I usually try to keep my parenting posts gender neutral because I know we have a lot of hands-on dads out there who’re as involved, if not more, than moms. This one issue seems more mommy specific, though. If this sentiment sounds familiar to you, please raise your hand!
If I’m spending time away from my child, it has to be 100% productive.
This is the fundamental reason I switched jobs a while ago. It’s also the reason I came close to quitting my current job a few months ago. I felt that the work I was doing at office did not justify the time I was spending away from my child. I was not willing to wait out a lean period or a bad patch until better opportunities came through.
This guilt is also the reason I hate making time for something I classify as a luxury. For instance, I’ll step out on weekends to meet a friend for coffee when Chotu’s napping but if coffee spills over to lunch or lunch to shopping, the guilt starts ticking like a bomb getting louder each second. If I spend some time to get my eyebrows threaded or get a wax done, that’s ok because it’s basic grooming, right? But I haven’t had a pedicure since Chotu was born.
The worst part is that this whole guilt is entirely self-imposed. The stress invisibly builds minute by minute, day by day. I’m judging myself by the worst standards possible, refusing to let myself be human, not tolerating the mistakes of others around me, not letting myself take a minute or two in the car just to breathe at the end of a 45 minute drive in maddening traffic (on the occasions I do drive to work), fighting battles to get to work from the moment I wake up, feeling as though I’ve accomplished nothing at the end of the day. I drove myself to the point of exhaustion doing nothing but worry. For two years I didn’t question this guilt. I figured it’s just part of being a mom. Over my break, though, I had to reset and rethink. I can’t do this for the next 16 years till Chotu leaves for college. It’s insane! I had to make peace with two things.
First, I cannot achieve as much at work as the men whose wives are homemakers. I cannot do as much for my child as women who are stay-home moms.
Second, where does this ideal that moms should spend every moment with their kids come from? I can remember a time in joint families when the older kids babysat the younger ones. There was always a granny or an aunt or even an older cousin who would keep an eye on the kids and the kids pretty much engaged themselves. Even when nuclear families became fairly common in urban areas, neighbours were often a proxy joint family. My mom remembers me playing for hours in my neighbour’s house. Well-off families had “ayahs”. This “OMG! My kid doesn’t leave me time to shower!” state of mind seems to be a more recent phenomenon. When did it become so important to account for every single waking minute to a child (and then co-sleep with them at night)? Whoever came up with it, it certainly wasn’t my child.
So if it’s not my child who’s asking for my every single waking moment and it’s never been the norm anyway, why am I so darn upset about it? Am I trying to prove something? Why? To whom? To what end?
You thought I had answers, didn’t you? I tried, but they were so intensely personal that to put them here would end up sounding incredibly self righteous… I’ll do a separate post if you’d like to know! 🙂