Wednesday, May 28, 2008

Mother Guilt

I'm having one of those days where I feel like I'm pretty sure I don't deserve to have children. I'm tired. I've had a crick in my neck for the past three days and it's affecting my sleep. I've been working late to finish several articles before we go on vacation ONE WEEK FROM TODAY. The house is a mess. Declan woke up on three separate occasions last night with nightmares. And this morning I yelled at Finn for spilling his milk at breakfast. I. Feel. Horrible. I know nothing is to be gained by the Guilt Trip, but will I ever learn? Probably not.

In fairness, Finn was playing with toys at the table, something he has been told not to do over and over and over. . . .again, which resulted in the spill. And it all happened while I was trying to get breakfast over with, lunches packed, snacks packed, sunscreen on, everyone out the door to school, and prepare for a meeting.

So while Finn went up to his room and changed out of his milky pajamas into clothes, crying all the while that he "wanted Daddy," I got down on my hands and knees, sopped up the mess and cleaned the floor, I seethed. Was I seething at myself or at him? I find I lose it more with them when I am out of control in my own life. They're suffering for my poor planning, poor timing, poor whatever. And I hate it. UGH.

Finn gets over things pretty quickly. After he came back down and we discussed for the 50 bazillionth time that we don't bring toys to the table, hugs restored his happiness and he went off to school seemingly unscathed. Not so for me. I have dwelled on my behavior all morning. Whatever happened to not crying over spilled milk? You'd think with all of the other challenges our family has had, I'd have a little perspective. Apparently not.

Sometimes being self-employed and working at home stresses me out as much as working full-time used to create stress. To be home or not to be home? That is the question. You think you get it right, but it's really all just a big guessing game. One of my friends told me once that she's a better parent because she works. I found that when I worked full-time after Declan was born, I couldn't get my head in the game at work. And when I was at home, I was worried about work. What was my problem? Why couldn't I do what so many other mothers do? I still ask myself that. Should I be able to run the house, work part-time, serve on PTA committees, volunteer for school activities, run errands, and generally get done what needs to be done without breaking a sweat? It seems like everyone else can do it, and many of them work full-time. What is my problem?

An incident involving mother guilt happened this winter that has been causing me angst ever since. It involved me and another person who had an e-mail conversation about a third person and their personal choices about parenting. Lame, I know. A fourth person came into the e-mail chain and was upset about the conversation--rightfully so--because even though the conversation wasn't directed at her, she is in the same situation. Bottom line: I have no business commenting on other people's choices in life. Heck, I can't deal with my own.

Why would I bring this up now? Because I've been fretting about the whole thing for months because I hurt a friend's feelings. And besides, who am I to pass judgment anyway? What could I have been thinking? Even if I had my own house in perfect order, which of course, I don't; never made a mistake, which of course, I always do; never second-guessed my decisions about work/life balance, which I do all the time, I still should not be making judgments about other people in any regard.

And so, a little spilled milk has caused all of this angst and reflection today. Right now I just want to go over to Finn's school and give him a hug and tell him I'm sorry. And SM, I don't know if you still read or if you've gone away because of what I wrote, but please know, I feel terrible for having those thoughts, for verbalizing them and that I hurt your feelings/made you mad. I am so sorry.

I hate it when I learn things the hard way, especially, when like Finn, I know better. Hmmm, except that supposedly I have a few more years of experience.


1dreamr said...

After reading that, I'm crying. Are we ever content? I think we both need a hug.... This too shall pass.

1dreamr said...

... and don't be too hard on yourself. You're a WONDERFUL mother to the boys and a wonderful friend to many. We all have our moments.

Manda said...

I think we all struggle as moms to be the best we can be in all of our roles whether we stay at home, work from home, or work outside the home. And why do we do that? Do we feel judged by the next mom who appears to be Super Mom while she is feeling the exact way we feel? How often do we have converstaions about the reality of being a mom and trying to juggle all of our responsibilities? It would be my guess that we all feel the way you are feeling today. And if crying over spilled milk is going to damage our children for life, then mine are doomed.

Leeann said...

Hey babe,

I'm sorry you are having such a bad day.

Like you, I hate it when I lose it with my kids but more than anything, I hate it when I lose it with them before school. Then I am plagued all day with guilt and self recrimination and what if something were to happen and that was the way I had sent them off to school..and...and...and.

Luckily, kids have tiny little memories and great big hearts and all the wonderful things we say and do most of the time far outweigh the times when we gave them an earful, often deservedly so.

Big mommy hugs to you and truly, don't be so hard on yourself. You're human and a dang good one at that.


utahsweeney said...

All I can say is: don't sell yourself short. I'm home all the time and I am not really good at any one thing - oh, except yelling at my kids when they make their childish messes.

It's a season. Hang in there.

Anonymous said...

We are (and have been on many occasions) on the same page.
I too should know better to get excited about the small stuff. I remember after Jake was dx I could not understand how/why people were so petty. For the most part I still do but find myself getting spun up over LITTLE things. I have been taught an important life lesson – live for today and take nothing for granted. But I have to work very hard, and fail often, with this lesson. We are human. I wonder if I am fun enough or just a Mom staying what not to do; hurry up; get in the bath, etc., etc.

I guess that is why we Moms have each other - to vent and share.
Keep the faith and know it takes a lot to publicly admit wrong doing. Pat yourself on the back for that one!

Anonymous said...

Hey Natalie,

I know exactly how you feel because it is the end of the school year and I am overwhelmed with teaching, my kid's activities, school end-of-year stuff, house etc... My house looks terrible, disorganized, and messy. So please know you are not alone. Keep in mind all the wonderful things you do with your kids, the fun you have, and the love and support you give them daily. Finn probably forgot about the spilled milk incident in about 5 min. In one week you'll be on vacation so hang in there!

Karen in CT

Robin said...

Don't tell me I'm the first one to say...DON'T CRY OVER SPILT MILK!!!!

Seriously, as I should be, I SO relate to "I find I lose it more with them when I am out of control in my own life. They're suffering for my poor planning, poor timing, poor whatever." I'm enough of a control freak that I can't bear it when things are spiraling out of control, and my child dares to be a kid! What was she thinking???

I KNOW you are a good mom, and I know you know this. And yes, it shall pass!

Cate said...

I have yet to meet the perfect mother. I work full-time, am self-employed, have no kids or spouse, no little league games, or getting kids ready for school, and I can't do it all. I have no idea how any working mother does it!

I finally gave up and just hired someone to clean the house. It was such a stress reliever since I just can't do it all...and I have no kids. I'm only doing laundry for one. Kudos to you for getting anything done.