I believe I can honestly say now that I have dropped my case of Mommy Guilt. It has taken me quite a while (about 9 months or so) but, I guess, better late than never. It dawned on me this weekend as I was lounging around watching Lifetime – for the first time in many weeks – between loads of laundry, while the boys ran wild in their playroom. Here is what I have realized.
1. Although I tried to be, I was not necessarily the best stay at home mom. While I love my children immensely, I never felt fulfilled when I had no life outside of the four walls of home.
2. I am lazy. So when I did not have anything pushing me to get out of the house, sometimes I just…. Didn’t. There would be days in a row where we would stay home the entire day, in pajamas, and never even get one breath of fresh air. Many a time, just going outside to “play” felt like a chore. Yeah, I’m lazy.
3. My self-discipline is sorta lacking. Of course I planned to have ‘school’ with the boys every single day but often it didn’t happen that way. I would have too much housework, or I would waste an entire morning watching talk shows while the boys played amongst themselves and I moderated (notice I said moderated, not actively playing with them). Next thing you know, it’s lunchtime and then naps, and then having to start dinner and pick up a little bit so it looks like I did something that day before Devil Dog got home.
4. I am not very good at (pretending I am) constantly cleaning a house or having hot meals ready at 5:00pm every day because someone else wants me to or feels that is my duty. Especially when my efforts are often being criticized. Call me selfish.
5. I love my kids and want them to learn, but ABCs and 123s with little stimulation beyond that was turning my brain to mush. I longed for adult interaction.
6. Making the decision to go back to work was heart-wrenching because I felt that someone else would be raising my kids, and I did not want that.
7. The boys crave predictability and stimulation. Now that they go to daycare during the week, they get both. If I am to be completely honest, I will say that they get even more intellectual stimulation now. Because the daycare center does not ever skimp on their responsibility to have a curriculum and to follow it every single day. And in addition to what they are getting at school, the boys still come home and learn things from me.
8. The boys are adaptable and they have flourished. Ant can count to 10 and is learning his letters. Bean can count to 100 and is learning to read. I give myself some credit for this, because I work hard with them both. Since I know they are learning something and covering all the basics at daycare, I can expand on that and get them well above their expected level whenever I work with them at home. And if we have a night where we just want to skip it? So what. They learned something at school today anyway. I no longer have to feel guilty for not always doing something intellectually productive with them. I remember reading an article once that stated working moms actually have more quality time with their children than moms who stay home. The reason is that when working mothers spend time with their kids, they actively focus on them and give them their undivided attention. I scoffed at that article at the time. But now, I know it is true. I used to watch tv, get online, answer emails, etc while the boys played at my feet. Now though, I barely answer email (ask my friends), I almost never watch tv, and even you have to admit my blog posts are getting fewer and farther between. That is because when I am home, and my boys are awake, I am WITH them. Fully.
9. Yes, children are resilient. Of course it is not ideal for them to be without their dad. However, that situation does not automatically spell sadness and destruction for them either.
10. A happier mommy makes for happier sons. Period.
I am so grateful for those early years that I spent at home with my boys. But truth is, I am not cut out to be a stay-at-home-mom. I constantly longed for something more, a challenge; my independence back. It’s hard not having your own money!! It’s even harder having someone else make all the major decisions. (Although admittedly, women in a healthy relationship will have equal input to major decisions whether they are working or not!) My hat goes off to SAHMs everywhere because now that I have been on both sides of the fence, I can say without a doubt that moms who don’t work outside the home have it harder. I used to feel guilty about enrolling my sons in daycare. I have since come to admit that I am just happier when I am working. And that means my boys will see it, and they will be happier too. Daycare can be a positive experience for children; and indeed, one that they actually thrive in. Even the male child needs to see that his mom can be hard-working, successful, strong and independent. The example I set for “The Suns” is just as important as the one I would have wanted to set for a daughter.
All of this, to say that I no longer feel guilty about making the choice to go back to work and ALL that it entails.
I do, however, feel guilty for enjoying the decision this much. We’ll work on straightening out that conflicting emotion at a later date.