Good morning, working mommy. I had kind of a bittersweet moment yesterday arriving home after a two day business trip.
My half-full tea cup was right where I’d left it on the counter. And my sweater on the railing. And my newspaper on the table. Everything was pretty much as I’d left it two days ago.
“Does time just stand still when I leave?” I asked daughter, home from college.
“Everything pretty much stands still when you leave. It’s hard.” She replied. “Mom, we only eat dinner at the table when you’re here.”
Wow. So many emotions.
• Guilt, of course. My family suffers when I leave!
• Happiness. My family needs me! They like it when I’m home!
• Guilt for being happy that they miss me.
• Guilt for working and reducing their quality of life.
• Resentment that they can’t put the dishes away.
• Guilt for resenting my family.
• Sadness that I don’t have many more years of full-time, kids-in-the-house mothering left. They won’t need me as much in the coming years, and how many hours did I miss when they did need me?
I’m still sitting with mostly guilt this morning. It’s not a bad motivator, as emotions go. It does keep me focused on my highest purpose, which, in my mind, is mothering. (Wife-ing is a very close second, then worker-bee.)
Does everyone suffer like this?
I think, at some point in time, we’ve all been on the same roller-coaster of emotions. There is just no way of getting it all done as well as we would like.
I do have the comfort of looking at my grown and growing children and knowing that they turned out pretty darn wonderfully. They still like me, and each other. They get, or got, good grades. They have healthy bodies. They are, the eldest, moving out and creating their own healthy lives.
So, whatever combination I did of work and mothering, it seems to have turned out okay, thank God. Really, thank God.
When I have working mamma guilt, I sometimes think about the farmer women in the fields at the turn of the century. They had to split their time between work and the kids too, or nobody ate.
I guess my message this morning is, take heart, it is possible to be a good mom and not spend every single minute of every single day with your kiddos. It will be messy, for sure. And you will be tired, sometimes really tired. And it will not go smoothly every single day, it will hardly ever go smoothly. And it can still be alright.
(As I typed that last, the dog came over and threw up on the carpet near me. Really. As though to prove the point.)
It will never be perfect, but it can be good. Never give up. Never settle. Do the best you can with every minute you’re given. Work and play and sit quietly by their side stroking their hair when they’re sad or sick. Come up with adventures and traditions to make the most of the time you are together.
And when it gets really crazy, remember, there are a thousand moms in Children’s Hospital ICU who would trade places with you in a minute. And another thousand women who never got to be moms who would trade places with you too.
We get to be here. We get to do this. Lucky us.