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Mommy guilt

Spending the day with just D
Washington DC December 2011

Flipping through a magazine in the waiting room of my OBGyn during my pregnancy with C and O, I saw an ad for headphones to put over your pregnant belly. They came with CD's to play for your baby to help your child get an early start on reading-- a very early start. Recently at the children's playseum, a woman approached her daughter and started giving her instructions in Spanish. The daughter replied in English; the woman countered in Spanish. The little girl then replied back in Spanish; she looked like she was three, maybe four, about D's age. And yesterday at the pediatrician a little girl crawled across the lobby floor, stood up independently, got back down on all fours to crawl to the row of chairs, and then got up to walk along the chairs, bracing herself against the chairs as she walked. A woman leaned over to the mother and asked how old the little girl was. The reply? "She just turned 10 months old."

Moments like these pull at me for a moment. Instantly I question if I am making the right choices for my children. I don't have a designated hour of tummy time for my babies; am I delaying them developmentally? I am not teaching my three-year old any Spanish; am I single-handedly kicking him out of Harvard? I remember when D was born. I would try to sit on the floor with him, practicing our-- I mean, his-- next milestone. When I only had him, it was hard. I would go to bed thinking, "Tomorrow we will work on colors more..." With everything going on at this point in my life, I sometimes feel like I am just running behind. My girlfriend told me today about her children, "I try to sit on the floor with them, but if I have to leave the house for anything, forget about it." (We both agreed online shopping is a huge sanity-saver.) Why do we wallow in so much mommy guilt?
Borderline chaos. North Carolina December 2011

I remember a play date D had last year. He was absent-mindedly flipping through an alphabet book while his friend looked over his shoulder, correctly identifying every single letter. I flipped to the front of the book, mostly for my benefit, to the only letter he knew, "What is this letter?" He stares at the "B" blankly before mumbling, "W?" Reminding myself that he was having a play date and this wasn't the time to teach him his letters, I handed him a puzzle. D held up each piece before putting it in, "Green triangle, red square, blue oc-a-gon..." His friend's mother held up a shape to her child and asked what it was to no avail; shaking her head she explained, "We just haven't spent much time working on colors and shapes." Such a simple statement. The child who can sing the alphabet couldn't tell you which shape was the red square and the child who knows what a blue octagon is has no idea what a "T" looks like. We all have to start somewhere.

My girlfriend said, "I never knew there would be so much guilt being a mommy. If I'm playing with the boys, I'm not doing something else." There are days where I feel I am very successful at prioritizing, but since they started teething so intensely, I feel like I can never do enough. If I'm sitting on the floor comforting them all afternoon (my life for the past three days), I'm not spending quality time with D. Sometimes the times where the boys need their momma is the same time that momma needs to get everything in the slow cooker or is right in the middle of my shower. And I'm fairly certain there was a time in my life where showering did not mean soaping as quickly as possible while obsessively peaking around the shower curtain to see if the lights on the baby monitor are moving because I really thought I heard a noise that time...

Teething makes cardboard delicious.
North Carolina January 2012
 So, officially, I'm letting the guilt go. I can only focus on so many things at a time. I love my children. I love reading to them. There are days where I don't make it around to flipping open a book. I love taking them to play dates. But there are days, like today, where I decline meeting up because it just does not work for me right now (say out loud, "Teething is not forever," and repeat). I love cooking my family dinner. Sometimes that doesn't include a fresh green; I'm just happy something warm made it to the table, even if my husband and I are both bouncing a baby on our laps. Oh, how I love a clean kitchen. Currently my kitchen sink is stacked with dirty dishes, a pot with Annie's ravioli sitting on the stove, and a fort of canned vegetables and jarred baby food formidably engineered by D after yesterday's Target trip.

After getting off the phone with my girlfriend this morning, I felt calm, at peace. I felt like I was not the only one having a rough time with teething nor the only one feeling guilty about what I wasn't getting done. It comforted me to know that what I am feeling is normal. Hearing how someone else manages their household and hoard is extremely helpful. There are days where everything goes according to plan: flashcards were practiced during an organic snack of fruit and whole grain crackers, the pilaf is made from scratch, bath time draws non-stop giggles, and the evening is spent cuddling on the couch with the hubby watching a DVR'd drama you both enjoy. Those days are intoxicating. But more often the dog chews up the box of flashcards while your three-year old eats all the fruit, leaving a plate of crackers, as you burn the rice to the bottom of the pan. That's okay too.

And, eventually, everything will get done. 


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