This week I wanted to post about something that all mom’s feel: guilt. As a working mom, I can be my own worst critic. I always feel I’m not doing enough at home, at work, as a wife, and on and on… No matter your situation, it’s easy to feel like you are always spread too thin.
New mom realness, dark circles & all!
Like most American women, I was back at work sooner than I was ready to be, at just 12 weeks (unpaid, of course). I still remember that morning vividly, getting up super early despite the broken sleep the night before to get myself and Will ready, the beginning of our new routine. On the drive to the daycare, I tricked myself into believing that this was going to be easy, that I was excited to get out of the house and go back to work. It was something I enjoyed and was good at. My husband came too, for moral support and so we could send Will off together, and even he was impressed with how well I was handling it.
Once we arrived at the daycare though, my first thought was “This is a mistake, I shouldn’t be leaving him.”
I hated handing my tiny son to a woman I didn’t even know. As she took him from me, all the bricks I had stacked up to hold back my emotions crumbled, and the tears started flowing. I abruptly turned around to walk out of the infant room so I wouldn’t embarrass myself by crying in public, and my husband (thank God he was there!) took over the rest of the drop-off routine. I cried the rest of the way to work.
First day of daycare, clearly Will isn't bothered.
What I found surprising about my first day back at the office, was that my initial feelings weren’t of guilt, but instead a giant mixed bag of anxiety, stress, freedom, sadness, exhaustion, excitement… the list goes on. When coworkers asked how I was doing, I’d slap on a big smile and say “Fantastic, I’m so excited to be back!” even though inside, I was a royal hot mess.
Then, a few days in, the guilt started to creep in. I felt guilty for all of the work that was left undone while I was on leave, guilty for missing way too many gummy baby smiles, guilty for spending my overnight nursing sessions scrolling my phone instead of being in the moment with Will, guilty for wanting to go to bed as soon as I got home instead of spending time with my husband… you name it. Guilt became a reflex. I used to enjoy working, but now I felt guilty for enjoying going to work.
How do other moms do this? I felt I was struggling with the balance of it all, yet all my mom friends on social media seemed to be killing it! I put a post on my Facebook asking how other moms found the perfect balance, and how to keep enjoying the things you used to love doing as an individual without feeling guilty about enjoying it. I was really surprised by the responses I got. SO many moms responded saying basically that I needed to suck it up, that “you’re a mom now so that’s just how it goes” and that “it all goes by so fast so you just need to enjoy it”, that "You can get back to doing the things you used to enjoy doing when they grow up."
These answers made me feel defeated, and guilty that I was even missing my pre-baby self. I was SO beyond happy with my new role as Mom and everything that it entailed, but I also didn’t think that I had to totally lose myself in order to be a good mom. I was stuck, struggling with my new identity and feeling a little mom-shamed for admitting my struggles.
Then I received a message from a good friend and fellow mom that really helped me. She called out the BS of the comments people left and said “Being a mom is part of who you are, not EVERYTHING you are. You gotta make sure your own oxygen mask is on first in order to best help/serve everyone else”. This hit home for me, and was exactly what I needed to hear (thank you, Amanda!). When you become a mom, you willingly sacrifice everything for your children, but you need to remember to do things outside of being Mom & Wife that make you happy. If you are content and feel fulfilled in all aspects of your life, then it gives you more positive energy to give to your children and husband. While motherhood may be the best part of you, it should never be the only part of you.
Dealing with mom guilt is hard, and it never truly leaves you. You just have to keep reminding yourself that you are doing a great job, and your kids will turn out just fine despite the time you spend away from them. Doing what works for you, your children and for your family to stay happy and connected is really all that matters. It’s time to lower the perfection bar to a reachable height, get off your own back, and live your best life!
Photo by Jesse Salter Photography