Mom guilt, noun, the feeling of having done wrong or failed as a mom. I imagine that is how Merriam-Webster would define it. I don’t need a definition to know that I experience it regularly in ways big and small.
In preparation for full-time daycare, I dropped my five-month-old son off at the daycare center for a two-hour “trial run.” I stayed in the area of daycare and visited a local boutique for distraction while I anxiously counted down the minutes. While there, I decided to buy a necklace with my son’s birthstone as something to keep with me while I was at work and he was at daycare. I went to the register and chatted with the sales lady about my purchase and then she said it; I’ll never forget the words and I’ll never forget the feeling that came with them, the guilt, the shame. “You can’t find a way to stay home with that baby?” She went on to tell me all about quitting her job, staying with her kids, and driving carpool for her mom’s day out. She smiled through her story. I cried in my car in the parking lot.
Then and Now
Needless to say, I did not quit my day job; stay-at-home mom is not the job for me, but mom guilt doesn’t care; it creeps in and comes back and I have to fight it off over and over again. I was lucky to be able to take three months of maternity leave (felt guilty going back), luckier still that my husband had two months of paternity leave so our kid could stay at home for the first five months of his life (feeling the mom guilt that he was starting daycare in cold and flu season). My husband and I split the time off for pediatrician visits and daycare closures. Last time daycare was closed my husband took the day off (cue the mom guilt again). As I prepared to leave for work I told my son goodbye and he shouted “bye-bye mama, love you!” and went on playing with his books. At that moment I was reminded that working parents and daycare kid was the right choice for our family. That my son is secure in his attachment and that my mom guilt was unnecessary.
And in Then End
As the end of summer posts fill my social media feeds I feel those pangs of mom guilt. If I didn’t work we could have done toddler time at the library, or those Tuesday morning swim lessons, or that day trip. I remind myself that my son gets the best version of me because I work. I know myself, I know what I need to thrive is to be out of the house and what he needs to thrive is to be in an environment where he is engaged in play and in learning. Daycare is good for him and for me. Sure the mom guilt is there and sure today it is because of work and tomorrow it may be because of dinner or screen time or something else, but in the end, I have to remind myself that what is best for mom is also best for kid (and husband!). In a way, I’m showing my son that caring for yourself is also a way to care for others and there is no need for guilt about that.