Have you ever wondered why we have the phrase mom guilt and not dad guilt? Or, for the sake of equality, let’s say parent guilt? Why is that a mother has to invariably feel guilty for anything and everything she does which doesn’t include her children? Actually, let me rephrase that. Why is it that after becoming a mom a woman is not supposed to have her own time, her own life or her own dreams and if God forbid, she tries to hold on to the woman she was before any other role, she is to feel guilty? I don’t see fathers being burdened with this expectation, deplorable as it might be. Then why us mothers?
In my very limited experience as a mother, I have come to realise that the general consensus is that after becoming a mother you have no life of your own. Well, yes, that’s true because where is the time? But still, when we try to steal an hour or two for ourselves, why are we asked awkward questions to pinpoint that hey, why aren’t you spending every second of every day with your child? Hey, why are you trying to spend time alone? Of course, it doesn’t help that women are experts at self-blame.
Why are we made to feel like the most horrible mothers out there if we save that part of our life which has nothing to do with being a mother because aren’t we doing so much already?
Being a mom, I’m not immune to mom guilt. At times, it’s self-inflicted while at others it’s by virtue of the questions posed by others. The pre-mom me would probably laugh at how ridiculous I sometimes sound wallowing in self-loathing. But do you know something, though I might at times feel guilty by taking time out for myself or being slightly selfish, I’m not apologetic about it?
There are times when I work from home and still send M to her daycare. While sending her I do feel bad as she sometimes clings on to me but then throughout the day when I’m working while listening to some music, I really don’t think about it that much. I know she is happy and safe so I enjoy the solitude that I can get. But of course, I not only work from home but do the work of home as well. So you see, how my supposedly child and spouse free time is also filled with chores. That’s why I don’t blame myself for wanting that little bit of peace before it’s mom duty all over again.
There are also times when I dream of taking a trip on my own. I would love to be on a flight when I could read without being disturbed or just take a nap. I would love to be that sophisticated woman at the airport having coffee without having to take care of a child and luggage.
The job description of a mom doesn’t include free time. We are always busy. My schedule is so full on working days that I crave for days when I can just get back to work and not worry about the second shift of running a house and keeping a kid engaged. Sometimes I dream of planning for drinks after work but I know that’s not going to happen in the near future. Well, not until, M is old enough to stay at home on her own. Till then, I guess I’ll just be navigating mom guilt and judgy questions while still holding on to myself to whatever extent possible.
And if you thought it’s only the working moms who go through these emotional upheavals, think again. The stay-at-home moms go through the same emotions and face the same questions.
To drive home this point, I have Vinitha here. She is a mom who has devoted her time, her body and her energy to two kids. And she is one of those who never shies away from talking about how tough motherhood actually is. So, I leave you with her for the next few paragraphs of the post.
When my first born was 4 months old, I started to go for a weekly yoga class. A friend asked if I tend to think about my baby while I was there. How was I able to focus on the yoga staying away from my little munchkin. I replied that not even once I thought about my baby while I was at the yoga class. Those 90 minutes were about me, only about me. No distractions, no interruptions, just getting in touch with my breath and my body’s hesitation to imitate the perfect asanas. But it was bliss. For me, at least.
The other day when I was talking to a friend of mine, I told her that my little one goes to daycare 3 days a week. Out came the question, “Are you bored when he is away?”
This is what people think a mom’s life is – boring and relaxing when kids are away. Where in fact, those three and half hours a day when my son is at his daycare, I’m rushing to catch each and every moment and put it to good use from relaxing to working out to learning to writing to reading to cleaning the house to finish up the chores to … Oh, the list is endless. And on most times, I achieve only half of things on my list and I consider that a good day.
See, I love my kids. But there is this constant need to give up my time and work for them which everyone expects me to. The unfortunate part is even I do so. When I give preference to just me and do the stuff which matters to me the most (excluding the kids) my mind so effortlessly points that out, leading to feeling a pang of guilt. And then I end up in a vicious cycle of feeling guilty.
I had never ever seen me as a stay at home mom. But the circumstances led me to be one. From where I am standing, I am forced to give up my dreams. Yes, it was the circumstance to blame. But now I feel any time I make myself a priority even if that is after taking care of my kids’ needs, I feel guilty. When did motherhood become a synonym of guilt I wonder!
When my first born was around one and a half years old, I put a status on social media – “Rest in peace sounds so tempting. I want to rest in peace for a day!” If you are wondering I am still waiting for that rest to arrive. Just for a day. I am so tired! Ah, the joys of motherhood!
Now, you have read two perspectives of mothers who are more often than not pitted against each other. But do you see the similarity? The judgement, the mom guilt or even the sacrificed dreams? Like, Vinitha says, the joys of motherhood indeed.
Maybe, time for the fathers, to pick up the baton for more distance than they do now, even the good ones?