Working outside of my home is bittersweet. Some days I love the opportunity of interacting with other adults, but honestly most days I hate missing out on these monumental times with Kai. I remember right after returning to work, a friend of mine told me to watch out for mother’s guilt. I brushed it off, because I knew I felt guilty leaving my child for someone else to raise (that’s what it feels like) – but I didn’t think I had a case of it…oh denial.
There is something dangerous about mother’s guilt that I’ve started to realize over the last several months as Kai continues to grow and his personality develops. It can easily cause you to drop your guard in a time where structure and consistency need to override your emotions. The guilt of not being there or missing out has been my excuse for not doing dinners at the table or holding Kai too long before bed time. Don’t get me wrong, these days are numbered and his spunky, adventerous, and independent soul most certainly reminds us that he is growing and doesn’t need us as much. Though I’m beyond proud that he can feed himself, sign several different words, and is even beginning to echo words he hears (let the fun begin) I have this small reminder over my shoulder that this time has happened and I’ve only been on the sidelines.
Mother’s guilt is the feeling that you are just an observer of your child’s development and not able to actively participate because of life’s circumstances (my own definition). It doesn’t just affect the mom working outside of her home, it can easily develop when your next child is born or you’re expecting and can’t keep up with your current little one. Each day when Kai comes home or I hear a story about something he does that is new, I think to myself great I missed another one. The problem with that mindset though, is that it can easily turn into taking a backseat in your parenting style. All of the sudden I don’t want to do too much or set too many boundaries, because I only have Kai for the weekend or for 2-3 hours in the evening. What I’ve done is accepted my current situation as a mom working outside of my home as my identity as a mother, which is completely wrong. That identity had also started to affect my interaction and relationship with Kai. Though I played and entertained him, we weren’t doing things that helped his development and encouraged his growth or our relationship. I found myself ready for nap time or just observing him play while I sat disengaged (looking at pictures of other mothers enjoying their lives staying at home).
So a few weeks ago I had posted about taking advantage of my weekends and had created a Pinterest board to honor my commitment to stop letting my mother’s guilt identify me as a mother. Each weekend since then I’ve done something that has built up my confidence as a mother who works outside of her home for now. I encourage myself daily to do these 5 things so that I don’t waste time wishing for something that isn’t my reality right now. I hope they help you as well:
1. Don’t Waste Time Dwelling: Whatever your situation is, it probably won’t change within the next few weeks or maybe months. That’s not meant to depress you, it’s meant to keep things realistic. I’m not leaving my job at all this year (I would love to, believe me), but financially it’s not realistic for us. So instead of dwelling on the fact that I can’t just leave my job and stay home right now, I focus on the time I do have with Kai. Switching my focus on making the first and last 2 hours of my day with Kai during the week valuable and the best hours we have keeps me from being a non participant in his life. Our weekends are already busy, but I refuse to miss out.
2. PLAN: Take the time to plan out your schedule with your little one, so when your time together comes you’re not wondering what to do or counting the minutes (sometimes seconds) until nap time. Go on Pinterest, ask friends, even check online for exciting things you can do that don’t cost a lot. When you plan your time you maximize your time.
3. Take Your Time: Everything feels like we’re rushing. Half of my battle in the morning is the fact that Kai knows we are in a rush to get to our babysitter, work, and whatever else the day entails. So what he does is throws a fit. No other way around it. He will cry and scream, refuse breakfast, not put on his coat, poop right before we need to leave…to get us to slow down. I’m late most days now, but I’d rather sit and talk to Kai about his morning than fight him about ripping his coat off and opening the gate for the dogs to get out.
4. Prioritize!: This is with all things in life, but if you don’t need to do it DON’T! It’s that simple. Sure we all want time to ourselves (may I pee alone…), but if it isn’t a priority it’s out. I don’t need to blog if I can use that time to play trains and cars or name new shapes with Kai. I would love to. I’d love to relax and have some me time, but maybe I can do that after bedtime. Prioritizing puts you all in for that period of time. When you schedule or set time aside you realize how much time you waste. I often waste time when I disengage from being exhausted, being idle on my phone or wanting to sleep. Oh the time I waste when I give priority to that.
5. Identify Yourself: We are many things as women in general and play too many roles at once often, but who you are YOU have to decide. This is where #4 will be key. Where your priorities are will show you where your identity lies. There is no judgment in this last piece, but find peace in what you focus on. I am a mother who works outside of her home. I am not a bad mother or less of a mother because I need to work outside of my home for this season in life. I daily remind myself that I am Kai’s mother for a reason. I can be an excellent mother when I invest into him and don’t accept my situation as my identity.
I hope this encourages you and reminds you that whatever your situation, guilt doesn’t have to define your situation. We can work together to stay connected and engaged in this amazing time we have.