Mother guilt and the disconnect

“Mum…can you really work?”

When I announced to the minions that I had a job, the look of stunned disbelief I received was enough to send me headlong into morning peak hour traffic. How could they know so little about the person I was before they came along? It’s not like we’d never talked about it. Whatever the case, I was suddenly desperate to prove to them – and myself – that I could still make a positive impact in the workforce.

It took a few minutes, but finally the kids realised I wasn’t joking and yes, I was going back to work full-time. Everything went quiet, until a little, wavery voice broke the silence. “But we’ll miss you…”

The feeling was mutual. Apart from a few weekends away with the girls, I’d always been home with the kids. It was strange to think I’d be away from them now for large chunks of time over the next four months.

I must admit though, it felt great to be getting dressed up for work, knowing my clothes would survive the day without being used as a hankie. And I’d be lying if I said I didn’t savour the half-hour train journey as I happily read my book without interruption, gleeful in the knowledge that I had another half-hour on the way home.

The guilt kicks in quickly though. A little niggle started from that first morning when I tried to leave the house. The kids blocked the doorway and then clung to my legs as I attempted to escape. The cries of “don’t go, Mummy” and “we’ll miss you” echoed in my ears as I rushed for the train. Was I doing the right thing? Personally and developmentally for me, yes. But given it was so soon after we’d moved, with so many changes already in their lives, maybe not? But it was a great opportunity, so why not? Guilty little arguments ran around my head for days.

And the guilt never stops. I’ve really enjoyed working again, but a few weeks in, I’m feeling a disconnect between their lives and mine. Hubby is doing a wonderful job, settling the kids into school, getting to know their friends, the teachers, and for the first time ever, I’ve not been involved in any of it. I’ve had to deflect questions about their after-school-activities to my husband and felt like such a bad mother for not knowing more than the vaguest of details.

Time is an issue now too. From the moment I leave the house, until I drag myself to bed, there’s hardly a moment to spare. Everyone wants a piece of your time when you get home and it’s hard to say no. The baking I used to do during the day is now done at night after bedtime stories and snuggles, and keeping up my writing is proving almost impossible.

Even now, as I’m writing my first post in weeks, I’m cooking pancakes, pouring apple juice and wondering what I’m going to feed the dinner guests we’ve got coming over tonight.

If nothing else, I think all of us – including the kids – have a new appreciation of everyone’s role in the household, both former and current. Whether you’re the breadwinner or the stay-at-home parent, both roles are not without their challenges and sometimes it takes a stroll in the other one’s shoes to work this out.

For now, I’ll keep peeling S off my leg in the mornings and rehashing the day with the kids in the evenings, trying to quash that niggling question of, “Am I doing enough?”

In the end, there’s only so much you can cram into each day, which I’m gradually coming to grips with. Which means right now, I’m trying to cram in only the stuff that matters. Easier said than done, but something to work towards.