Us mums know all about guilt, don’t we? That nagging, gnawing and clawing feeling of inadequacy, self doubt and dismay that accompanies us through the journey of motherhood like an unwelcome guest at a wedding. And while uncle Bob is reading his hilarious speech, we are in the corner wishing we’d spent more time with the bride, helped her to paint her nails in the colour she asked for and still had time to buy a new hat. No matter what we do, we feel guilt for not doing more, and even if the unattainable really is unattainable, we feel guilty that we didn’t achieve it.
Mum guilt sucks.
It claws holes in your confidence and pulls at your ability to step back now and then. To celebrate what you do do well. To rejoice in what you are loved for. To drink in the faces of contented and happy children who want nothing more than you as their mum.
And what of the mum who works from home? That’s a whole new level of guilt right there. Because the working mum leaves the house to do her work, and in her absence her children are cared for. Entertained. Played with. They are fed and they are stimulated until working mum returns home. And yes, working mum feels guilty about leaving the kids while she works, but she knows that while she’s gone they are cared for.
Work from home mum? She doesn’t leave her kids to go to work. She works around them. In that hour before they wake. Thirty minutes while they watch morning cartoons. Ten minutes while they are distracted with the play food in the play kitchen. The rest of the time she works while they want her. They pull at her while she takes a call. They want to clamber onto her lap while she answers one email quickly. They want another push on the swing while she frantically checks her phone. They see her, so they want her.
Work from home mum has all but exhausted her methods of distraction, persuasion and cajoling. She has no set work hours, no desk and no off button. She cannot play. She cannot bake cakes for the school fair. She cannot remember to fill and return all the forms that need filling and returning. And for the record, she cannot look after your children for you during the school holidays either.
And does she feel guilty? Oh yes! Because no matter how wonderful it is that she is able to do a job she loves from the comfort of her own home, with no childcare costs and no need to ask permission to attend sports day… No matter how wonderful it is, she still feels guilty because she isn’t there. Her mind is on work and she is missing the joy of being with her children.
Her children probably watch too much TV and they definitely get their own way too often simply because there isn’t time to argue, or to teach. And if you think this post is nothing more than an expression of my mum guilt then you are right! I miss my kids. I miss their faces when we play together in the garden. I miss their squeals of laughter when the tickle monster comes to visit. I miss them.
To miss your children when they are right there in front of you. That’s a whole new level of mum guilt.