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.