Stay at Home Mom Guilt

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Recently, I’ve seen an abundance of “Working Mom Guilt” articles. I read them all and feel so thankful that I’ve been blessed with the opportunity to stay home to care for our daughter. From my perspective, any woman, or man for that matter, who can work full time and keep everyone at home alive and thriving is a saint in my book. My own mother worked full time as a nurse while also raising three kids at home. She ran our home like a well oiled machine. She cleaned and did laundry every morning before getting us up for school, got us all ready, got herself ready, sent us off to school, went to work ON TIME, pulled a full day’s work, came home just in time to make dinner, fed us, helped with homework, saw that we were all clean before putting us to bed and kissing us good night. I’m tired from just typing that! She never ever complained about having to work, but I am certain there were many days when she felt guilty about having to. Working moms feel guilty a lot! But here’s one that you might not have heard yet; so do stay at home moms. That’s right, working moms, you heard us right. We stay at home moms feel an incredible amount of guilt too. These are just a few reasons:

1. Money – When I was a working woman, money was never much of an issue. Now that we’re raising a family on just one income it is. And it feels like it’s all my fault! My husband and I agree that my staying home is best for our family, but it’s most certainly not what’s best for our wallet. Each time there’s something we need or want that will have to wait because the funds are too short, I feel the sting of our decision over and over. Because I’m not pulling my weight financially, we all sacrifice. I feel guilty!

2. My house is a wreck – “How can this be? You’re home all the time, part of your job is to keep it all together.” Guess what, I can’t. My laundry hasn’t been caught up since before my daughter was born. Having children in the house sometimes means multiple wardrobe changes a day. A cup of milk gets spilled; I clean it up just in time to see my daughter launching her breakfast across the room. I clean up that mess. Oh, a dirty diaper to change. Oh no, this one’s a blowout. It’s going to require a bath and a full wardrobe change. Now, I’ve got to get her some more milk since I spilled that last cup. She’s rubbing her eyes; it’s time for a nap. I get her to sleep and then I must shower because that blowout of a diaper wasn’t just confined to her body. An hour has passed and I haven’t done a single thing to change the fact that my house is a mess; I’ve only maintained its current state. Repeat all day long, and on an average day I might have done a single load of laundry, straightened up a bit, picked up the toys, and vacuumed all in a day’s work. At the end of every day, I would be mortified if visitors stopped by unexpectedly. But according to what we all expect by social norms, my house should be spotless. It’s not. I don’t have what it takes. I feel guilty! I venture to say that most stay at home moms, especially those with very young children are all nodding in agreement here.

3. Sometimes I wish I worked – Gasp! Yep, I said it. There are some days when I feel like I’ve had all I can take. When the baby is crying, the bills are piling up, I’ve been puked on 5 times, and I feel like I’ll die if I have to listen to Mickey Mouse’s obnoxious voice one more time, I have often thought, “If only I could just go to work.” But then, I remember how thankful I am to be able to be the sole caregiver of my daughter and how there are others who would die to be able to and then, I feel guilty!

4. I failed at teaching sign language – Ok yeah, that’s very specific, but it’s true. Along with writing down every single milestone in her baby book, and so much more. Ok, hear me out. This is another one of those, “But, you’re home all the time, so you should have time for that” ones. I meant to teach my daughter baby sign language. I forgot. Yes, I literally forgot. My intentions were good, but when it was time I was busy just surviving and getting us through each passing day that I forgot to sign as I was saying words. She’s now saying her own words and I didn’t succeed at teaching her a single sign. I meant to be one of those moms who documents every single life event so that in the future when we can no longer remember we could look back in a book and read it. But again, I got busy living and forgot to do so. I’ve already forgotten a lot. I should have made time for those things. I should have made myself remember, but it’s exhausting just making sure the “musts” are done and I forgot. I feel guilty!

5. Home cooked meals….sometimes – I think June Cleaver set us all up for failure, yet again. Dinner time rolls around just about the same time that my mommy energy is waning. I’ve been single parenting all day and frankly I’m tired, both mentally and physically. But, it’s my job to make sure we’re all well fed. Sometimes that means a home cooked meal, sometimes it’s a sandwich, sometimes it’s take out. I should be able to make a full meal every day. I do not. I feel guilty!

6. Did I use my time wisely? – With being a stay at home mom, there are sometimes those few quiet moments when the baby is asleep or playing independently. This means it’s decision time. Do I steal the few minutes of “Me” time I so desperately need, by reading a book or catching up on Facebook? Do I fold a couple loads of laundry? Do I pay the water bill? Do I go ahead and start dinner? Yes, even a few minutes of peace aren’t all that peaceful. I’ve got to utilize this time efficiently because it is so rare. But what is the best way to do so? Regardless of what I choose, there will be a sacrifice. I feel guilty!

7. Did I respond correctly? – Being a stay at home mom means that I do the vast majority of the correction. I fully admit by the 20th time of pulling my daughter away from something she shouldn’t have, my demeanor has gone from light but matter of fact, to cold and stern. Would I respond differently if I were a working mom? Would I not be as frustrated by these actions if I had been away from her all day? Could I handle the situation better if I were “fresh?” Probably so. I feel guilty!

8. Here, you take her! – When my husband calls each day to tell me he’s on his way home from work, I get a boost of adrenaline. His presence means two very exciting things to me: adult conversation and help! Both of which I’m badly in need of by the time the evening rolls around. One can only sing so many renditions of the Wheels on the Bus or say, “No! Leave that alone!” before they’re wishing for an adult to talk to. More so, when my husband’s home I know that means I can go to the bathroom without worrying that my whole world will come crashing down while I’m in there. He can watch her. He means another set of hands, eyes, ears and another play mate for the baby. I can have a break! But, he’s worked all day. He’s tired too. He shouldn’t have to work so much at home as well. I feel guilty!

9. I’m too tired for Pinterest crafts and the park – Ok, this one doesn’t apply to me yet, but it will. Being a stay at home mom means there should be time to do things like the latest and greatest Pinterest inspired hand print tree or play dates at the park. Sometimes though, what it really means is by the time there’s an opportunity to do those things, we moms are already too tired to muster the energy for it. We feel guilty!

You see there is so much guilt for all I cannot do and accomplish in one day. Just as working moms feel guilt for the time they don’t have at home to do the things they want to do. The moral of the story is that we all want to give our kids the very best we can muster. For each of us, our bests are different. So long as we are giving it our all, then that’s all we can ask of ourselves. Someone once told me, “Feeling guilty about what you can/can’t do for your kids proves that you care about them and that means that they already have everything they need.” I hope this is true. I also hope that although I may not have done things perfectly by my own standards, my kids think I did and look up to me, as I look up to my own mom.

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The Great Mom Debate: The Stay at Home Mom vs The Working Mom

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The three of us here at Three Ladies and Their Babies are extremely fortunate to be able to stay home full time with our little ones.  For me, however, that hasn’t always been the case.  When Colin got an unexpected job offer in Houston, it was a big deal for us.  Although we had agreed it was time for him to start looking elsewhere, Houston was never in our plans.  It meant an 1,100 mile move, a new job, and some major life changes.  The tipping point, however, was that Colin’s increased salary meant that I would be able to stay home with Ian and any future children we might have.  For the first 18 months of his life, I worked full time and Ian spent about 52 hours a week at daycare. The people at his “school” became like an extended family to us and we loved it there, but it hurt that he literally spent more time with his “teachers” than he did with us.  Like most families, we didn’t have much of an option at that point, so when the opportunity came to move to Houston, we took it.  I put in my notice and started trying to prepare myself for the life of a stay at home mom.

It didn’t work.  A few things happened.  We were unable to sell our house in Kentucky and the possibility of having two mortgages loomed before us.  I had also started a new position about two months before Colin accepted his job offer in Houston and I was really enjoying the work and the challenges that it brought.  On top of that, my colleagues had become my friends and I enjoyed working with them every day.  So before our move to Houston was even final, I accepted an offer to stay on at my old company and work from home 30 hours a week.  In the beginning, it was only going to be for 3-6 months.  It ended up lasting a year. I worked ten hour shifts from home and Ian went to daycare three days a week.  I had the other four days to focus on him and not to worry about working.  It was a great solution for us at the time

By the time Declan came into the picture, things had settled down and we had renters in the Kentucky house and were renting our home in Houston.  That situation was stable.  At the same time, my company was moving headquarters and going through a lot of turnover and it seemed like my time to be a full time, stay at home mom was nigh.  I quit working in early September and took Ian out of daycare.  I haven’t worked since and it has been really nice to be able to just stay at home and concentrate on my boys and my home.  But of course, there’s a catch.  I’m apparently only so-so at this not working business and after being unemployed for about seven months, I just signed a contract to work a few hours a week from home.  My plan is to put in about ten hours a week, mostly after the boys are in bed at night.  I’m not sure how it’s going to go, but I’m excited and ready for the challenge.  In staying home with my boys, the question of what I’m going to do when they get older has always bothered me.  Can I really get back to work after sitting out for so many years?  Will my training be obsolete by then?  Could I be happy not working once they are in school?  For me, this is the perfect opportunity to keep myself somewhat updated and it leaves my door open for future employment opportunities, while still giving me the chance to stay home with Ian and Declan.

All of this background brings me to my point.  Leaving your children to go to work is hard.  On the same note, not going to work can be difficult, too.  I’ve mentioned the concept of mom guilt in some of my previous posts and it comes in full force in this one.  In a society where it often takes two incomes to make ends meet, many people just don’t have the option to stay at home with their children.  But for those that do have the option, it still isn’t always an easy choice.  And it’s a choice that can leave you riddled with guilt.

When I first took Ian to daycare at 13 weeks old, my heart broke.  I was leaving my baby with highly experienced, CPR certified, expert diaper changers.  They were the best in the business.  But still, they were strangers.  They wouldn’t respond to his cries as quickly as I would or know how he liked to be held.  They wouldn’t love him like I did or just sit and rock him when he needed to be soothed.  It was hard.  But you know what else?  It was kind of a relief.  For eight hours, five days a week, I was able to have adult conversation.  I could just sit and not get up for the whole workday if that is what I chose to do.  And nobody ever cried if I didn’t do something fast enough.  On top of that, I enjoyed the challenge that my work brought.  And at 5:00 every day, I could not wait to get to Ian.  Seeing his little face when I picked him up at daycare became the absolute best part of my day.  I was just so excited to get to him.

For a while, I had horrible feelings of guilt over the fact that I enjoyed going to work every day.  When I would walk in to pick him up and his teacher would tell me that she found another tooth or that he had rolled over or met some other milestone, my heart would sink.  Missing those events seemed like the worst possible thing imaginable.  But then I realized that it was actually good for both of us.  It worked for our family.  I was happy and so was he.  As he started to get older, I realized that he really loved going to daycare.  He loved the people and all of the interaction, even the routine of it.  As a barely one year old, he would toddle around and try to tell me about his friends and what they were doing.  He was just such a social little guy.  They were able to get him on such a great schedule, that to this day, he still takes at least a two hour nap at noon every day.  In fact, he seemed to benefit so much from daycare that even though I’m staying home now, he still goes to a Mother’s Day Out program for a few hours three days a week just for the interaction.

Since Declan was born and I’ve had two little ones to take care of, I’ve been more than a little busy staying home with my boys.  There are days that I feel like I clean the kitchen five times a day and it’s still messy.  There are days when we have blowouts, spit-ups, potty accidents, tempter tantrums, and umpteen wardrobe changes.  On those days, I usually don’t get a shower until after they’ve gone to bed.  I run on caffeine, often dreaming about the days when I used to sit in front of the computer all day.  But then there are days that I get to build forts out of blankets or play outside in the water all day long.  And days when I get a “just because” hug and kiss or when they just want me to hold them for a few minutes.  On those days, I know that being able to stay home with them is truly a blessing.  I’ve had the opportunity to experience both lifestyles, and there are definitely pros and cons to working and to staying at home.  For me, the real lesson has come in being able to let go of the mommy guilt.  I now know that my boys are loved and well cared for regardless of which I choose.  And they will thrive in either situation.  I can honestly say that I love staying home with my kids right now, but I feel very fortunate that I’ve gotten to experience both sides of the coin.  When the feminist movement paved the way for our gender to work outside the home, it also gave us the option not to do so.  I feel like it is important to acknowledge that neither option is 100% “right” or “wrong”.  A happy, well-adjusted family can exist in either situation and the key is to find the right balance for your family.