Dear Mommy Guilt,
I hear you. Like the serpent in the tree, slithering around quietly with determination, waiting for just the right moment… I HEAR YOU.
Every morning I wake up and walk into my favorite time of day: mornings with my daughter. She is well rested and doe-eyed and talkative and big smiles when she hears the door creep open. I like to think that she’s all of these things to see me, her mami, but in full disclosure, she knows that mami comes bearing a bottle of milk so really her happiness rests solely on drinking that bottle. Those moments when we sit on her rocking chair and she holds her bottle close with her own two little hands are some of my favorites. She doesn’t sit still often – if ever – so those moments in the morning when she’s still and content are what I imagine people think of when they believe that being a mother is heavenly.
Mommy Guilt you can’t talk to me here. You don’t exist here. You can’t. Because here I’m a good mommy. When I put her in her high chair and make breakfast as she watches me with curious monkey eyes, I’m still a good mommy because well, eating is a necessity, right? So I’m allowed that luxury. And when I plunk her into her baby walker and we head to my room so that I could get dressed and ready for the day, she loves it. She gets to be independent while playing with mami’s makeup and exploring our room, which is normally off limits to her. She watches me put on make-up and change my clothes… I’m sure wondering all the while why I would be changing when I haven’t peed or pooped my pants.
Mommy Guilt, I know you’re maaaaad. I can feel it. Cause you still can’t touch me here. You can’t make me feel bad. I’m here mommying the crap out of my kid and You can hit the road.
But then I’m ready to leave. And, Mommy Guilt – because you’re so patient – you, Mommy Guilt, say… “GOTCHA!”
You say What a bad mami you are. Leaving. You have the chance, the opportunity, to stay at home with this precious little life and you’re leaving? To write? To work for a few extra dollars? Dollars that aren’t worth the time you’re missing with your daughter.
Other moms would trade places with you in an instant to be able to stay home and watch their little angels grow and play and be. And here you are… leaving?
You, Mommy Guilt, are a big, fat jerk when you use my daughter’s crying against me. The crying isn’t even a long, wailing cry; it’s a split second where-are-you-going cry, a this-is-the-only-way-I-know-how-to-communicate-my-not-happy-feelings cry. It lasts all of 10 seconds after I close the door and then stops. I know this because I stand on the opposite side of that door, listening, making sure she’s ok. And she always is. But all the same, I feel terrible, and you, Mommy Guilt, win that battle.
But you know what, Mommy Guilt? We didn’t always listen to you.
Mommies used to have kids on the farm and go back to roosting hens, picking the vegetables, and milking cows the next day. Mommies, who were good mommies, had babies and put them in their playpen to entertain themselves while they vacuumed and watched Soap Operas and made dinner. Some mommies, had babies and went back to work – without you, Mommy Guilt, you rat bastard – and came home and made a Swenson Microwaveable Salisbury Steak Dinner and then ate in front of the Ed Sullivan Show. You didn’t exist to them.
Somewhere between then and now, you became a looming, all-encompassing, infiltrating entity. And even I, who know what you’re doing, who know that you feed off of my guilt, even I, allow you in. I allow you to tell me that what I am writing isn’t important, is immaterial in comparison to staying home. I allow you to tell me that I’m wasting the gift of time that I have with my daughter. I allow you to make me feel selfish about wanting to fulfill my dreams. I allow you to compare me to other women that seemingly do it better… whatever that means. And I allow you to make me insecure about being a good mother just because I still want to a woman, a friend, a wife, a writer and not just a mother.
Well, you know what, Mommy Guily… bring it. I’m nothing if not a fighter. I’ve fought demons and negativity and plenty of other battles and I always win the war. I have more self confidence and belief in myself than I know what to do with sometimes. Better people have tried to make me insecure and they’ve failed. So I know you will have their same fate.
I know it won’t be easy and I know I will face you everyday. Everyday I will come up against you and everyday I will remind myself that being this person is what makes me the best mother I could be for my daughter: the mother that loves her daughter very much but won’t give up being who she is. Cause you know what Mommy Guilt? That’s what I want for my daughter. I want her to be the kind of person that never gives up on who she is because someone made her feel bad. Because someone made her feel guilty. She will be who she wants to be without guilt for it and she can start to learn how to be that by my example.
Say what you want. Keep saying it – and say it loudly. Say it daily. Say it endlessssssly. Keep it coming.
Because yes, Mommy Guilt… there are mommies that have to work and I choose to work? Yep. You’re right. I am. So what?
Oh yeah… there are mommies that are sad to end the day and put their little ones to bed each night? I’m not. And you know what, neither is Husband. That’s the time when we get to fall in love with each other again – which is the most important thing we could do for our daughter.
And there were (and probably still are) other mommies who might have done it better? Who stayed home and played with their babies, and kept the house, and had dinner ready for their husbands while still looking trim and beautiful?
Guess what? Many of those mommies also smoked cigarettes and drank whisky at noon.
So, try again tomorrow, Mommy Guilt. Same time. Same place.