We are in a new millennia and you would think that after all the civil rights and women’s rights movements we, as women, would have the whole mom-guilt thing figured out by now, but we don’t.
What I do for a living, currently, is essentially easy. I am, after all, just a lunch lady. I’ve been one for nearly five years now, and actually, I love it! I’m a very task oriented person. I feel more accomplished in a day if there are fewer interruptions when I’m trying to complete something especially when given a deadline. And we all know, us moms any way, that this does not happen when you have children. If I fold clothing while my toddler is awake, it is unfolded in a matter of seconds. If I have to make an important phone call my children are usually in my face screeching at the top of their lungs and I’m not only apologizing to whomever it is on the phone who probably understands more than I realize, but I’m also consistently having to ask them to repeat what it is they just told me. If we have company coming and we’ve had a very busy week with outside activities and work and school, well I’m more than likely trying to clean my house with very little time to do it. And guess what? My children are messing the clean spaces, they are fighting as though any situation was life or death, they need something, they can’t find something, or there’s always something (like homework at the most inconvenient times) that requires my attention and for me to literally stop what I’m doing.
Or let’s just say I have a million things to do while I’m trying to write down a list of groceries. Chances are, they are completely distracting me and I’ve forgotten half the list only to realize what I had forgotten at the store, after I’ve checked out, put groceries in the vehicle, strapped kids in, and started said vehicle. Being a mom is actually challenging because trying to accomplish anything from start to finish without interruptions is more than likely a failed task at that. And if we don’t forget midst the distractions, well, have a few more kids and I almost guarantee you won’t remember, and I mean that. I don’t mean the initial mom brain where you walk into a room and can’t remember why you went in there in the first place. I’m saying, you’ve placed your phone in a conspicuous place that you normally wouldn’t put it because your toddler was too interested in it so you decide to move away from it and distract your child with a bit of attention and by the time they’re done with your attention you’ve forgotten all about your phone in the first place. It’s on silent because you just got back from a PTO meeting and you were expecting a few calls and/or texts to ring through and you’re just not that kind of mom who disrupts the conversation with plights from your phone. And then guess what? You need your damn phone! And you can’t find it. You’re trying to retrace your steps, but you can’t because you realize you aren’t going to remember correctly because too much about today seemed just as familiar as yesterday because you didn’t get adequate sleep last night so your days are running into each other. Therefore, the phone is currently lost and for a substantial amount of time until it suddenly dawns on you, hours later, what you had done with it, why you placed it where you did, and just how you forgot about it. (Sorry, ran off on a tangent there, a little side conversation if you will).
Moving on, being a lunch lady probably seems very menial to you. To me, a working mother of four children, it is down right perfect! I don’t work long hours. I’m off when they’re off. The company I work for is therefore very family oriented and understanding. And I’ve already explained why going back to school right now or being able to have the career I’ve always wanted isn’t ideal for my family’s needs. Instead, my job is a good compromise for a lot of reasons. I’m at home as much (well, a little more obviously during breaks and summer) as I am at work. I have time to clean, I have time with my kids, I have time for my husband, and I have time for hobbies. But none of that which makes my life pretty comfortable as a working mother keeps me from having guilt over missing work because of sick children, or missing my children because of work.
That mom guilt is pretty terrible, isn’t it? It’s something I have to forgive myself for often. It causes a lot of anxiety. It wreaks havoc on my mind and my sleep. My children will always come first, even if I have to quit a job because it may interfere with my psyche and/or with my family life. Maybe I’m just easily geared that way because that’s what my mother did, or it’s essentially just part of who I am? I feel terrible that all the field trips they have are during my business hours and I cannot attend despite their best efforts to guilt me away from work. I feel guilty if I’ve packed them the same lunch three days in a row. I feel guilty if I just don’t have enough patience to listen to their stories or play barbies. I feel guilty when they are sick and their dad is home taking care of them, not me. I feel guilty that I often make them eat their damn vegetables despite their consistent complaints that veggies make them vomit, or they really actually aren’t good for them because of the pesticides used to grow them. I feel guilty when one of my children are being punished (typically groundings of some sort) and they have to be left out of whatever activity it is that we planned to do as a whole family. I feel guilty when I can’t help them with that God awful common core math problems. I feel guilty when I can’t take their physical or mental pain away and that they have to suffer as I did as a kid, learning and growing. I feel guilty for staying up late to write on my blog rather than getting a good night’s rest so that way I’m not yelling at them in the morning. There are so many more reasons I feel guilty as a mom that I simply can’t put them all in writing because it would be endless.
Equally, however, I have built an investment of time with the people I work with. We work (most of us anyway) seamlessly together, even when it is a rough day where one thing after another keeps happening, and it seems like we just won’t make it. Yet we always do. That’s the guilt I carry for work. And I’ve carried a good amount of guilt for various reasons for the last couple of school years with all the strep my kids passed back and forth, and my second daughter’s health issues, my own health issues, having a father in law living with you who doesn’t understand why he can’t just do whatever he wants with the kids, and the work drama that happened, my husband going into a depressive state for his own personal issues… needless to say, I missed a lot of work in the last few years and I have always carried the guilt for every time I had to call in for a sick day. I value them in my work life so letting them down is something I don’t wish to do. These women lift me up, these women keep me from going down a deep, dark rabbit hole. Things are considerably better now with my personal life that it doesn’t always mean I’m taking sick days for our kids. My husband is now an active participant in that arena as well. But it still does not keep me from feeling guilty about it.
So what do I do to forgive myself over both matters of guilt? I look to my successes, however big or small they may be. I acknowledge those success (out loud even). This is how I forgive myself. I have to remind myself (like Kristina Kuzmic – check her out on Facebook if you don’t know who she is) “this is only right now. This won’t last forever, it is only right now.” I also distract myself by setting myself up for success in another area of life, again, no matter the size of that success. If I have to miss a day of work because I’m sick, I rest and practice as much self care as possible. I’m even learning to ask my husband for help around the house more often. If I miss work because one or more of my kids are sick then I get something done I’ve been meaning to do in the house or getting more financial plans done for my Darcy’s Doodle’s crafts, or I was an even better mom and snuggled my germ infested children, risking my own health, petting their heads, holding their hair and a puke bucket, rubbing their backs, watching every single kid’s movie we own no matter how badly I am over and done watching cartoons and I think I can’t take another second of it. Point is, is I have to look at these as successes in order for me to not feel guilty and/or dismayed, to remind myself that “life” happens and it’s not the end of the world.
Had you asked me this in the beginning of the school year, let alone last school year I would not have had the same answer for you as I do now. Heck, had you asked me that four years ago I still would not have had the same answer.
You see, I’ve grown so tired of not being happy, always kind of riddled with some sort of guilt. I’m tired of watching the world move on without me. If I want to be apart of the world, again, I’m going to have to continue to go outside of my comfort zone so that I can grow, adapt, and change with it, so I can discover every facet of myself, get to know myself, to love myself. If I stay stuck, if I stay in the guilt zone I will only continue to live in fear; in fear of what could be and in fear of missing out. I need to start taking opportunities as they come to me. I need to start taking risks so that I can further invest in myself.
I don’t know that I’ll ever forego the mom guilt. Knowing who I have always been, I’m positive that portion will remain unchanged, and you know what? I’m ok with that. It just means I’m a good mom! Yet, I will conquer the other guilts I carry, or at least lessen the stress of them by shining brighter, not for anyone but myself.
With that being said, I’ve got my Darcy’s Doodles. It’s small right now, sure, but I didn’t ever expect any followers on Facebook or on WordPress and here I am with a success of more than a few! It’s a start and it makes me happy!
Now, with work: I don’t think I’ve shared any of the struggles we’ve had at work lately and that would have to be for another post for tomorrow. But it will help you to better understand what I’m about to tell you. I’ve grown, personally and professionally with this company I work for. They have changed my morale. They have equally invested in me. They have also had a few positions become available that I’m going to take a risk in (and you’d think these positions would create more pressure and stress for me, and they have that potential, yes, but at least it will be in different forms, unchartered territory for me). I am more willing to try for these positions than I ever have before. I’m starting to regain my confidence. And already, those risks I took have paid off! Sometimes we have to just go knee deep to see how cold the water really is and in return we realize we adapt and it becomes the right temperature for us!