Friday, January 4, 2008

Feeling guilty about feeling bad

I gave up lots of things when I decided to stay home. I don't think I fully understood that, or that I fully appreciated my life before. I know I'm lucky I finished my degree and worked for a while before motherhood. And yet there are still so many things I like to do.

Are dreams so important? I don’t know. Sometimes dreams have to be laid aside or shelved for a little while. No one ever told me that. I never read it in the live-your-dreams inspirational movies and books I’m so fond of. It was supposed to be all about the power of the individual spirit. You can triumph and achieve the impossible if you’ll just believe.

There has to be compromise. Not just for women, either. I always wanted to get my graduate degree. Mark always wanted to visit Japan. Being in a relationship means sacrifice, especially when there are children.

But let’s not be martyrs about it. Let’s not say “Woe is me but they’re worth it” with a sad self-effacing smile. Of course they’re worth it. If I had to choose between kids and a pay raise, I’d choose the kids (on a good day, anyway).

I still daydream, though, about the B.K. life (before kids). Those were our dirt poor days, but since it's my fantasy, I conveniently forget that part. So I like to imagine what I'd do if the kids were in school full-time. And then, when I have an Actual Conversation with a Grown-Up and said Grown-Up asks if I love staying at home, sometimes the honest answer is, "It depends what day you ask me. Today, not so much." It seems as if I'm supposed to love it all the time. But there are days that I don't.

I’ve received lots of forwarded emails that are really good at promoting my-kids-make-me-crazy guilt. They say things like, “The next time you yell at your kids for dropping the bread on the floor peanut butter-side down, you think about all the parents grieving for the children they have lost and you get on your knees and beg God’s forgiveness for being so unworthy of their precious little souls.” They insinuate that you are a bad person because you have needs, too. That if you lose it once in a while, you’re a bad mother. That if sometimes the freedom of sitting in total silence to finish a thought seems so attractive you can almost taste a period at the end of a sentence, you’re ungrateful.

You are important. You matter. Do we all need to say it aloud like some kind of mantra until we believe it? Because even though motherhood will change you, some things will stay the same. Like, in my case, evening popcorn, playing my flute, writing, and bargain shopping. And (yes, I admit it) guilt.


Sara & Company said...

Inevitably, we have to have the bad to see how good the good can be, right? Of course things get hard being a stay at home mom and anyone would be lying to say that it doesn't, and I think it is all right to confide with people and to work through it and then keep finding those things that we love and cherish. My heart always completely melts when after a particularly hard day where I am probably more tired and grumpy than my kids, and my little Will comes up to me and gives me a heart felt "I love you". They are what it is all about and sometimes we need to be on the low to truly appreciate how wonderful they are.

The AZ McMillans said...

I couldn't have said it better.