Thursday, August 21, 2008

Mommy Guilt

On Friday at my Al-anon meeting we were discussing guilt. If there is one thing us Al-anon's are good at it is feeling guilty. As we were discussing this I started thinking back to an article I had read in my Parenting Magazine. This article was on Mommy Guilt and I realized that just like Al-anon's we mom's also had a way of making ourselves feel guilty, often times for things that we shouldn't.

You can click on the link above to read the entire article but I'm just going to paraphrase some of the best points.

1) Yelling

What the article says:
Give yourself a break: Yelling is as much a part of motherhood as changing diapers and making mac 'n' cheese. "But if the decibel level in your household is always high, it's time to examine the tools in your parenting toolbox," says Pflock. "Counting to five works for me," says Jhoanna Wade, a mom of three in New York City. "If I get close to five, they know they may lose a privilege. And they really don't want that to happen.

What I say:

Of course this is number one on the list. Every time I raise my voice at Zack I feel bad about it. However, at the end of the day I realize that my mother's tone with me was not always even and smooth and I turned out alright. If I calm myself down, apologize to Zack for yelling and move on he learns that even mommies loose their tempers sometimes and it is ok to get angry. He also learns another valuable lesson, how to apologize when you do something inappropriate.

2) Not wanting to play more

What the article says:

Somewhere along the line, "playmate" became another facet of the mom job description. But in today's crazy-busy life, slowing down is hard enough, and slowing down to play yet another game of Little Mermaid and the Princess Ponies is -- well, it takes a saint.

Give yourself a break: First, reconcile yourself to the happy fact that children don't need to be entertained their every waking hour (least of all by you). And when you do decide to spend time with them, really do so, even if it's only for half an hour. Focus on what you're doing, rather than on the to-do list in your mind.

Remember also that your mom probably didn't get down on the floor with you all that often -- and she didn't feel guilty about it.

What I say:

What one of us hasn't looked at that board game, puzzle, box of blocks, little people set and thought to ourselves, seriously? Not again!! I need to do X,Y,Z, I don't have time for this. When I started out as a parent (and let's face it I'm only about two steps out of the starting block) I always told myself that I would play with my son. I wanted to be the mom on the floor with her child all the time. I wanted him to remember those happy memories.

And then... life happened. There was dishes, laundry, and general exhaustion and suddenly the thought of crouching on my knees to make the pony go into the barn for the 27 thousandth time just didn't seem so appealing. So when I'm home with him alone and he decides to entertain himself, I admit the angels sing just a bit above my head. So what if that entertainment involves pulling all the potholders, Paper plates, napkins out of the drawer in the kitchen. At least there is peace for a few moments!! :-)

3) Not wanting sex

What the article says:

Give yourself a break: Sometimes guilt is a necessary emotion -- it serves as an internal alarm that something may be amiss. The tricky part is knowing when to tune in to the feeling and when to tune it out.

No one is saying that feeling touched-out isn't valid. But before any misunderstanding snowballs, communicate: Tell your husband how tired you really are, even if you're sure that he already knows.

And at some point, you'll have to rally and communicate in that other way, for the good of your union. "When I say 'no' one too many times, we get into this negative-feedback loop," says Collins. "But it only takes once to get back on track. Being physical with each other keeps our connection strong, and it's worth it in the longer run. I try to remember that."

Yes, we all know about date nights -- but who can afford a regular one these days? So do what my friend Lynne Matlock does. "Sometimes we'll order takeout and have it delivered after the kids are asleep," says the Long Beach, California, mom, whose two kids go to bed at 7:30 sharp (she thanks her husband for that).

"We eat it by candlelight. Not only do we get to be together, but we also feel like we're getting away with something -- like teenagers!"

What I say:

Mom, Dad stop reading right here. No really... scroll down a little ways and you will see a pretty little number 4. Focus on the four. Everything between here and number 4 is just dribble drabble and lots of la, la, la's. Nothing to see here... move on.

Ok, now that they're gone... I completely feel guilty about this one. I get up at 5:15 to go to the gym. I work all day and by the time Zack goes to bed at 8:00 I usually just feel like following him under the covers. It's not that I don't LIKE sex it is just that I'm not a guy. I don't NEED it to feel like my worth as a man is validated.

However, I know in the back of my mind that if I say no too many times, we also get into a vicious negative circle. He starts getting short with me, I start getting short with him and he feels like I just don't want HIM any more. Which really isn't it at all. It's not that I don't want HIM I don't want it from anyone. I'm not singling him out specifically. :-)

In the grand scheme of things, I really do try to make a time, at least once a week, where I say to myself, self, I don't care how tired you are you need to just go with the flow and THEN collapse into bed. For the good of the marriage it really does seem to help.

4) Wishing you were free

When Christina Bess's kids were 2 years old and 10 months old, she was invited to spend a week in London with a girlfriend from graduate school. "She had a hotel room all paid for by her employer -- all I had to do was buy my plane ticket." But the prospect of leaving her kids at that point struck her as outrageous. "I thought, 'How can I do this? Something terrible will happen!'"

Who among us hasn't wanted to simply walk away from the sleep deprivation and the crying and the chaos -- at least sometimes -- and then felt guilty about feeling that way? But this is an example of guilt trying to tell you something: It's important to take some time for yourself to recharge.

Give yourself a break: The experts all agree -- schedule regular "you" time, and keep it sacred. "I write in the mornings and I exercise a few afternoons a week," says Collins. "That's my time, and my family knows that if I get to do that, then I'm a nicer mommy to everyone."

In the end, Bess did go to London, and her mom and her husband took great care of the kids. And after a week spent recharging, she was happy to see her family again.
What I say:

Ok, who among us hasn't been sitting on the couch listening to the screaming or the he's touching me and thought how nice it would be to just hop on the next bus (do people still take buses when they are running away from their families?) to Orlando. (Ok, considering the hurricane Fay thing right now perhaps Phoenix is a better example.)

Either way, I know that this is the one, consistent thing I do for myself that I hardly EVER feel guilty about. I'm not a 24, 7 mommy type of girl. I knew that going into it. If I don't get a few hours to myself on the weekends I feel a little like climbing into that giant cardboard box in our living room (yes the saying is true, he would rather play with the box) and not coming out for awhile.

This is where nap time becomes a savior if Jake is working or gone. That is my 2 hours of quiet time to do whatever I wish. (These days it has been take a nap.) I also schedule at least one Saturday or Sunday a month where I go out with my girlfriends. Go to a movie, go to dinner, go to the mall, just something to remind me that life is not all about "nana's" (banana's) and Elmo and to recharge my batteries. I am a MUCH better mommy when I've been away for a little while and can come back and actually look forward to another rousing game of get the piggies. (He tickles my feet.)

5) Working

What the article says:

When Susan Jackson returned to her job at an ad agency in Cincinnati, invariably the conversation with the other new moms in the office turned to guilt. The guys I worked with didn't get it. 'You're providing for your family,' they said. But the moms understood.

Give yourself a break: "The twinge of guilt is always going to be there," says Jackson. "But there are several ways to deal with it."

Find a sounding board. "Friends, and even blogs, have been a huge help to me," says Kim Moldofsky, a mom of two in the Chicago area who works part-time.

Or find your balance. Gebler Ashkenazy used to work a demanding 60-hour-a-week job, but after she had her third child, she left for one with a more flexible schedule, so she's home a day and a half during the workweek.

Finally -- and this is true for all these guilt trips -- accept the feeling and move on. Don't let it bring you down.

What I say:

This is probably my biggest one. But for a bit of a different reason. I like my job. I'm NOT cut out to be a stay at home mom. Last Wednesday I took Zack to get his pictures taken so I was home with him all day. He had a candy bar for breakfast. Really, it's better he go to daycare.

But, in the end, I feel guilty that I'm not there enough. Tax season is coming up and I'm DREADING it. I need to talk to my boss about cutting my hours but I don't even know where to begin. I'm afraid I'll talk to him and the pay cut will not be what we can afford (they make money off of me by my chargeable hours. Most of those come during tax season so cutting back hours then would mean a pay cut to me.) and so I'll still be here 60 hours a week.

I suppose at the end of the day I need to look at it differently. It is 3 1/2 months of my year that I'm busy. I can work at home, I just choose not to. So perhaps I need to make more of an effort to go home and then work after he's asleep. Either way, I know I'll make it work and he and daddy will be fine. Even if they do live off of hot pockets, hot dogs and frozen pizzas for a few months. (Hey at least he eats healthy at daycare!! :-)


kbreints said...

I have terrible Mommy Guilt-- More so since they have changed daycares.... They have a great tiem-- but mornings are hard... and it done not matter how much I KNOW that they are fine as soon as I leave-- it is still hard.

My other mommy guilt is Wanting time to myself. I want that time, but when I get it-- I feel guilty the entire time and don't have as much fun as I should.

I love being a mommy-- I would NEVER wish it away-- but this guilt things is a killer!

lonna said...

Boy, these are so true. I'm really dealing with not wanting to play with Dermot right now. He's all boy, and I just don't have the energy to keep up. I really miss the days of playing with little people. Now it's all running around screaming about our super powers or playing with lego objects. I just do not like pretending all of the violence that Dermot likes, and that's part of being a 4.5 year old little boy. What happened to puzzles and board games?