Before and after I had a kid I heard women say that they thought working made them a better mom. Among other things, they say that being away from their kid for part of the day helps them to be more present when they are with their kid. I understood this reasoning, but didn’t think it applied to me. I would be a better mom no matter what. It might be hard, but I would be checked in all the time. No TV. No cell phone. No falling asleep on the nursery floor while the baby crawls all over me.
Well. It turns out that’s not so easy. Even though Robert and I were both at home during my maternity leave, and Robert is a super-involved parent, a lot of the hands-on responsiblities (ahem, nursing) in those early months fell to me. I know you all know this, but hanging out with a baby all day every day is exhausting! And it’s virtually impossible to be a focused, chipper, attentive mother 24/7. Obviously that’s the goal, but from day one I was failing.
Which means that from day one I was swimming in a whole new kind of guilt. A guilt stew. I thought I’d be a relaxed mom, I thought I’d have enough perspectives to forgive myself for not being perfect, but it was not so. Every day I looked forward to taking a long walk with the stroller because it was an opportunity to get out of the house and listen to a podcast and feel like myself. And Dylan liked them too, or she seemed to. But I felt guilty taking them because they felt more like something I was doing for me than for her, and that seemed wrong. Even though babies like walks! It’s good for them to see new things and the stoller lulls them to sleep.
On a similar note, at a certain point Dylan started rebelling against naps and it took a long time with lots of rocking and singing to get her to sleep. I fely guilty about trying to get her to nap! Because I wanted the break as much as she needed the sleep and, again, I felt guilty doing something that was as much for me as for her.
Of course, it goes without saying that I felt guilty when I went for a run or took a nap without her, when I passed her to Robert so I could take an unnecessarily long hot shower, when I couldn’t keep myself awake when she wanted to play, when I played candy crush while nursing instead of gazing at her lovely profile, when I bumped her head into a door frame, when I made her wait five minutes to eat because we were in the car, when I when I when I.
I know that Mom guilt is forever. But it’s subsided considerably since I went back to work. I really am more present when I’m with her. I am still exhausted, sure, but I know my time with her is limited, so I keep myself awake. I don’t need to think of ways to fill the hours. I don’t need to desperately carve out time for myself because I get plenty of it and want to spend the rest with her. I don’t feel bad about taking her for walks or putting her down for naps and I definitely don’t feel bad about working so that she can have a stroller to walk in and a bed to sleep because we’re going to have a lot of years together.