That’s it, it’s official, I am broken and my 3 year old broke me.
It happened last night at around 11:45 pm. It’s the nightly bedtime struggle. We were now going on an hour of snuggling when I finally got up thinking she was asleep. I was wrong. She started the whimpering cry that I thought would possibly subside because she was so tired. I walked out of the room and barely shut the door before the whimper became a cry which turned into sobbing. I ran to my room and grabbed my phone and charger, I knew I wasn’t going to be sleeping in my bed.
By the time I got back into her room she was a hyperventilating mess. I ran and got her tissues. She’s now hysterical. I lay in bed and ask her what was wrong. After maybe a month of asking this same question in this same situation I finally got an answer. My 3 year old said “I don’t want to be alone. I am happy when I’m with you.”
My heart sank. My eyes started to burn with the tears I was holding back. I didn’t know what to say. Why does my child feel like this and how does she know to articulate this?
Then came the rush of mom-guilt and I started to spiral.
Normal Mom Guilt meet Working Mom Guilt
A couple months ago I was discussing working with my therapist. I work 830-530 Monday through Friday which I am ever grateful for, but even with what I call a relatively normal work/life balance, I still feel like I am missing out on some part of my child’s life. When I voiced this concern to my therapist, she looked at me and asked “What part of Sydney’s life have you missed?” I sat there and had to think. I was fortunate enough to be home when she took her first steps, when she said her first word… I couldn’t specifically name a significant thing that I missed out on, so why did I feel this way?
According to my old friend Merriam-Webster, perspective is the capacity to view things in their true relations or relative importance. The word that stood to me in that definition is “true”. What is the actual truth of the matter? Look at the FACTS. Yes, the fact is I am not home to take my daughter to the cool lesson on pigs that they hold at the local family farm that they ONLY offer during the day on weekdays. I’m not home to wake her up and feed her breakfast and play baby dolls with her until nap time every day. I’m not home on Wednesday’s to take her to the play group they have at the local school. But the fact also is that she’s not missing anything. She is well cared for, entertained, fed, played with, and doesn’t even know these things exist!
It’s hard to tell ourselves that this mom-guilt we are feeling, while being absolutely real, is often self-inflicted. I really have no one sitting here telling me I should be at home with my child doing all “the things” other moms do. There is no one telling me I’m not doing something right or that I’m not doing enough. Actually I lied, there is one person telling me these things, MYSELF.
Throughout my sleepless night and well into the morning I have had plenty of time to reflect on what happened last night. I’ve asked myself all the questions and have battled with myself what the right thing to do is.
Things that have run through my mind:
- I don’t want to form a bad habit.
- I want her to be able to cope on her own.
- I want her to be independent.
- I don’t want her to feel lonely.
- I don’t want her to be traumatized.
- I don’t want to be traumatized.
- I want to sleep in my own bed with my husband.
Here are my responses to my braindump above:
- There are far worse habits to form.
- The majority of adults can’t cope on their own, that is why we have friends and counselors.
- Sydney is independent already at 3, she will be independent as she gets older. She just needs her mommy right now.
- She misses you and loves you and wants to spend every minute she can with you. You know you feel the same way.
- Then don’t traumatize her.
- Again, don’t traumatize yourself.
- There are nights where she will sleep in her own bed (the other night for example) and there are nights she has sleep overs. TAKE ADVANTAGE OF THOSE NIGHTS.
So moms, it’s okay to feel that mom-guilt you’re feeling. It sucks, I know, I’ve been there. The best advice to help you through this is to take a step back and look at the FACTS. Focusing on the actual facts is the best way to ground yourself in any situation and give you a better perspective of what’s really going on.