that after they are fast asleep and i'm lying in bed trying to fall asleep too, the guilt just washes over me and i go into their rooms and crawl into bed with them, as if i'm trying to tell them, "i am so sorry."
i apologize when they are awake too. i cling to the fact that children are such vessels of grace and that maybe i'm not screwing them up THAT much. but my biggest fear as a mother is having them grow up feeling like i didn't love them enough, didn't spend enough time with them, yelled at them too much, didn't listen to them enough.
i wonder if sometimes (and again, i'm not trying to criticize my friend's list) we are told that we have to be superhuman as mothers. we have to work (lots of us do, despite what people might think), take care of our homes, find time to take care of our bodies (this is very last on my list, despite my recent commitment to exercise--i've resorted the past few days to just abstaining from food...), find time for snuggling with our spouses, and also be an amazing, fantastic mom who never loses it, always makes handmade cookies and other goodies for them, does elaborate projects with them, takes them places around the city to give them some culture.
this is an inordinate amount of pressure, people! i for one can't live under it. i haven't figured out a solution though. a while back asti recommended a book called Buddhism for Mothers: A Calm Approach to Caring for Yourself and Your Children. i haven't taken her advice and ordered this book yet; most of the time thinking about reading makes my head spin because it's what i do all day long. but there's really no excuse for me not getting the book; it's cheap, and it looks like an easy read.
on my previous post about this kind of thing, there were a few comments, but i would like to dialogue more (as much as we can electronically) about what you think about all this. do you feel these pressures? how do you deal with them? how are those "perfect" mothers all so calm and, well, perfect?
Posted by kristi at 3:38 PM