I stopped working a few months before my oldest was born. That was thirteen years ago. So when our trio came five years later, I was still a stay-at-home mom. For over a decade I was the primary caregiver to our children, getting breaks when my husband (thank God for him) took over every weekend, letting me sleep in, get pedicures or just lay around doing nothing. In spite of being with my children almost 24/7 a day, all too often, guilt will eat at me. Am I spending enough time with them, focused and not distracted? Am I parenting them properly? Am I stimulating them enough? Am I giving them enough one on one attention? Some of these were rational. Some, not so much. But that’s the problem with mom guilt, it often doesn’t make sense, but it still gnaws at you.
So when I started considering going back to work knowing all kids will be in school soon, my top priority was how not to negatively impact my kids’ lives as much as possible. In my head, I had it all worked out. Then on paper. It was going to be great. Everybody was going to fall in sync and we will do this dance that millions of families do on a daily basis. HA! If only.
The transition hasn’t been pretty nor easy but I have a great support system. What made going back in the adult world more challenging was I just didn’t go back to work, I started my own business which is essentially a 24/7 business. Being your own boss has its own merits, but it can also consume you. I’m currently in that awkward growth phase where I’m busy but not busy enough to afford help so most things (and stress) falls on me. So guess what happens when I work, work, work? Right. Mom guilt. It’s never far away. It’s always at the forefront of my brain of how I need to switch off when the kids come home, that they need home made meals all the time, that making them lunch for school should be a priority, sitting down with them doing homework, spending one on one with them.
A few evenings ago, the kids rushed inside the house after playing outside. One of them said their shoes have holes in them. And he showed me. Another kid did the same thing. These weren’t small holes. These were falling-apart, unwearable holes on their soles. So without thinking, I herd all the kids in the car (just before dinner time), smelling of sun and sweat, and probably hungry. We walk into the mall just before seven o’clock, not even knowing if they’re still open. But they were. So I tell the salesperson to measure all four kids’ feet. While each kid told (bugged) me which shoe they preferred, a FaceTime call comes through my phone. It’s my parents. They are very good at calling us and talking to the kids, so I pick up. When I tell my dad where we were and why, the first thing he said was “How could you have not noticed their shoes had holes in them?” Of course, I act like the rational person that I am. I cry in the middle of the shoe department at Nordstrom. Because that was the exact same thought I didn’t want to entertain–that I can be so blissfully unaware of my kids’ needs while I kept pushing forward with work. Mom guilt. It sucks. I hang up and try to pass it off as nothing. Forty minutes later, all kids have new shoes. Crisis averted. As for me, it took three days to shake off my dad’s comment, and twenty four hours before mom guilt attacked again, and this time it was because we ran out of fruits at home. When I asked my mom if the mom guilt ever ends, she simply said, “No.” But she added, “That’s because we always want to do the best. That’s not a bad thing.”