There are moments that I wonder what it would be like to swap roles with my husband (who also works Full Time+some and travels like I do). I don’t wonder about the split of the chores, that seems equitable. I wonder about how our role and contributions as working parents affects our psyche.
I wonder if, generally speaking, men feel guilt like working mothers I know do. And, if so, is that guilt self-imposed, or is it a societal expectation that hasn’t gone away? Do we expect more from moms than dads? I know, at minimum, our kids do. About a year ago, I counted the number of times my boys said “mommy?” In a 10 minute interval. I kid you not, it was 102 times between the two of them. How many times did they say “daddy?” 3. Three frickin’ times. We were both in the room the entire time.
I sure hope it’s not societies expectatation, but not because it’s wrong. I sure hope not because I know kids do better with a balance. My husband does an amazing job teaching our boys life skills they need to know – how to use a power tool, mow a lawn, ski, treat women respectfully, make homework seem reasonable and pee standing up, to name a few. I don’t have near the level of patience he does and I’m not nearly as good as he is at any of those things (especially peeing standing up).
He also appreciates the stage our kids are in better than I do. He’s always made time for early morning snuggles, even if it means starting the morning off later than he wanted. I suck at living in the moment and struggle with appreciating the current ‘phase’ our boys are in, particularly when it means I’ll be late for something or someone…. and then I feel guilty about it later.
Now, this isn’t a pity party. I’m good at a lot of things, and share those teachable moments with the kids. My point is, one person can’t be expected to do it all, and to do “it” all well. So why does society (or we as individuals) expect that of moms? And then why do we feel guilty about juggling too many things? Shouldn’t we celebrate what we are good at, and what we can do for our kids instead of focus on what we aren’t good at, or aren’t doing?
Enough of the diatribe; what can we do to cope with the guilt?
I tend to get a healthy dose of mommy guilt around Valentine’s Day when my children come home with perfectly handcrafted/scrapbook worthy Valentines that are individualized to each child in a room of 30 classmates. Instead of falling into ‘craft mom’ guilt every time I see this, I’ve opted to make a different commitment to my kids that is important to them. I’ve obligated myself to making my children one pretty phenomenal birthday cake every year. It ends up being about an 8-12 hour commitment, but I can plan ahead for it and I know it makes their day that much more special. I’m spending time and energy on something that matters to my kids. Pick something that matters to yours, and deliver.
2. Put your phone away (and other distractions) when around your kids.
The painful reality of the importance of being present to my kids when we did have time together set in about 2 years ago. My 4-year old at the time told me to ‘wait a minute’ because he ‘was busy doing some work’ (on a first generation iPod). Okay! Message received kiddo. Let’s face it, we don’t have a lot of minutes to spend together, so genuinely enjoy each other’s company when the opportunities are available.
3. Make a daily commitment to do something for you.
I am 100% positive that when I take care of myself (my outlet/’me time’ is exercise), I am a far better person. I’m more patient, empathetic, caring, relaxed, and confident. The benefits of my ‘me time’ shows up in all my relationships. Sometimes life gets in the way and it’s not possible – your spouse is out on business and you have a kid with croup home from school for 3 days. Cut yourself some slack when life throws you the lemons, and jump back on the ‘me’ wagon as soon as you reasonably can.
Would love to hear any tips you have to deal with ‘mommy guilt’. Comment and share!