I think it would be wise to start off with a definition of ‘Mom Guilt’ for the lucky few that don’t already know. Webster’s Dictionary defines ‘Mom Guilt’ as ‘that annoying shitty feeling that you’re failing at everything and should be doing something else, regardless of what you’re working on.’ Okay, that’s clearly my own definition and I imagine you have your own, but every mom I have ever spoken to has experienced it. No question. And I’m here to say that I’m over it and on the road to recovery, but I’m not quite there yet…
When I was pregnant, my mom asked me repeatedly if I was planning to hire a nanny. She suggested that I reach out to friends with kids early to make sure that I got one of the good ones, because good nannies go quick. My response was always that I’d wait and see if I needed a nanny, thinking to myself that I could do it on my own. My mom has always been incredibly independent, with longstanding hobbies and interests, and told me that even when she had kids, those things remained important to her. I understood her point, but I had spent the better part of my twenties thinking about starting a family, so why would I already make plans to pawn off the work to someone else?
I’ll cut to the chase; my mom was right (mom, don’t let this go to your head!). After about two months of being home all the time with Nez, I started to feel incredibly isolated, like my house was an island except the kind with a beach made of baby poop and an ocean of my own tears. When I was ready to get back into my consulting work, I’d schedule calls and cross my fingers that Nez would be napping at the time. More often than not, I’d kick off a call by saying “if you hear a baby screaming in the background…” wondering if I came off as unprofessional or modern; a woman that can do it all!
I can’t remember if it was emotional breakdown #27 or #32, but at a certain point, Tommy forced me to buck up and find a sitter, probably because he was tired of seeing me as frazzled and burnt out as I was. Why was I so reluctant? Because I thought I must be crazy to hire someone else to watch my baby when I could do it myself. To be clear, my parents willingly watched and continue to watch Nez, but I feel guilty sticking a pain in the ass crying baby with someone that’s getting no financial reward for hours on end, plus they have busy lives and our schedules don’t always align.
I tried out Care.com but never connected with anyone that felt right. Someone suggested Spilt Milk Nannies, a Portland-based nanny service, that has saved us and connected us with great sitters. Every time I’d hire a sitter, I’d get a pang of guilt thinking about whether my plans for that time would ultimately be worth the investment. And that, my friends, is my version of mom guilt. I got over the sadness of walking away from my baby pretty quickly because I was so damn desperate to reenter the real world. But the thought of doing something that was not crucial for my career became my barometer for whether I should take time for myself or not. Screw self care or time with my husband or friends, the only reasonable excuse to walk more than 15 feet away from my baby was work.
Enter emotional breakdown #327. Sometimes you need to have a friend or family member that’s outside of your own head tell you to wake the hell up and take care of yourself. For me that was Tommy and my mom. Tommy told me to take a night or two a week to see friends. Grab a drink, go out for dinner, anything to bring in more social components to my otherwise insular lifestyle. My mom told me to prioritize myself again so I could be a better mom and happier person. Go workout, get your nails done, anything at all as long as it made me happy.
I’m happy to report that I’ve made great strides in taking more time to do things that fill up my cup, but I’ve still got a long way to go. I love working and am doing so 3-4 days a week. I now feel no guilt whatsoever because Nez has great care, I’m doing something that feeds me creatively, and when I come home I’m happier and more engaged with her. Once a week I try to work out. I’m not living that Victoria’s Secret model lifestyle but I’m getting my fix (I hate working out- who am I kidding?!).
The big gaping hole in my F You Mom Guilt world tour is taking time for my relationship with my husband. In five months we’ve had one date night out together, and we can do better. The guilt comes from the fact that we technically have dinner together a few nights a week (granted, it’s in sweatpants in front of the TV), but that doesn’t feel like the type of connection that we used to have. Tonight we made a plan to book a sitter or have my parents watch Nez one night a week so we can step out of our baby bubble and treat ourselves like real, living, breathing, interesting, fun, humans again. Yes, I feel some guilt at the idea, but I’m positive it’s the right move because I know it will make us better, happier people and parents in the long run. F You, Mom Guilt.