Sunday, October 12, 2014

The Mommy Guilt

All working mom's that I know have this and it's been a dilemma that we've faced since women started working outside the home.  The mommy guilt.  We call it a work - life balance but we all know that finding that balance is far more difficult than it should be.

For me, at least, there is this ongoing guilt of not being present enough.  Even though I work from home, I feel constantly torn in two directions - my children and my career.  No one ever wins.  And that's a very frustrating feeling all around.

Over the years, Josh's solution has been for me to quit work.  When times are stressful and I find that balance to be even more difficult than usual, this is when he thinks it would be a good choice to just not work.  I won't sugar coat it when I say that when he says this, it drives me insane.  Why should I have to quit my job?  But I understand where he is coming from.  There are things we cannot eliminate from our lives - the children for one... and so what is something that we can do that would eliminate or at least reduce some stress and that's the one factor that we can in fact change.  But as far as I'm concerned, it's not something we can change.

And I don't know why.  I don't know why I NEED to work.  I like my job, don't get me wrong.  But it's not what I want to do for the rest of my life.  It's not what I'm passionate about.  I once read that if you love what you do, it's not work.  And therefore there is no need for a work life balance because you've already got it.  But I feel that even though my financial contributions are small to our household, I'm doing something other than just being a parent and taking care of the home.

Where does this guilt come from that I feel like taking care of our children and our home isn't enough? It's certainly nothing that Josh has ever said.  Is it a preconceived notion of my generation that if you don't work then you aren't doing enough?  Or is it just a notion that I have in my head from god knows where that I just can't let go of?

Because there are days where I just want to stay home and focus 100% on the kids.  But I'll be honest... I'm afraid.  I'm afraid that once I give up that job, that I'll regret it.  My hope is that I wouldn't, but I'm afraid to take the risk.  Yes, this is coming from the person who has moved not just to one country but two.  Someone who takes risks everyday is afraid to take one that would benefit her family.

But would it benefit them?  Or would I resent them if I were home all day long?  I already feel as though there are days when I've lost who I am.  When I feel as though my world revolves around everyone but myself.  Could it be that that is who I am?  The caretaker?  Maybe that is my job?  Is that what I want to do?   This is when I have the most impact and I'm feel as though I'm fucking it up constantly. So do I give up my job and focus on them?  My fear is I do it and nothing changes and that I become spiteful for giving up a piece of who I am.

I don't know.  And so I continue on, being pulled in both directions.  Time moves quickly though and the kids are growing up fast.  I don't want regrets.  I don't want to miss out on this time with them.  I do my best to focus on them when they are with me.  But lately it's been a new challenge - their new shorter school day.  It's been both a blessing and a curse.  A blessing because I feel like our time together is less pressured - when we lived in Spain they got home at 5:45 and we had to cover dinner, homework, reading and family time before bed at 7:45/8.  That's not a whole lot of time.  And my guess it is similar in most households with 2 working parents.

But here they finish school at 3:15 most days and at 12 on Wednesdays.  We've had a lot more time together.  The curse is that means I'm getting a lot less work done.  And so the balance is becoming harder and harder and I've recognized recently that I'm losing my identity because my life has become focused solely on Josh and the kids and my needs aren't being met.  It feels selfish to say it, but let's be realistic, we all need something that is ours.

As far as my career goes, I feel that for years my career has taken a back burner and I'm in constant turmoil about prioritizing work and the kids.  And it affects me emotionally.  I haven't wanted to be "weak" and give up my time with the kids in order to focus on work because in my mind I should be able to balance it all.  But in reality I can't do it in the way that I would like to.

In the end, I've recognized that I'm juggling too many balls and they are starting to fall all around me.  I need to recognize when I need help and that we've also only been here just shy of 2 months.  I need to learn to cut myself some slack which is never easy for me.

Josh has found a solution that will hopefully work for the time being.  It will give me a little more balance and take some pressure off of me to get everything done in such a short period of time.  We've hired a babysitter 3 afternoons a week.  Aidan hates it.  He's angry about it.  And that makes me feel guilty that I'm choosing work over them.  But there are times when I need to do that.  Because my thoughts are that if I can get more done 3 afternoons per week, then on their short Wednesdays, I can completely (or so I hope and will try) focus on them as well as one other day during the work week.

We've only had the sitter 2 weeks so far.  I'm not totally sold yet.  It's not her, it's me.  I'm not feeling much more productive as a result of her being there.  I think it's in part because I've had so many appointments and meetings that I haven't actually had time to see what the result will be for work.  But as Josh said to me the other day, being productive doesn't necessarily mean that I need to work my job more - it's about being productive all around.  He's right.  

So we're going to see how things go.  I told the kids we need to give this a few months and see if this will work for us.  It may.  It may not.  But we need to find a balance that we are all happy with. Hopefully the kids will eventually understand that I'm doing this for them and for me.  If I can have something that is important to me, then I can be a better parent to them.  Or so that is my hope.  Only time will tell.

In the meantime, I'm trying to work through this "mommy guilt" and figure out why I feel the way I do about my career.  Why can't I focus on a hobby that may eventually transition into a second career? Why is it that this something for me has to be work and not pleasure?  Is it because Josh is working so hard for us that I feel guilt over not working hard enough?  I'm sure that's a piece of it.  But work comes in all different forms and I need to remember that as well.

I've been spending a lot of time reflecting on my life lately (more on that later) and this is one of those areas that I need to spend some time focusing on.  What will make me feel more complete as a person? Is it a career?  It is the kids?  Is there a way to find a balance that will make us all happy without these feelings of guilt?  If anyone has figured out the solution, I'm all ears!!


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