Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Guilt the Bag I Carry Everywhere

Guilt, the bag I carry everywhere.

When I was a little girl my mother would inevitably say, "What do you want to be when you grow up?" At various points in time the responses and dreams varied- Rockette (never hit the height minimum), chef (was discouraged by family because they worked nights and weekends), fashion designer (my ability to color inside the lines was a challenge), architect (despite long interest and success in math, I didn't think I had what it took) get the picture, I wanted to be a lot of things. At some point, my decision making at a ripe old age of ...17...deemed business would be the route I go.

So off to college I went, in pursuit of a degree and gainful employment that I hoped provided me enough money to live in New York City and to one day "be the boss...."

What does this have to do with being a new mom you might be asking yourself, and frankly, I'm not entirely sure it does. But that's my problem.

My entire life, I imagine a career for myself, but also imagined being a full time mom. My own mother had been a part-time nurse, and I always thought it was a disadvantage (having grown up in a town where most mom's did stay home). I always assumed I'd be a burgeoning executive, and then without hesitation and with plenty of means, that would go to the side for 10-20 years while I raised my children.

But as you know, life doesn't always go as imagined. I did become the executive I'd always hoped, but had never imagined, but it wasn't so easy to just turn away.

For starters, I actually did all of that sweat and toil to be a decision maker. To lead a team. To inspire tomorrow. Before becoming pregnant, I had this partial vision America would let me keep my stature (and pay, but I'll get to that later) part time. So far, no such luck.

Pay and benefits...I suppose why so many people play lotto. They want enough money to not sweat it; me too. My husband launched his business years ago and due to a combination of factors, was finally to set out on his own just around the same time our dd was born. He does well, but it is 100% on him, and it is more blood, sweat and time that I'd ever imagine putting into something. The rewards can be great, but the risk is high, and an unexpected health care issue could truly bankrupt a family without question.

So I stay at my position, and when I'm in my prime I feel great. However, there are a million moments a week when I wonder how I got here. And I wonder who it was that wanted us to "have it all" and "do it all"? I long for simpler times.

I wonder, “Can I quit today?” Could I convince my boss to fire me?

I am riddled with guilt. Am I home enough? Am I present enough? And as I sneak out of work to make an earlier trainer, or slide in late, having stayed home for more time, I wonder, Am I working enough? I try to surround myself with strong, similar situation women, but frankly it is hard. I have a great, diverse group of friends in different situations, but like the guilt I wear about motherhood, it creeps into my friendships, my family relationships, and my own personal maintenance.

There is guilt also associated for even wanting to quit. Do I want/need to put that kind of pressure on my husband, and won’t I eventually want to work again? And if I think I will work again, how would I re-enter the workforce?
As I try to come to a conclusion, I realize that there isn't one conclusion. There isn't an answer, and that this challenge will probably stay with me for a long time to come. Longer than I would ever use a purse...
Guilt is something I know all Moms in all different situations carry. What is your guilt and how do you cope?


  1. I can relate. There's no easy answer and no perfect arrangement. In addition to the guilt I carried about not working more and not using my law degree /professional brain for the couple years during which I was a FT SAHM to our then "2 under 2" we also came to a point where I needed to supplement our family's income. So I went your DH's route.

    I started my own solo law practice. In my home. With my children around. While pregnant with DD3. I just celebrated 2 years in solo practice and wish it weren't still such a rollercoaster ride. It is *never* easy. Some days I feel great about myself as a mom, or attorney, or wife, or on a rare fantastic day, all three! Other days I feel like a miserable failure one or more of the same roles I play regularly. But I've learned to try not to beat myself up about it.

    My daughters see me working my tail off, but they also see me totally invested in everything they do, eating meals with them, and stopping work early every day to spend time with them. I don't sleep much because I work a lot of nights to make up for the time I choose to spend with my kids during "normal working hours," but I wouldn't trade any of it, hard as it is, because I know how fleeting this stage is. Hang in there & good luck!

  2. Where do I begin with my list of guilt?
    I feel guilty every day for not bringing home any money right now, and not having the desire to start working (from home) again.
    I feel guilty for letting myself (physically) get to this place I am now where I think I am hideous.
    I feel guilty about not socializing my daughter enough (is one class a week enough? How will she meet kids and learn social skills?)
    I feel guilty we didn't leave her helmet on longer and now her head is flat again.
    I could go on for hours....

  3. Beautifully written. Ive done it both --stayed home, worked, and either way the guilt will eat at you. One way or another. Its part of motherhood. The only thing I am sure of-no matter what I do I feel guilty.

  4. I feel guilty when I come home "late" at 7, or if worse I miss bedtime altogether, but then in the next breath I'll think being a mom is making me soft and I need to refocus if I'm going to be a VP before I turn 35. You are so right, there is no solution, no magic work-life balance, and no one is there patting you on the back saying "wow, you made it in by 8:30, prepared a toddler lunch, maneuvered the streets of Boston, avoided a tantrum by stopping for a side of bacon, managed to leave daycare without ruining your eye make up as your son is dragged away screaming in a hug from his teacher, your hair is blowdried, clothes pressed and iced coffee in hand.., great job!" when you have to ask your co-worker (26, single) where the meeting is because you just don't have time to boot-up before your meeting, you know their look says it all and tomorrow you vow to do a much better job getting out of the house tomorrow.

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