Mom Guilt: Darned If We Do, Darned If We Don’t
A few months ago, I started a new “part-time” job that allows me to stay home, but also allows me to contribute a beautiful chunk of change to our family budget. It makes me giddy how perfect it is, and how much we needed it. As we prepare to buy our first house, it couldn't have come at a better time.
However, it did come with a price.
For the last few days, I have been consumed with Mommy Guilt. It has filled every inch of my body, and I can't seem to get away from it. Why, you ask? What happened?
My daughter told me she was busy.
Now, that wouldn't be weird, except my daughter is 4 years old. She's not busy — she won't be busy for at least another six to ten years. But one day last week, after shutting my laptop after an hour of work that morning, I wandered into her room where she was playing toys on the floor, humming to herself.
“Can I play with you?” I asked her.
“No, Mommy,” she said, without looking up. “I'm busy. Maybe later.”
My heart sank to my feet while my eyes filled with tears. She could have only heard that phrase used in that context from me.
In the months since I started working, I know that I have uttered the phrases, “Just a minute,” and “I'm almost done,” and “I'm busy, Honey. I'll play with you later” too many times to count. And my daughter had always taken it just fine, skipping away to play with her plastic dinosaurs or her toy horses.
And, yet, now that I was on the receiving end of it, I wondered if it felt like a sucker punch in the gut to her, too. Did she feel the rejection wash over her like I did?
Then came the guilt — the guilt for working and not being her on-call playmate every second of the day; guilt for wanting to pursue my career, even if was only part time; guilt for answering one last email, for writing one last article; guilt for teaching her that something was more important than her in our own home.
Which is silly, of course. She’s not the center of the universe, and I can't always drop everything when she wants to play, but she's the center of my universe, and I hated getting a taste of my own medicine.
“No! Play with me!” I was screaming the words in my head, but instead, I sat down on her floor and watched as she propped up a larger dinosaur with a herd of plastic cows, and then pretended that a two-foot-tall plush Toy Story Rex came and ate them all– while simultaneously humming the “I Love You” song from Barney.
I impatiently drummed my fingers on the carpet nervously, staring at her, but trying not to demand her attention. I wanted her to give it to me freely.
She finally looked up at me and said, “Mommy, do you want to be the Big Bad Wolf?”
Yes. Yes. Yes. Yes.
I don't regret my job, as it is in my career field and is giving me some of the best experience for when my littles are in school and I can finally work without guilt. Plus, we need the money. That's the bottom line, am I right?
But I want to minimize the Mom Guilt, for sure, so I have started designating specific times for work and times for play. And in the event that I need to work longer or she is begging to play, we compromise on short “play breaks” with a short game of chasing monsters or playing with Legos.
I'm telling you, chasing monsters on a play break is much more effective at waking me up than a coffee break ever will be.
Do you suffer from Mom Guilt?