You Are Enough

The most agonizing part of Mom Guilt is questioning whether I made the right decision to work outside of the home.  I've been a mom for almost 15 years and I still long for the privilege to stay home with my children.

My reasons for working began out of necessity.  Prior to having children my husband and I bought a house and paying the mortgage required dual income. The Huz and I were married three years before our first baby came along and it seemed like I had no choice but to work.  Mama needed to pay for diapers and formula.  To say baby needed a new pair of shoes was an understatement.  Baby needed a truckload of gear that first year of his life.  We probably could have had him sleep in a shoe box, but a crib seemed like a much safer option.

As a little girl I wanted nothing more than to grow up and become a wife and mother.  I had some amazing female role models in my life.  My mother and my aunts portrayed motherhood as beautiful and effortless. They devoted their lives to homemaking and child rearing.  Sure, their houses weren't perfectly spotless but they were clean. The laundry was done.  The meals were cooked.  The kids were alright.

My childhood idea of motherhood was drinking coffee in the morning, doing the grocery shopping, cooking fabulous meals, cleaning the house, reading books and playing with my kids in between all of the chores. I believed the husband just went to work to bring home the bacon.  I glorified motherhood and had no idea what I was in for many years later.

While raising children is beautiful, it certainly is not easy.  No one told me I'd struggle with breastfeeding or postpartum depression. I didn't know how frustrating it would be to have a tiny human attached to me 24/7.  No one tells you that showering daily would be a highly coveted luxury. There was no discussion about the laundry and dishes that would pile up because baby needed me all the time. No one told me my husband wouldn't be eager to change diapers and have every item of clothing he owned covered in baby puke. I didn't know that he wouldn't love to get up at 3 a.m. to feed a crying newborn.  I was unaware that lack of sleep would turn me into a crazy, screaming, mess of a woman.

When I had to return to work after six weeks of maternity leave I was actually looking forward to an eight hour break from breastfeeding and diaper changing.  I was in for a rude awakening when I dropped off my baby at daycare. The tears started falling before he was unstrapped from his car seat.  I cried in my car all the way to work.  I worried all day about whether he was eating enough, changed enough, loved enough. It was torture.  I couldn't wait to be reunited with my sweet little boy at the end of the day.

It wasn't any easier when babies number two and three came along. Still, circumstances were different than when I had my first child.  With my second baby I had a much longer maternity leave and ended up staying home with him for six months.  I worked from home as an independent contractor and had the opportunity to truly see what the Stay-at-Home-Mom life was like.  Working from my living room required focus and discipline when I was pregnant, and after baby arrived I discovered it was difficult to multi-task with a wailing infant in the house.  When my contracted work ended I decided to work part-time because raising two children was expensive and we needed the benjamins.  We certainly didn't live beyond our means, but money was tight.  When my baby was one year old he weaned from breastfeeding and I went back to work full time.

Maternity leave was eleven weeks with my third baby.  I still cried during daycare drop off, but I knew I'd survive and my baby would be okay.  I mastered the art of pumping at work and breastfed almost 16 months.   I felt like I was in the mommyhood groove. I thought I could do it all. That's not to say I didn't have moments of doubt about my choice to work.  There were days when the shit would hit the fan.  Getting myself and three kids ready every morning felt like an Olympic sport.  There were days when all I did was yell. I felt like my husband wasn't helping me enough.  I was doing it all and it wasn't fair.  

I think social media had a huge impact on how I perceived my success at motherhood.  Other moms dressed their kids perfectly.  These moms never had a hair out of place and their makeup was always on point.  They seemed to be doing all things I was not.  Park playdates with their mom friends and kids, trips to the zoo and the mall, coffee dates with other moms when the kids were all in school. These moms went to the gym.  They were back to their pre-baby bodies instantly.  They made extravagant but nutritious meals.  They were perfect.

Feelings of jealousy and inadequacy bubbled to the surface and I felt like I was drowning.  It didn't occur to me that they were only posting the flawless moments of their lives.  In reality they were no different than me. These moms had struggles they didn't share on Facebook and Instagram.  I only saw the illusion of perfection. I can't tell you how many days I cried over what I was not instead of being grateful for what I was:  a damn good mom.

I asked my mom how she survived motherhood in the 80s and 90s. How did she not lose her freaking mind every day?  How did she handle keeping four kids alive?  How did she manage to work full time and not feel like she was neglecting her children?  How did she avoid feelings of resentment toward my dad for all the crazy long hours he worked running a tavern?

My mom's answer was that she just did it.  She didn't have time to fret about any of the things I seemed to worry about.  She didn't spend hours perusing social media and comparing herself to other mothers.  She was happy to be with her family and chose to spend time with us instead of agonizing about what she wasn't doing. She wasn't pressured to keep a perfect house. She worked to live, she didn't live to work.

But did she experience guilt, I wondered?  Yes.  My mom felt guilty about not doing the things I do with my kids when her children were growing up.

"I see what you do.  You do things with your boys.  You take them to the library, cub scout camp, playgrounds, and parks.  You read to them, you take them on walks and make sure they are healthy.  You go to the school events, you take them to church.  How can you think that you aren't enough?  You are enough to those who matter."

Her words hit me like a brick.  I thought back to my own childhood.  My mom did stuff with her kids.  She took us on road trips to Grandma's house so we could take her shopping.  We went swimming at the lakes every summer.  We had sleepovers with our cousins.  We spent weekends on the farm and listened to stories about my mom's childhood.  My mother may not have done the same things I do, but she made sure family came first. Everything my mom did was enough for her family and that's all that mattered.

Say it with me:  You are enough.


____________________________________________

This post was not written to debate working vs. staying home.  I love my kids and I love my job.  I believe that as women we should make the decisions that are right for us.  We should also respect the choices that others make that may be very different from our own.  We have the power to stop making each other feel small and unimportant.  We are strong and we do what we need to do for ourselves and our families.  No matter what society thinks, we are enough!

Comments

Popular Posts