I wrote this over the weekend while my husband and I were away. I couldn't post it due to internet access issues. Then my guilt became a lot worse this morning when we returned home to find that our daughter had been ill with a fever all day yesterday…. I suppose it just proves the point.
This isn’t an astonishing new insight, but being a mother means feeling guilty. When you take that tiny person home from the hospital they don’t tell you that you’ve also just brought home your very own automatic infinite supply guilt dispenser. You get to figure that part out on your own. It doesn’t take long. Right around the first time you start desperately wishing someone else would take over so you and your husband can go out for a nice walk together you realize that guilt is now going to be a constant companion.
I don’t know any mothers who don’t feel guilty on a regular basis. My friends who work feel guilty about being away from home, about missing out on different events, about putting their careers first. My friends who stay home feel guilty about not working and giving their children more of a financial advantage and about not modeling feminine independence and career mindedness. All of us feel guilty for not enjoying our kids more, for being impatient, for wanting some time to ourselves again, and for generally letting our kids down. Pretty much whatever you do, you can doubt yourself. The internet makes it worse because in a few clicks you can access information telling you that you should be doing something else – sleep with your kids in your bed. No, make them sleep in their bed. Play with them and give them attention. No, make them learn to play independently. It’s enough to make you pull your hair out.
My particular guilt this weekend is that my husband and I are away. We are away and pretty far away at that, since my boss was kind and allowed me to take leave (the government reopened anyway, but we didn’t have to cancel our plans two weeks ago) so we could attend the wedding of a very dear friend. We decided a long time ago that the trip was too long-distance and too short-time-frame to be reasonable for a three year old, and my mother graciously agreed to come up and babysit. So this morning we woke up early, kissed our daughter good-bye, and headed for the airport.
Mind you, I don’t have any rational reason to feel guilty. My daughter absolutely adores my mother, and I know they are having a ball together. I called home when we arrived and my ears were filled with stories about playing princess and cooking and legos and a great day at preschool. They are going to a pumpkin patch with pony rides tomorrow. If that isn’t enough, my daughter’s other beloved grandparents are coming down on Sunday to spend time with her and my mom as well. She’s going to be spoiled completely rotten with three doting grandparents on the job and no Mom and Dad around to set limits on the fun. I suspect she’s probably not even missing us, to be honest.
My rational mind also knows that a trip like this is good for my husband and I. We haven’t had an extended period of time to relax together in almost a year. 2013 has been filled with injuries, moves, work and the daily routines of home and parenthood. We’ve been overdue for some time to reconnect as a couple. I’m definitely a believer in the idea that happy parents create happy families, and that means keeping the relationship between my husband and I strong. We also wouldn’t have wanted to miss our friend’s wedding; we are so happy for him and for his fiancé, who is absolutely wonderful herself, and we had a chance to visit with some old college friends we haven’t seen in way too long.
Rationality has very little to do with feeling guilty. No matter what I tell myself, I feel guilty being away from my daughter. I’m still having fun, but I feel guilty.