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?