Mommy Guilt, Begone: The Moment I Realized How Far My Family Has Come

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Translation: “Hi Mom, I love you so much. I’ll love you forever. I hope you love me too. I wish you could spend more time with me.”

Two years ago when I quit my full-time job outside the home, I did it because I was miserable and missed my kids.

At that time, Boy Wonder, a 9-year daycare veteran, thought little about his inevitable future as a latchkey child, while BooBoo, 4 years in, wished every day that things could be different. He missed his mommy and asked a multitude of heart-wrenching questions almost daily as to why things had to be the way they were.

I didn’t really have solid answers to give, other than the fact that some mommies had to work and that I was one of them. He pretended to understand even though in his heart he didn’t. He needed me, perhaps more than Boy Wonder ever did, and I knew it.

Miserable at work and needed at home? That was enough reason to leave my job – it had to be.

So we sacrificed to scrimp and save, but this whole “mom not working” thing was never part of the plan. I left my job to pursue another career from home. So while my family was gearing up to enjoy the benefits of having mom on demand, they soon learned that the reality was more than a little different than they thought it would be. Hey, it surprised me too; hustling from home was way more work than I ever anticipated. I thought I’d have time to homeschool preschool. I thought I’d have a spotless house and dinner on the table every night. I thought I’d finally have time to exercise. Nope. Nope. Nope. And nope. I had to work incredibly hard, harder than I had ever worked up to that point and my family saw it, felt it, and while they supported it, they didn’t always understand it.

It was hard for my kids to have a mom physically present, yet unavailable. They saw me, they needed me, they wanted me, and often, I was otherwise engaged. Being there but not really being there was a challenge I never expected to face or have to explain.

What I didn’t realize was how much our traditional family time would change. Suddenly there were few weekends or vacations, as securing freelance gigs involved constant hustling and murderous deadlines. But it wasn’t all bad. I no longer had to wake up at 4:30 am, brave a god-awful 90-minute commute, or initiate WWIII with my husband over whose turn it was to stay home when one of the kids got sick, but there were other sacrifices.

Now I was responsible for caring for my kids (a job that I so desperately wanted) while working. And then there was the inevitable question of when to call it a day. Did I accomplish enough that day? Should I step away from this project that wasn’t finished…I mean, my laptop was right there…maybe I should just keep working…yeah, I’ll just keep working.

But yesterday, with both kids home from school in recognition of Veteran’s Day, I spent the day as most of us did – working. I knew my kids wanted to waste the day with me, particularly BooBoo, but professional duty called and seeing as though it is they who afford us our groceries, I answered without guilt. Only later, at the end of the day, BooBoo shuffled into my office to present me with the above letter.

Hi Mom, I love you so much. I’ll love you forever. I hope you love me too. I wish you could spend more time with me.

Heart stab. Re-enter mom guilt.

Now that I’m home, am I really spending more time with my kids? I thought long and hard about it and decided the answer was a resounding yes. I’m the one who takes them to school and picks them up. I’m the one helping out in classroom parties and attending awards assemblies. I’m also the one helping them with homework and taking them to lunch on a random Thursday. I’m there for my kids, navigating their daily operations and laying the groundwork for their future successes, just perhaps not in a way that BooBoo fully recognizes.

The truth is, kids will always want more from Mom whether she’s working inside the home, outside the home, or simply tending to matters outside of their own.

While it initially pained my heart to read BooBoo’s love note, perspective has taught me a valuable lesson: perfect work/life balance in motherhood is a myth. It has to be. What we consider balanced, our children most likely will not because they don’t possess the maturity or experience to understand the demands of adulthood.

BooBoo’s too young to fully understand how far we’ve come as a family, but I know that as recent as 24 months ago I wouldn’t have had the opportunity to receive his letter in real time, hug and kiss him, and proceed to whip his hiney in UNO moments later.

I found a workable solution for my family, one that allows me the blessing of flexibility and availability, but as with all things in life, it comes with a measure of sacrifice. It’s not perfect. It’s not always pretty. But it is, and continues to be, pretty damn good.

More Mommyfriend on Babble

7 Life Lessons From the ‘Kids Table’

10 Things My Tween Loves About Himself (that I Love Too)

12 Things My Kids Can Learn From My Career Choices

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Babble’s teamed up with espnW to share even more inspirational stories on unleashing your inner champion. Find them all here. 
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