I’ve seen so much about mom guilt, and while I can laugh at the cartoons about it or joke about how it’s a lose-lose situation for women, in the moment it can still feel crippling. I’d define it as the duality of motherhood – on the one hand you love your child and want to do any and everything for them, and on the other hand you also want to be a person and still feel like your own human being. This can be compounded if you also work, adding the dimension of feeling like a terrible employee whenever you devote time to your kid and vice versa. And I felt it acutely on Monday night.
Thanks to Harley being sick and staying home from school for a few days, I’d spent a lot of time with her lately. I mean, I always spend a lot of time with her, obviously, but even more so thanks to her having been sick. It was wonderful to know how much she loves me, that she feels safe with me and just wanted to be close to me all day every day while she was ill. Of course, that also meant that I was tired and worn out and seriously struggling to get my work done.
On Monday, I was invited for drinks and dinner out with a cool brand and some fun content creators (you’ll hopefully hear more about all that really soon). It was a wonderful opportunity to go for nice consumables at a trendy Sandton restaurant, to be out of the house on my own, to be in the world as myself and not as Harley’s mom. I ended up taking Dean and Harley to Dean’s parents’ house so that they could hang out there, eat and drink and have a fun visit while I was out.
But when the time came to leave, I felt horrible. I felt like I was a terrible mom for leaving Harley; I was on the verge of tears getting into the car and Dean had to remind me that I’m a wonderful mom and that I should go and enjoy myself. I knew I needed time on my own. I knew it was good to do work stuff. I knew she would be fine. And yet, I felt like I was a terrible horrible mom. I went anyway and had a really nice time, but the mom guilt got even worse on the drive home. I rushed back to see my little one, my body literally aching to see her. But when I arrived, she was totally fine. Dean and his parents regaled me with how nice the evening was – all the food Harley ate, all the games they played, all the laughs and fun.
While I was so relieved that she was okay, that she wasn’t distraught without me, I also felt another twinge. What if they are better than me? What if she doesn’t need me? Maybe I am a bad mom after all for leaving her and she actually has found someone better.
A few days later, I know those were irrational thoughts. I know my child loves me and needs me and that I’m the best mommy she could ever want or need. I know how deep and profound my love is for her, and that she can feel it in everything I do – even when I drop her at school or leave her for a few hours to do work (and drink a really nice gin & tonic without her trying to grab my glass). I know I’m a great mom to her and a great employee and that I shouldn’t feel so guilty. But when those feelings strike…
Have any of you had mom guilt? Does it get any easier, or only harder? Anyone have any cures for mom guilt in the moment – because after the fact I can look back and tell myself it’s not real or that she and I will be fine, but in the moment I feel like I am literally the worst.