The G word

The title of this blog is Working Moms Against Guilt. It would be nice if I could blame my current guilt on work, but I know that wouldn’t be honest. The reasons I feel guilty lately have more to do with me than with any job.

The guilt set in a couple of weeks ago when I chaperoned my daughter’s preschool trip to the zoo. I am extremely lucky to have a working situation that allows me to do things like this. I work from home and, for the most part, set my own schedule. When the field trip came up, I simply let my bosses know I wanted to do it, and they said OK. As long as I get my work done, they’re cool. My daughter and I had a good time at the zoo, but by the time the busses returned at 2 p.m., I was starting to feel cranky.

I know, it’s normal to be frazzled after spending a full morning with preschoolers. But I felt guilty because I know a lot of working moms would have loved to have been in my shoes. Then I got home and immediately had to handle work-related tasks. Though I’m lucky to have a situation that lets me balance work and childcare, sometimes it feels like I’m either doing one or the other without any breaks. By the end of the day, I had turned into a full-blown monster. I yelled at my daughter. I yelled at my husband. I took what could have been a good day and turned it into something nobody could enjoy.

It would be OK if this kind of thing happened every now and then, but it’s been happening quite a bit lately.

A few weeks ago, I went back to the ad agency for a couple of days to help out with some freelance projects. I enjoyed being in an office environment, able to better compartmentalize work and home. For a brief second I thought, “Maybe I need more distance from my daughter during the day so I can be a better mom at night.” But then I remembered how cranky I used to get rushing around each morning trying to get her to the sitter’s. How I used to yearn to spend more time with her. And I know I wouldn’t enjoy trying to fit her preschool schedule around an office’s. No, the arrangement I have right now is perfect for me. It really is, and most days I absolutely love it. Which leads me to the conclusion that my cranky problem doesn’t really have all that much to do with work. It has to do with me.

I can pinpoint a few good reasons why I’ve been on edge. On top of a huge tax bill, every expensive-to-fix appliance and vehicle we own has broken down in the past few months. We can’t seem to get more than a day and a half’s worth of sunshine. And my three-year-old is going through a very whiny, very demanding phase that makes her not a lot of fun to be around (it’s like she’s three going on thirteen – God help us if *this* is what we have to look forward to). But I know in my heart that all of that is no excuse for being short with people and feeling ticked off a good majority of the time.

What I have to accept is that being a mom can be tough, whether you stay at home or work, whether you’re a 9 to 5-er or have a more flexible arrangement. I have to face that a little one needs me, even when I feel like I’m barely able to cope with my own set of grown-up issues. The standard “mom” answer to a problem like this seems to be, “Go take a hot bath! Take a walk! Get out and give yourself a little ‘me’ time.” For Mother’s Day, I did take some time to myself, and it did help. But I know that I’m not going to fix this with a good book, a spa treatment or even a change in work arrangements. I need a shift in outlook. I need to adjust to a new phase in motherhood. I need to get my mindset to another place, and the only person who can do that is me.

7 thoughts on “The G word

  1. I know this doesn’t help, because it’s exactly what everyone will say. But I do know EXACTLY how you feel. Have been in the same situation, lots of times. My mom’s answer to most similar parenting issues (and I really believe she’s right), “This too shall pass.”

  2. I think the grass always seems greener no matter what side of the fence we are on. When I worked away from home, I wanted to be the mom that got to stay home. When I stayed home, I envied the mom that got to be around adults. Working from home, I envy both scenarios- getting to just relax at home and getting to be around adults. No matter what, a little envy all around 😉

    Right now I am trying to work on finding a healthy balance because what I have been doing isn’t working. I am drained, tired, burnt out…the usual mommy rut. I am trying to make some improvements though and I hope you can find that “balance” that seems to help make things right!

  3. Man, I feel your pain. I too work from home and have a fabulously flexible schedule. However, I am bitchy most of the time. I am short with my kids and find myself expecting them to behave like rational adults instead of 2 and 4 year olds. I am curt with my husband and get easily frustrated. At the end of the day, I half ass my job and motherhood. It’s impossible to compartmentalize everything. So far, a glass of wine and a good book seem to do the trick. That is, until 3:00AM when I’m wide awake and stressed out. Let me know when you find the magical solution.

  4. I had no idea when I embarked on the whole working motherhood adventure how much of a struggle the balance would be. It is cyclical for me. For weeks at a time, I feel like I cope really well, balancing all that’s important in my life. And then out of nowhere, I hit a rough patch and suddenly EVERYTHING comes crashing down (or at least that’s how it feels). I guess my point is that usually, with some time (and maybe some chocolate) I get myself out of the funk. I hope for some smoother days for you when you can use them.

  5. Yeah, I think you never find a true balance. Flexibility can be tricky and without hard boundaries between work and life, each day is a crazy adventure. Sometimes you’re a super mom and employee. Other times you feel like a super flop.

    What you probably need is a vacation! A real vacation, where you get out of town and away from your computer.

  6. thoughtbythought says:

    thank you for your honest, candid blog. i’m reading it nodding and nodding and i’m not even a mom. i’ve found that a lot of us dump on ourselves. i’m not sure where that comes from other than being raised in a perfectionist culture always having to climb the ladder? dunno. what i do know that works is this: treat your thought, esp. when they’re running around in the land of guilt–like a toddler you gotta put back on course. defend daily, hourly, moment to moment that you are doing the best you know how. and find a space to feel comfortable with this. sure you can be doing better. we all can. and will as we grow into it. thank goodness the desire is there…the constant ammo. but for the moment trust and defend you are doing the best you have with what you have given whatever the circumstances. and know that you are open to whatever needs to shift. your children and your husband will feel your love far more fully than you are hearing the condemning voice within. this is true. so much of the time they don’t realize the mental hell you are going thru….so don’t get stuck there. i have been reading tolle’s latest ‘a new earth’…and much i agree with…there’s something to be said for shutting up and stepping out of the ‘egoic mind’ and for me this is the constant babbling and murmuring. the beauty is your love…for yourself….for your children…for your husband. this will always carry you over and through. the sabotaging voice can be squelched…it just take a moment to moment effort….i like your blog and this site much. thanks for writing! 🙂 Tre

  7. jennilea6 says:

    I have experienced something very similar, where I find that a shift in focus makes all the difference. I have blogged about it myself, calling it my Inner Copernicurn Turn (ICT) — where my focus shifts somewhat dramatically such that the Sun is no longer circling the Earth and everything is put back in it’s rightful place in the world.

    What helped me was, sadly, the passing of my grandmother, the matriach in our family. As a stay at home mom and wife, she had a standing room only funeral because she had touched that many lives. Death always puts things in perspective, and it was a reminder to me of what I truly want in life, giving me an opportunity to examine what it was I was building.

    Beyond that, the second ICT came while I was putting clothes away in my sons’ drawer (one of my least favorite chores). As I crammed clothes in the tight drawer, I quickly became UNfrustrated as I realized what a blessing it is to have to do it. It means I have resources and without clothes, we would not have what we need, etc. This “meaningless work” actually brough EASE to what could be a pretty difficult life otherwise.

    No, sometimes my focus gets a little shifty again and I need reminders. I yell at my boys, too, from time to time and I still don’t LIKE putting clothes away. But realizing that you need too look at things differently is the starting point for a … well, a different life. See?

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.