Got Mom Guilt?

posted in: on being a mom, the Dahls | 2

The past couple of weeks, our lives have been a bit disheveled in the midst of the blizzard, flood, blizzard, Spring, pending flood.  Our basement is now in our kitchen and this morning I realized that just about every light fixture in my home is in need of at least one new lightbulb.

Part of this chaos involved a voluntary evacuation to Grand Forks.  A couple of weeks ago, it was Dooms Day in Fargo.  It seemed as if the sky was going to fall (or at least the city would be filled with water) and I did not want to wait around to have to evacuate with a one-year old.

(By the way, the Dooms Day did not ensue, but we’re not in the clear yet.)

I have wonderful friends and their house is my Second Home in Grand Forks; it was a fabulous vacation.  But I become increasingly aware every day how much my sanity is maintained by the use of a daycare.  By Monday (we arrived in Grand Forks on Thursday) – at my wits’ end – I took Hadley to a drop-in and escaped to Caribou Coffee (where I spent a significant amount of time sipping my coffee and staring blankly off into space before entering into any form of reading, writing, or thinking). 

In the midst of my escape, I received a glorious offer.  My mom would keep Hadley out at my grandma’s until Thursday or Friday, when the city was expecting the flood waters to recede entirely.  I would have to return to work on Wednesday, but due to the pending blizzard (if you’re thinking WTH, I’m with you), I would have to get Hadley to my mom and get home right away.

I could hardly contain my excitement.  Four or five days of sleeping in?  Sitting at coffee shops?  Going to movies?  Four of five days of being an unattached 23-year old? 

I was instantly overcome by guilt.  What kind of mother celebrates time away from her child?  For that matter, what kind of mother drops her child off at a drop-in daycare just to sit and drink a cup of coffee?  Oh, now my mind gets going…What kind of mother needs a daycare, not just as a necessity for working, but as a necessity for sanity?

I noticed as soon as Hadley was born that becoming a mom meant dealing with that feeling of guilt for the rest of my life.  I developed better self-talk, reminding myself daily that I was doing the best that I could; that I was not a failure; that I was a good mom.  But there is just something that settles into the pit of my stomach when I close the door on my crying daughter, choosing to let her cry in her crib because I simply cannot listen to it any longer.  I find myself prefacing many a story with the words, “I know I’m a terrible parent, but…” 

And even now, as life starts to fall into place, as I begin new endeavors that will finally move me in the direction I would like to be headed, the guilt gets heavier and heavier.  I’m exhausted.  Yet I do not feel like I am doing enough.

I haven’t figured out the solution.  Are moms just supposed to embrace the guilt and move forward?  Is the guilt legitimate because we really ought to be staying home with our children, loving every second of it?  Does becoming a parent mean accepting better-paying jobs with fewer hours; turning down more education or new hobbies or exciting opportunities that will demand more of your time and energy?

I don’t want to just give Hadley the crappy leftovers.  I don’t want her to be a casualty in my search for meaningful work, further education, and changing the world.  I want to enjoy her, to invest in her, to believe in her, to know her.  Can’t I do all of the above?

2 Responses

  1. I have been feeling exactly the same way lately.
    And it is so refreshing to hear that I am not alone in my quest for solo sanity admist the sea of diapers and needs.
    I think we can do “all of the above”…but then we also have to realize that we’re only human. We’re young, we’re moms, and we’re imperfect beings. Which makes knowing Christ all so much sweeter. Through Him we can change, adapt and better love our daughters. It’s not always my first choice to think/rely on that relationship (again, I am imperfect) but I know that when I do…the guilt lessens (hey…it’s okay to have a cup of coffee and leave my squalling baby alone for a while to re-gather, adults have times like that too) and I can be refreshed. We need that time of refreshment to be the best person we can be to our children, to our families, to our friends.
    So yes, I think we can have it all, we just need to reach out to God for refreshment in order to focus on being content with the now in order to reach the “all of the above.”

  2. I’m gonna go with Katie on this one Kendra. I can’t claim to feel your pain as I’ve never been a single, working mother, but as the father of a two and a half year old daughter and a one year old son, I can tell you that needing a break, and even celebrating the arrival of one, does not make you a terrible mom. It makes you a normal mom. There’s a good reason why God stuck around, and it has nothing to do with boredom.
    As far as dreams and aspirations go, I was actually fortunate enough to have God bestow a very profound bit of truth on me that I’d like to share. Yes, as parents we are responsible for our children. Yes, being a parent requires a great amount of personal sacrifice. But what was given to me is this: While it may take a little longer to bring them up to speed, my kids haven’t put anyone’s dreams on hold, they’ve just given me two little, crazy people to share the journey with. It’s kind like starting a road trip, getting part way there, then having to go back and pick someone else up. Sure, you had to put the whole trip on hold, sure you end up exhausted, a little frustrated and maybe even a little angry but you get this incredible gift to share the whole journey with. Eventually, you begin to recognize the road as you get closer to where you turned around, and before you know it, you’re back on track and not only moving forward again but you were able to share the experience with that incredible gift, together, instead of alone.
    Sure, being a single, working mother, you have an immense responsibility, but I believe God created day care, coffee shops and grand parents for a reason.
    Just keep God with yourself and He will make sure you have what takes to be there for Hadley as her mother, no matter where your journey takes you.