Today is Friday, my favorite day. It’s not my favorite day because it’s the weekend; I’m a mom, what is this weekend you speak of? Long gone are the summer weekends of day drinking, river trips, last minute BBQs, and all-nighters. Sometimes I’m sad that part of my life is over, but then I hear the shrieks and giggles over the baby monitor, and those days are long forgotten. It’s not the “weekend” I’m excited for, it’s two whole days with my babies that I look forward to. Also, it’s the start of the mom guilt cycle.
As a working mom, I look forward to days off spent with my girls. I don’t mind that they wake me up only an hour later than my work day wake up. I love going into their room, to see them sitting up, or standing up, smiling as soon as I walk through the doorway. I’m excited to cook them breakfast, and smile at them as we eat together. I snuggle, and soothe cries. I split them up when one pulls the other’s hair, or thinks that bouncing up and down CPR style on her sister is the best game ever. But by 10am I’m thinking to myself, “isn’t it nap time? Yes. It’s nap time. Mommy has things she needs to do.”
Days off aren’t just for baby time. It’s getting around to that spot on the floor under the coffee table that I’ve been staring at for a week, but haven’t had time to clean. It’s folding the mountain of laundry that I’ve been digging through all week in search of bibs and clean underwear. It’s staring at that overwhelming list of “things to do to get the house ready to sell”, and wondering how we will ever find time to do it all in the next month. So I choose a task, and get at it, hoping that I can finish it before they wake up. I was in the middle of deep cleaning our family room, pulling out all the furniture from the walls, disassembling baby jail so that I could pull everything to the middle of the room. I was sweeping, and mopping, and hollering at the dogs to move out of the way. I anxiously watched the clock, will I get this finished before they wake up? I was a good 20 minutes or so from being finished when I heard baby babble over the monitor. Damn. So close. I guess they can play in their cribs while I finish this up.
Cue mom guilt. I know that I should be spending all the time I can with them, I mean, I’m away from home 45 hours a week, and they need their mom right? But I need to finish cleaning this room, I need to weed the front flower bed, and I need to put dinner in the crock pot. But this is my time with them! I can’t possibly do anything else with my free time, it’s just not fair to them, right? I also would really love to get a pedicure, but that’s time out of the precious little time I get with them each week.
By Sunday evening, as I’m wiping mac and cheese out of ears and noses, running a bath, and picking out bedtime stories, in the back of my mind I’m thinking “I’m glad I go back to work tomorrow.” More mom guilt. I shouldn’t be happy that I’m going back to work, I should be sad that I’ll probably miss another first. Next up will be first words and first steps, milestones I’m sure to miss during my work week. By Monday afternoon I’ll be asking my husband, who has “his days” on Monday and Tuesday, to send me pictures of the girls, and ask him several times how they’re doing. By Thursday night I’ll be in bed, telling my husband, who I don’t get to see much either, that I didn’t get to hold my babies enough today. That three hours between getting home and bed time is never enough. Again, there are things I need to do, but I only have three hours with them! Surely those things can wait until after bedtime. Then at 10:30pm when I’m eating dinner, I’ll be longing for the weekend, when I have more hours to spend with my girls.
It’s a vicious, never ending cycle. I spend all week beating myself up for not being home with my kids; then I get home and beat myself up some more for needing to do more than sit on the floor and show them how to put those stupid misshapen rings on that post thing. I feel guilty for the time I spend away from them, and I feel guilty for not spending every minute of the time I do get with them just enjoying them. I feel guilty that our house is starting to look like it’s one car on the front lawn away from a neglected home. I feel guilty that I’ve resorted to takeout more times in a week than I care to admit. I feel guilty that there’s a stain on the girls’ carpet, what I’m hoping is mud from the dogs, that I’ve looked at about a billion times, but still haven’t cleaned. I feel guilty that after “my” two days with them, I’m ready for the break that work offers. Then it just starts all over again.
When does the mom guilt end? Why can’t we as mothers realize that however we manage to do it, we are KILLING it, and have no reason to feel guilty? Why can’t I see that at this point my babies only notice the times I am there, and not the times I’m not? Why do moms feel like they have to “do it all”? I’m sure I’ll never find the answers to these questions, but I am looking forward to my weekend with the girls, and maybe I’ll get around to weeding the flower bed.