A good friend called me the other night and told me she was sad at her son’s 2nd birthday party. She felt like everyone but her got the chance to hold or play with him at the party. In classic Guilty Mama fashion, the conversation quickly leaped to her saying she feels like she works too much and doesn’t spend enough time with her kids. And here comes the zinger, she’s afraid she’s failing them.
It broke my heart to hear her say these things when I know for a fact both of her children are so loved. The conversation reminded me of “Kaleidoscope Hearts,” the guest blog I wrote for Casa Valentina. In my mind, the fact that she feels such guilt over her kids makes her a good mother. But that’s easier said than felt.
She’s a Caught In The Middle Mama. That means she works a lot but also wants to spend as much time as possible with her kids. She’s in the middle of a spectrum that on either end sits the Working Mama or the Stay At Home Mama. What do they have in common? They all feel guilty** (see Editor’s Note below).
Stay At Home Mamas are with their kids a lot. They feel guilty because instead of having fun with their kids, they feel stuck with them. They wish they had help or could click their heels and suddenly be alone reading a book by a pool, and that makes them feel guilty, too. Look at me. I think about strangling my kids with dental floss or dropping them off in a basket at the local fire station. I’m horrible! If something bad ever happened to Dylan or Riley, I’m certain after reading my blog, the police would make me a suspect.
Working Mamas feel guilty for not being with their kids enough. They often go to sleep wondering if they would feel less guilt if they just stayed home. They wouldn’t. See previous paragraph. They’d feel the “my kids drive me insane” guilt on top of the “I can’t believe I left my career” guilt.
Caught In The Middle Mamas have it the worst. They end up taking their kids to work with them or working at home from a laptop on the kitchen counter while doing puzzles, watching “Dora The Explorer” and fetching snacks. We all know nothing productive happens in either of those scenarios. They feel guilty when they’re home (and not working) and when they’re at work (and not spending time with their kids). Going all the way in one direction or another brings on the guilt mentioned in the previous two paragraphs, and in the end, they stay put and feel guilty about that. I was a Caught In The Middle Mama until a few years ago. Look at me now! Still drowning in guilt and quite possibly wanted for murder.
So where do we go from here? Out for a drink. Seriously. It’s oddly comforting to know no matter how awful you feel, there’s another Mama out there who’s had a bad day, too. Mamas’ nights out should receive government funding, bar tabs should be tax deductible and transportation should be provided free of charge.
Note to self: Research grant opportunities.
Beyond that, we need acceptance. I might feel bad about wanting to throw my kids out the window of a moving car, but it makes for a good blog post, right? My guilt feeds my creativity. (The police would love that one!) The friend I mentioned earlier told me her guilt drives her to be a better mom. (My guilt drives me to my jug of Pinot Grigio in the fridge, but who am I do argue with her on that one.) Above all else, we need to be proud of our journeys – wherever they lie on the spectrum – and know our experiences, including the guilt, make us smarter, stronger and more interesting women and really good Mamas.
**Editor’s note: I’m sure there are Mamas out there who feel none of the guilt I’ve described, but I’ve never met one.