Guilt! Guilt! Guilt! Guilt! Guilt! Guilt! Help!

You know how it goes if you're a mother. We feel guilty about eating a piece of chocolate because we know we are going to skip spinning class today (which we feel guilty about) because if we were to go get some exercise, then we'd probably have to neglect either our children or our house (which again would make us feel terribly guilty), but since we don't go exercise we neglect our own selves instead and feel really guilty about it.

And while we're pretty sure that our butt just tripled from one bite of chocolate, we can't figure out whey our husband still wants our floppy, wrinkly bodies in bed, so we feel guilty that we want nothing to do with them because we spent all day holding babies on both hips and letting them crawl all over us and pick at our noses, poke at our eyes, and suck at our breasts. However, had we not let them crawl all over us all day, we'd have felt guilty that we weren't giving them enough attention. Instead, we have to feel guilty that we don't give our husbands enough attention.

Then we try to sneak away to the bathroom to have privacy, and if we shut the door, either our children or our husbands are standing outside the door yelling at us, batting at the door, or trying to tell us about some really important thing that happened at work or that the stock market might crash again, and finally we feel so guilty for making them stay outside of the bathroom that we tell them to just come into the bathroom. And so now the baby is standing up holding onto your thighs while you are sitting on the toilet and your spouse is standing at the door trying to communicate about the status of his latest big deal, and your three year old is now sitting on her little 'potty' next to you screaming for someone to wipe her, you are fantasizing that you are on a white sand beach really, really, really, far away from all of these people and you are ALONE! And you feel guilty that you are imagining yourself minus all of this responsibility and yet feel a sense of relief and happiness inside about it until your ear is blown off by the other two kids fighting in the kitchen over who will get the last cookie.

All you wanted was to go to the bathroom by yourself for about two and a half minutes.

Tell me, how on God's Greener Grass earth are we supposed to win?

I had to share this article written in the New York Times. Mostly because I don't ever want to forget that I read this in the New York Times. An article about the incredible guilt we feel as mothers. It starts when you become a mother, and apparently never ends. Here is the article. Then I shall share some of my own insights and observations.

The article reads:

October 26, 2011, 8:23 pm
Neglected Children, Messy Houses and Guilt

In case you missed it, the Working Mother Research Institute surveyed 3,781 women and issued a report called “What Moms Choose.” It quantifies a lot of things we know, and a few that we don’t. Here are a few statistics to throw out over dinner, if you belong to one of those families who have civilized, discussion-based dinners (I tell myself that will happen when the children are older):

•55 percent of career-oriented stay-at-home mothers would prefer to be working
•71 percent of mothers equate work with something done only to pick up a paycheck

•51 percent of working mothers feel guilty about not spending enough time with their children
•55 percent of working mothers feel guilt about the untidiness of their house

•55 percent of stay-at-home-mothers feel guilty for not contributing to family income
•44 percent of stay-at-home moms feel guilt about the untidiness of their house

Guilt and tidiness seem to be pretty powerful themes here. And there’s more on both:

•49 percent of working mothers and 47 percent of stay-at-home-mothers agreed with the statement, “I am my worst critic”

And finally,

Working mothers feel most judged about
1) How clean my house is
2) Not taking care of myself
3) The amount of time I spend with my children

Stay-at-home mothers feel most judged about
1) My contribution to family income
2) How clean my house is
3) Not using my education

It’s kind of impossible not to notice the weird emphasis on cleaning here. Why do both sets of mothers feel so much guilt about the house? Is it because they want a clean house or because they think they should have a clean house? My house is clean-ish, but cluttered, which drives me crazy, but doesn’t make me feel guilty (perhaps because I blame it on my husband, whose reluctance to throw away anything should be studied by anthropologists).

Is this a vestige of the 1950s, where women greeted men with cocktails, a warm meal and a meticulous home (oh, if my husband could only go back. In lieu of a highball he gets: “Bathe a kid! Cook some beans! Read ‘Ladybug Girl’ 22 times, and then once more!”).

On the guilt theme, I guess I shouldn’t be too surprised. It is the working mother report from the Working Mother Research Institute. But I can’t help but wonder, would the working dad institute ask whether fathers feel guilty about the cleanliness of their homes?

Can I just say...Hello, this is a nutshell!

Some main points:
"55 percent of career-oriented stay-at-home mothers would prefer to be working

This is me. I am fortunate to stay at home, but not fortunate enough to be content with it. I want to use my brain and contribute to our family's income. I also want to show my daughters that they can do whatever they wish outside of the home. I want to be a mother AND a real life role model. Is it really possible to be both?

"•71 percent of mothers equate work with something done only to pick up a paycheck"

This is not me. I am quite grateful that if I do go back to work, it will be something that is very much a career, and not a go-nowhere job.

"55 percent of stay-at-home-mothers feel guilty for not contributing to family income"

So I'm like sitting in the front row raising my hand high to sky on this one. It's like a complex. Our mothers didn't feel this obligation. Why do we? Generational? Feminism? Lack of financial control? I don't know. I just know it drives me whacko to not be a participant in this.

"44 percent of stay-at-home moms feel guilt about the untidiness of their house"
"55 percent of working mothers feel guilt about the untidiness of their house

Obliviously when I do go back to work, this overload of constant guilt is never bound to change until the kids move away and my husband hires himself a maid.

With four kids, I even feel guilty when I leave two at home to take the other two to an activity. Or make them skip out on the grocery store so that I don't have to drink an entire bottle of wine just to deal with the chaos of shopping with four children. I feel guilty leaving the house for evening with friends, or even with my husband, unless we are only gone for a couple of hours. I mean, what really are they missing by us being home that few hours. At least they might not be fighting with a babysitter there and they get more practice at authority outside of their own parents. Or maybe they practice their negotiation or manipulations skills with the babysitter. Maybe that's what we are worried about! The babysitter, not the kids! Who knows why that guilt creeps up and takes control when you've only been gone 30 minutes from the house. But it does. And it's awful. It's life controlling and keeps mothers from having a life.

Parenting magazine mentions that exact thing as a major area of guilt for mothers: having a life. It's true. We want a life outside of home and kids, but we don't want to suffer the incredible guilt that comes along with having a life. That's how we pay for our pleasure. We drown in a black hole of neverending guilt that our children will turn out to be mass murderers or depressed psychopaths, naughty womanizers, or self-destructive abusers if we have a night out with our girlfriends every now and then. Or if we have a career. Or a hobby.

Where does all this guilt come from? From the idea that we want something for ourselves, but part of us feels like we should be like the women of past generations that handed their husband a cocktail and the paper when he got home, instead of the children, some shampoo and a towel! But something inside of us won't let either go. It won't let go of the idea that we can be more than mothers and at the same time, it won't let go of the guilt.

Parenting magazine recently published an article about releasing Mommy Guilt. One of the sections really hit me, because it referred to a feeling I'd been having a lot lately. The feeling of craving FREEDOM!!! Here is the section:

Guilt Trip: Wishing you were free

When Christina Bess's kids were 2 years old and 10 months old, she was invited to spend a week in London with a girlfriend from graduate school. "She had a hotel room all paid for by her employer -- all I had to do was buy my plane ticket." But the prospect of leaving her kids at that point struck her as outrageous. "I thought, 'How can I do this? Something terrible will happen!'"

Who among us hasn't wanted to simply walk away from the sleep deprivation and the crying and the chaos -- at least sometimes -- and then felt guilty about feeling that way? But this is an example of guilt trying to tell you something: It's important to take some time for yourself to recharge.

Give yourself a break: The experts all agree -- schedule regular "you" time, and keep it sacred. "I write in the mornings and I exercise a few afternoons a week," says Collins. "That's my time, and my family knows that if I get to do that, then I'm a nicer mommy to everyone."

Caroline Poser, a mom of three in Groton, Massachusetts, recently declined to teach Sunday school in her kids' class at her church. Instead, she joined the choir. "I go to church for myself, too, and I want to enjoy it," she says. "We're supposed to feel guilty if we don't make the 'right' decision, but I realized I need to take care of myself as a person, not just as a mommy."

In the end, Bess did go to London, and her mom and her husband took great care of the kids. And after a week spent recharging, she was happy to see her family again.

I want the freedom so bad, but I am so resistant to making it happen! Am I worried about Andrew being too small still? Maybe. Am I worried about how my husband will handle everyone while I am gone? Probably. Do I wonder if I even deserve it? Most likely! Am I worried I will feel GUILTY while I am gone? Definitely!!!! Ugh!

So, what are we to do? I have no idea. But maybe for a start, when that little feeling of guilt starts to rise up, we should just tell ourselves, "I am a person too." Maybe that in itself is enough.


One area where you can really see and hear yourself is by watching your children interact with others. I have especially noticed this in the area of negotiations. This is a wickedly important skill in raising children, but I'm not sure how I feel about how quickly my own children are catching on.

Chloe seems to be the real trickery girl, picking up on this faster than Harry Potter on his broom. I often watch her work her magic on her little sister. How about if you have the little squirrel, since it's the cuter one (yeah, right!), and then we'll trade. Or, Tootsie rolls aren't as yummy as suckers, so I'll let you have the sucker. Haha! Sucker is right!

We were at the pumpkin patch the other day with Chloe's class. We were trying to get around to all of the fun activities. Chloe's negotiation skills were really kicking in. She kept working hard to convince her friends that the biking activity took a little bit less time and effort than the big trampoline, so they should save the tramp for last. Then maybe they should consider the corn maze for the longest amount of time, in case they get lost (but really because it is right next to the bunnies!)

She cracks me up. But what cracks me up the most, is where (or should I say whom) she is learning it all from. :)

Proud Parents

You just have to love those times when everything seems to be going great with the kids. Or at least 50 percent of them. Actually, 75 percent. We DO have a three year old. The baby is pretty consistent. Yay for that!

Every now and then parents deserve some serious bragging rights. I feel like I currently have those very rights, in fact an obligation, to share just how amazing and brilliant my children are!

My little Chloe--six years old and in Kindergarten--achieved Super Camper status last week. She was the second child in her classroom to achieve this. The first child to achieve this was in Kindergarten last year and also with their same teacher. So he already knew what to do to earn such an honor. So, I asked my sweet Chloe how she became the second Super Camper. And she replied, "I knew Makoa was on his way to getting Super Camper the first week, so I just watched everything he did. And when it was time to compete for a new Super Camper, I just did everything he had done." Kudos kiddo. I think you just learned a major life lesson! Not to mention Mommy's appreciation for you super behavior in school. Proud. Proud. Proud.

On to Clare. Each week her classroom has a spelling test on Monday, and then they study the words all week so that they can re-take the test on Friday. There are even bonus words. She has aced the spelling test on Monday of every week, including the bonus words, the entire first quarter. Her teacher is now making up a couple of harder words for her to study just to give her something to test on Friday. She is the only kid in her class that has passed this test every Monday. I have no idea how she is doing it. I am truly starting to believe there is a photographic memory in the precious little head. Regardless, I of course feel she in on the road to certifiable braniac. Beaming. Beaming. Beaming.

Gotta love the proud moments.