Am I a bad mom? I feel like one. Christian and I have reached an impasse. He’s five months old, and caring for him while working at home isn’t working anymore. Well, I’m not working anymore. When he was younger, I could feed him, burp him, he’d fall asleep and I’d work. As he grew, I’d feed him, burp him, set him down to play and then he’d fall asleep. Now I feed him and burp him, set him down to play but when he’s done, he demands mom time and then he needs to be rocked to sleep. Then he naps. For 15 minutes at a time. Normally I love caring for him, but when I’m supposed to be working, all I can think about is the work I’m not getting done. I miss the days when he’d sleep for half an hour, because I could work uninterrupted, but that’s over now.
Now that Christian’s care has reached critical mass, I’m considering getting additional babysitting for him. Right now he and Rose go to the sitter’s one day a week. Rose goes to preschool the rest of the week and Christian stays with me. I to send him to the sitter’s more often but I feel guilty. I worked at home with Rose much longer – until she was eight months old. But back then, I had a boring job that I could do one-handed and I welcomed all the baby care breaks. Now that I love my job, I want to work all the time and I resent baby breaks, and that resentment just breeds more guilt.
I wanted a second child so badly. I should be celebrating all the one-on-one time with him, right? I mean, if I was any kind of a mother, I’d live for feedings and playtimes and diapers, right? So what’s wrong with me that I can’t be that kind of a mom?
I mentioned my dilemma to a more experienced mom (of three) and she said, “You can’t be a good mother unless you take care of yourself. If working is what makes you happy, you need to do it for yourself or you won’t be able to take care of your kids.”
She’s right. I recently wrote an article called “When Good Parents Snap,” and in my research I learned that the most important thing parents can do for their families is to care for themselves. It works like this: Let’s say Rose flushes one of my necklaces down the toilet. I’ll definitely be mad, but my reaction depends on my emotional state. If I’m feeling dissatisfied with my life because I’ve neglected my soul, I’m going to scream at her and impose a punishment. If I’m feeling calm and grounded, with a healthy soul, I’m going to be able to weigh the offense with a clearer head and I’ll give Rose a time out and maybe confiscate a toy, but I won’t freak out. Rose has a fighting chance if I’m feeling good, but she doesn’t if I’m feeling bad.
I know that if I don’t sleep, I can’t be a good mom. If I don’t eat, I can’t be a good mom. So why is it so hard for me to accept that if I don’t feed my soul –the very thing that makes me human — I can’t be a good mom?
It took me a long time to learn self-care and the only reason I do it now is that, through all kinds of therapy, I got permission and directions. There are a lot of things I do to take care of myself now. I get enough sleep – well, as much as I can with an infant. I read while working out — the best kind of multitasking. I watch “The Golden Girls” to make sure I laugh. And I indulge my two loves — writing and cooking –on a regular basis.
When I had a regular job, I thought I might enjoy being a stay-at-home mom. I thought I’d just take care of the kids and write some magazine articles. I thought I’d finally attend the mom meetups and befriend more stay-at-home moms. But the reality of it is different. I’m not a stay-at-home-mom, and God willing, I will never be one. If all I did was take care of the kids and the house, I’d go crazy. I love the kids but I am not cut out for full-time child care. When that’s all I do, I get so bored. That makes me feel guilty too. Shouldn’t being a mom be enough for me?
I admire stay-at-home-moms because if I spent that much time with my children, I’d snap three or four times a day, minimum. I need to do more. Now that I love my job, I have to work to keep myself sane and satisfied with who I am. So if I need more babysitting for Christian, I’m going to get it. I will choose quality mothering over quantity. I will model living my dream for my kids, and I will choose acceptance over guilt. I’m doing it for them, yes, but most importantly, I’m doing it for me.