Thursday, February 17, 2011

Mommy (or Daddy) Guilt

Everyday I see the same scenario play out at preschool. Parent A drops off toddler A and toddler A has a meltdown because they couldn't pick out their spoon to eat their yogurt. Parent A leaves with toddler A screaming and crying and Parent A feels totally guilty all day for not being a stay-at-home parent. Or, lets say it's Valentine's Day and all the super type-A mothers made elaborate treats and tokens of love while the working mommies bought the pre-made cards from Target the night before. Not to speak lightly of the role stay-at-home parents play because it's an awesome responsibility... it's just one that I personally couldn't handle. I want to work. I love to work and it has nothing to do with me being a feminist. I think if you feel like you can do the job well then do so... but I digress.

So I thought I would tackle the issue of mommy guilt. Society has evolved so much over the past few decades and it seems like regardless of societal norms, women (mothers) are always held to a higher standard. Although things are changing, many women who work outside the home are still "required" to take care of many of the household responsibilities including parenting. At least with me, and I know my perspective is slightly different because I am/have been a single mommy, there's a lot of pressure to be exceptional at everything that we do. We feel like somehow if we don't give our children 100% and give our work 100% that we are a failure. Personally this has been extremely stressful for me and exhausting. I struggle daily with not having enough time to take care of me. Eating properly, working out, adequate mommy-only time (I often "mourn" for my pre-child life) because I feel like any of those things would take away from the precious 3 hours in the evening that I have to make an "imprint" in my son's life.

The other catch-22 is when to start having a family and the major effect it has on your life going forward.  I was 24 when I gave birth to my son and had a great job and college education (and a partially completed Masters degree) and even though I am relatively young, I still feel drained everyday. Those couples who decide to delay parenting until they have reached a certain economic level may find that when they do start a family that their work is so consuming because they are at mid-senior level of their organization. Whereas if you have children younger, you are not as financially secure but then the demands of work may not be as great. I am at turning point in my career where I must decide how much rising up the ladder I can take and still be a good mom but still feel fulfilled. Mommy guilt factors in because my son loves babies... I mean he will hug and kiss every baby if I allowed him too and he asks me regularly... "mommy when am I going to be a big brother?" Dagger... I can barely handle parenting him and he wants to add someone else to the picture. But I feel guilty that he doesn't have a playmate and sometimes I wonder if he did, would that alleviate some of my stress because they would have each other. Then I remember the sleepless nights, pumping, baby gear, doctor's appointments, potty-training, rising infant care/preschool tuition and wonder if I could really do it all over again.

I could talk about a million different scenarios but I am just curious about how other parents deal with guilt and wanting to be the best parents you can be without losing yourself. I would love to hear your perspective...

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