Thursday, June 18, 2015

Guilty as Charged

I like to believe that I went into this whole parenting thing about as open-eyed as an introverted only child can be.  It wasn't something we rushed into.  We dated for two years before we got married and then waited seven more years before having a child.  In that span of time, we settled into marriage, built a house, switched jobs, lost jobs, left jobs, finished a bachelor's degree and started an MFA.  We worked out kinks in communication and developed a comfortable daily shorthand that required little talking.  I was prepared for (or at least knew to expect) sleep loss, chaotic and sporadic housekeeping, new schedules, tantrums, extra laundry.  But there was one thing that nobody prepares you for; nobody even mentions it.  Guilt.  So.  Much.  Guilt.

It starts almost immediately.  Yes, I was the lunatic who decided to get pregnant while completing my MFA.  This meant hours of writing and reading and apart from my (mostly sleeping) newborn.  My husband took a shift in the night feedings so that I could be alert enough to work after the six am feeding.  I was letting my sweet baby down.  I was letting my hard-working husband down.  I was writing really awful stuff.  Talk about jack-of-all trades, master of none.  I was doing exactly nothing well.  But all I had to do was get through the program, and then I would be free to be mother of the year.  Or at least, a guilt-free mom.  Ha.

Then I graduate.  I had a master's of fine arts degree and an online journal to birth and a writing camp to plan.  And while my Little Bit was sleeping through the night, there was still that push/pull of guilt if I'm not writing/working and guilt if I am.  Enter preschool.  After two years, I had finally had enough.  I couldn't remember the last time I'd written, and I felt like I was quickly losing touch with my sense of self or even the ability to have a coherent, cohesive thought.  I told myself that preschool was vital for her social skills (and it was), but there was still that underlying guilt about the relief I felt when I dropped off Kiddo twice a week.

Still I limp along.  Writing and working one week, buried in housework or sickness or appointments the next.  4K meant four mornings a week were my own, which seemed an embarrassment of riches at the beginning of the school year, and nowhere near enough by the end.  My work was sporadic at best and non-existent most days.  Teaching comp at my alma mater is a welcome break from the mommy identity, but mostly it just serves as a reminder of what I'm not doing.

Preschool ends.  There is an adorable program and celebration and new bike with training wheels and a flashy helmet.  A week into summer break, and I'm already losing my mind.  So many words, and none of them on my MacBook.  My five year old does not believe in unexpressed thoughts.  I can barely manage to wade through the deep torrent of words that obliterate even the memory of quiet.  Week Two is just as bad.  I want/need to escape.  Trapped doesn't begin to explain my feelings.  I know I need do something or I'm going to lose my mind.  And making all of this worse?  The deep-seated guilt that washes over me every time I look longingly at the clock or calendar and wish for school to start or at least a weekend.

In case, you didn't already know, I like writer, Sarah Bessey.  A lot.  She has so many wise and beautiful things to say about God and family and life.  This post in particular has stuck with me lately, reminding me of the importance of doing good work, of allowing our children to see us doing said work.  Sure, I am Kiddo's mom, but I am also a writer, a teacher, a reader, and a whole lot of other things outside of Chief Maid, Cook, and Entertainer.  As I clack away on my laptop today (and have been doing nearly daily for the past two weeks), I am nowhere near guilt-free.  Kiddo still comes in my office and pleads for me to play with her every few minutes, and when that doesn't work, she gets crazy-inventive with excuses to poke her funny face in my door.  I tell myself that this time every morning won't kill her, might even be good for her.  I remind myself of the resentment I feel when I'm not able to work and counter-productive feelings of frustration and guilt that follow.  And I keep typing.  Or try to.

I finished another draft (#5) of my most recent story today.  Even as I typed the final words, part of me was feeling guilty that it took so long to get it done.  See?  The guilt is everywhere.  Even the dog likes to lay it on thick when I'm chained to my desk.

Sad dog looks sad.

Unfortunately, guilt isn't limited to the self-inflicted kind either.  Every day as I scroll through my Facebook feed, I am awash in articles reminding me (and all parents) that time is short, kids grow alarmingly quickly, and everything must be homemade, amazing, and entirely kid-focused.  (And organic.)  Because we can't feel bad about our parenting skills all on our own.  Needless to say, I skip right over those internet gems now.

And that was Kiddo Hug Attempt #543.  That's her lowest blow, I think.  I'm just interrupting you for the thousandth time because I wanted to give you a hug.  Who am I kidding?  While no one may have warned me about parental guilt, Kiddo definitely got the memo.  I am so screwed.

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