Innocent Or Not, I’m Guilty

I went out shopping with my mom the other day and I felt guilty, not because I was breaking my necessary self-imposed shopping ban, but because I had left my kids. I had left them not with a babysitter, but with my husband. They were not doing child labor; they were simply going to a movie.
I couldn’t pinpoint the cause of the feeling I was having. Maybe it was guilt brought on by the fear of sending them off alone with their dad. Would something happen without my guidance? He had never taken both kids to a movie, so the neurotic mom in me reiterated that popcorn is a choking hazard, and they should eat it one kernel at a time. I added, “Don’t let them go to the bathroom alone.” You never know who’s lurking in the stalls.

Maybe the guilt was over the fact that it was Sunday and I don’t get as much time during the week with my kids, considering they have no break between school and camp. Maybe I simply felt guilty about missing all the fun the “Yogi Bear 3-D” experience had to offer: The sticky floors crackling beneath my feet. My daughter complaining that the 3-D glasses hurt her face and that watching without them give her a headache. One or both of them inevitably spilling something gooey or fluorescent blue on me. I know you’re thinking, stop romanticizing it.

The irony was that I had chosen to do something with my own mother instead. Should that not be of some value, spending time with her? Do I not have some obligation to spend time with my own mom even though I can wipe myself? Does my husband having a day with the kids not fulfill some need they may have for alone time with him?

I remember a therapist, who also happens to be my Step Mother, telling me a story once. She said, “There was once a mom who had one egg and three children to feed. Do you know what she did?”

“Split it 3 ways and feed her hungry children?”

“She went to her room, locked the door, and ate the egg.”

“Ugh, what a horrible story. The mom locked herself in with the egg? What did she do next, eat her children?”

“Jenny, what is the matter with you? The kids need the mom more than they need the egg. If she takes care of herself she can better take care of her children. She could have split that one egg three ways and then passed out and then what would they have?”

“Scrambled eggs?”

“You’re missing the point.”

Here of course is the point, which is easier to impart than to accept. Taking a break from being a mom doesn’t make you a bad mom. You are other things… a wife, a daughter, an (insert profession or hobby here,) you need to give yourself the freedom to be those things as well. Sometimes “selfishly” taking care of yourself makes you a happier person and therefore a better mom.
I know, the theory sounds so obvious, it need not be stated and yet I know only a handful of people so evolved as to live by it. I am working on becoming more evolved as we speak, I am ignoring my son, who is begging me to play Wii so, I can finish writing this bl__ , sorry gotta go it’s my turn to virtual bowl.

37 thoughts on “Innocent Or Not, I’m Guilty

  1. Cherie

    Jenny, as you can see time alone, doesn’t mean you don’t care. This was very poignant. I must admit, I still have those pangs of guilt eventhough you’re married and not living with me any more…I guess they never go away. I really enjoyed reading this article.

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  2. nancy schutt

    What’s the deal? I thought the job description for MOM is complete self sacrifice for others every moment of the day. You signed on for this and you go thru contortions to justify moments of self care here and there? Sheesh, maybe you really aren’t qualified for this position.

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  3. Wilern

    Do you think a guys I Q drops to 65 when it comes to Child Caring. Was your dad able to chew gum and walk at the same time. Could he take you and or your sibblings out for an afternoon without losing, hospitalizing, or traumatizing one of you ? Dads need more credit. Maybe I should start writing a ” Daddy Blog “. Until then, I’ll continue to enjoy yours. Keep up the funny stuff.

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  4. Kathy

    I’m still a work in progress. I still feel guilty, even though my children are ages 21, 26, 28, 30 and 31, because now I have grandchildren that need me to spend time with them, and at age 50, my time is running out (I’m being sarcastic here). Of course I know that we need to put our own oxygen mask on first, but it will never feel as natural as complete sacrifice for others.

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  5. Bari

    This article poses a really interesting morsl dilemma:
    I can see how a mom might take things to extremes.
    EITHER she could give in to the guilt and be a total blob for the kids- always giving in- in which case the kids rule the home and neighbors are fearful of stopping by for fear for their lives
    OR…
    a mom could go 100% by the rule “I’m busy making you mom, now go away and get me some eggs” theory
    OR… she could be a perfect mom and be you!

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  6. Barry

    Once upon a time I had two daughters. They were babies. I took them to a mall in Baltimore, didn’t pay attention, and lost 1. Never did find her. Oh well, can’t win them all. That’s what her Mom got for the misplaced trust. “NOT” !!!! Great article. Looking forward to reading Wilerns future blog.

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  7. rachy

    jenny, here’s what you need. make up some “mommy time off cards” (like the ‘get out of jail free’ card in monopoly). now, count your blessings that you have qualified child care with a hubby and a mom (and maybe others).

    so, every week or so, they should let you play our “mommy time off card” and see what it says: “afternoon shopping” “manicure” or “movie date with hubby” and just do it!

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  8. Ed

    Yeah, that always bugged me on airplanes when they tell you that in the event of an emergency, parents should make sure that they use the oxygen for themselves so that they can better care for their kids. It seems selfish, which totally runs against the grain of parenthood. I mean, the first years of parenthood are essentially like boot camp where any sense of self is beaten out of you and replaced with sense of dutiful caregiver. That’s one of the toughest lessons in the world to learn, and then one day it’s just OK to forget it? I was just getting my mind around the fact that I don’t exist as an individual anymore.
    Oh, and “Up!” in 3D was friggin’ awesome!

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  9. The Business Coach for Moms

    I just put out a blog post asking my readers am I selfish for wanting Saturdays all to myself. Many answered via Facebook so you can’t read their comments on the blog itself, but they all responded w/a “take care of yourself, use your oxygen mask, eat that egg!” shout. But every last one of them has the same question when it comes to their children & household. And the older women, even here, say they STILL have guilt! OMG! Women are such naturally sacrificial creatures that anything other then that produces guilt.

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  10. lily

    Wow, the reply thread was almost as interesting as the article. All I can say is thanks. I am so struggling with that too. It is nice to read that I am not alone.

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  11. tkf

    Don’t confuse “guilt” with caring about your kids or missing them. Of course, you miss them when you’re not with them. Of course, you worry about their well being. That’s not guilt – that’s parenting.

    If you’re the primary caregiver, your kids and your husband learn so much about themselves and each other when they’re together without you. You shouldn’t feel guilty about giving them this opportunity to grow.

    My husband was the primary care-giver for my son until he was in first grade. We also had babysitters/day care at several points so my husband could manage his freelance career. I never felt guilty about working and leaving my son with my husband or worried that he wouldn’t be cared for. My son is 18 and he has an amazing relationship with his Dad (and with me). He’s a responsible, kind adult now. I’m so proud of him!

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  12. karen baitch rosenberg

    This one hit home, Jenny. Thanks for letting us know that we’re not alone in feeling this way.I have that guilty feeling most times when I want to go out to “do” something (funny, don’t have it when I stay home and “do” nothing!) ~ Bari’s advice is poignant, and I’ll try to keep it in mind. Our kids WILL turn out okay, you know? My god – we did ~

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  13. Karen

    This is so true! And the worst thing is I feel more guilty when I leave the boys with my husband, than I do when I leave them with a babysitter! Why is that? 🙂 Now, that’s not to say I don’t do it, who wouldn’t need a break from 8yo twin boys? But still, the guilt is there!

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  14. Phaedra Cucina

    Mommy guilt – one of my favorite topics! It’s so unnecessary, yet such a force in most of our lives. I’m in the “eat the egg” camp, though it is a bit extreme. I prefer the idea that when parents (mom or dad) feel renewed after doing something that was personally important to them, they are actually better parents – despite the two or three hours/days away.

    I speak with a lot of working mom’s about the guilt they feel over business trips because of my children’s book, My Mommy’s on a Business Trip (www.mommytrip.com) What I stress repeatedly is that instead of being in the hotel room worrying about what’s going on at home or feeling bad about it, use the time to call a friend, watch a movie, read a book, give yourself a pedicure, or just REST. Let’s also not forget the time they get to spend with alone Dad (or whoever is the caretaker) is special and rare.

    Reply
  15. admin Post author

    I loved the responses to this one! You guys rock. Wilern, I will read your Daddy blog however, my dad is the commenter who said he once took his two daughters to the mall and lost one, “oh Well.”

    Thanks ed for rubbing it in!

    My pros, the biz mom and Phaendra writer of My Mommy’s on a Business trip reaffirmed that it’s one of those weird instinctual things that we have to train ourselves to let go of.

    Tfk said it great, it’s not guilt it’s caring. But, I agree with Karen I had less trouble leaving my son with a nanny, so I could work than with my husband, so I could play.

    We definitely need to revisit this one. Send it to your friends, and see what they think.

    Reply
  16. Insanitykim

    I have not had internet for two days. Imagine what kind of mom that has made me.

    I am home with my kids 24/7, so I spend a LOT of time figuring out how to get time away so I don’t ruin my children for life. The bathroom has proven to be a place of solace…

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  17. Jamie

    I totally understand how you feel…even when I get my “breaks” and the kids are with my husband, I ALWAYS feel guilty and call home. But guess what? He NEVER calls and checks in with me when I have the kids! Enjoy your time with your Mom…if Mark were a woman, he would!

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  18. smilinggreenmom

    Wow…I really thought something was wrong with me because I always have this guilt! Everyone in our family has a comment or two about this with me at least a few times a month. They see it…they know that I am not taking time for myself…and that our kids sometimes act like I am here only for them and them alone. It is so hard to let-go. Our youngest has dealt with severe food allergies and Eczema since he was a baby…and I think out of fear and worry- I have a difficult time with being extra over-cautious. He has really gotten a lot better now that he is on Vidazorb probiotics, but I still have to worry about certain food posing life-threatening reactions. Of course- I am very confident in my own ability to handle our kiddos and the special needs of our son, and think that makes it even harder to leave them in someone else’s care. Thanks for sharing Jenny-it has made me feel better!

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  19. lori Stefanac

    Great post! I totally understand the guilt thing but I have trained myself to take EXCELLENT care of ME. The guilt, in my opinion, is merely Mother Nature’s way of making sure that when I DO take off for some me time? I will come back.

    Women have been trained to think that “selfish” is a bad word. It is not. Taking care of oneself does not in anyway mean you aren’t also taking care of others. I’m off to eat all the eggs now. That WAS the point of this post, wasn’t it?

    Reply
  20. Luc Brooks

    When my children were younger I had no problem leaving them with my husband. Now I want to spend more time with the family. I know that my children will want to spend more time with their friends as they get older. And I want to enjoy our time together. And my kids are in school all day and I get to do whatever I want at that time of the day.

    Reply
  21. Cheryl Wilms

    Oh do I know the mommy guilt…..that’s if I ever get a chance to leave them with someone which is totally rare, but I do spend a lot of time on the computer which makes me feel quite guilty. Leanne (my biz partner) and I ran into the most incredible gal out there, Mia Redrick and she focuses on moms making time for themselves. She is the author of Time for Mom-Me. She’s so incredible that Leanne and I decided to interview her. Check out the interview: http://www.wahm-solution.com/mia-redrick.html

    Great post:)

    Reply
    1. Jenny from the blog Post author

      I know, I’m not the only one. I’ll look Mia up. Thanks! Oh do I need raising, Christine. I get the morale of the egg story and I also get the irony of the guilt we feel, which is why I love highlighting it in stories like this.

      Reply
  22. Christine Martinello

    Ok Moms – it’s time to pick ourselves up and get over the guilt already. As a momager (mom & manager) of 3 teens and the author of ‘The Momager Guide; empowering moms to leave a loving legacy’ I’ve talked with thousands of moms across the globe about this.

    You know what works to relieve the guilt? (Drum roll please here. . .) KNOW you are valuable and worthy! That’s right – you are WORTHY to invest time and energy in. As a mom you are continually raising your kids and raising yourself too.

    “Be true to you and have some fun too.”

    Reply
  23. kgb

    When my kids were little I totally had that guilty feeling almost always when doing something away from them. (either doing mundane annoying things like grocery shopping or doing the once in a blue moon thing for myself) I didn’t have the I don’t trust my husband or the baby sitter thing, I just DID NOT WANT TO MISS A THING THEY DID. Ever.
    Also I was (and still am) quite convinced no one could meet their needs as well as I could and it was definitely an “I WANT TO BE RESPONSIBLE FOR CREATING and witnessing all their greatness, ups and downs and their icky sides too”.
    I developed my passion for photography after having the kids because part of what I did was snap away on most days to document pretty darn much everything they did. It is now my little career after 19 years of taking pictures.
    I sacrificed a lot be with my two, now 19 and 17 year old, bundles of joy. One is at college and the other is all set for his college exit too. When they are gone they are gone. They are really gone. My ‘creations’ are out conquering the world and I prepared them to do so with love and gusto.
    I wouldn’t trade one minute of the guilt feelings I experienced when I was away from them. I am glad I heard the guilty refrain and ran back home fast to be wit them. I am sure I missed many ‘liberated mom’ opportunities by being with them 24/7-ish for 18 years.
    I don’t care. But now I have NO guilt now! I have tons of coulda’ woulda’ shoulda’s about many things in my life, but I have none about what I WISH I would have done for them or with them.
    I don’t regret any of the time I spent with them. I cherish every minute I did. AND much of it is documented in photos. None of which I have actually put in albums (before digital) or looked at by the way (piled high in Rubbermaid tubs in the attic) but I will put them in albums when my son is gone in September.
    Thank God my husband was fully employed and I was able to do what I did. It was a gift.
    Don’t ignore the kids and their desire to be with you. If you change the way you think about that, them needing you so much and remember this will not last forever (it only feels like it at the time) Enjoy that they want you with them, enjoy helping them, playing with them.
    Ignore the guilt that so called ‘liberated Moms’ will try to inflict on you to ‘do your own thing’.
    I have the next 40-50 years to do that now.

    My goal? To live long enough so they can take care of me : )

    Reply
  24. Bill at FamZoo

    “Do you think a guys I Q drops to 65 when it comes to Child Caring.”

    Classic comment Wilern! It sure gave me a knowing chuckle as a work-at-home father of 5. With 2 now in college and 2 in high school, I still get lectured on the patently obvious when left in charge of our youngest. Cracks me up. I try not to take it personally. Thank goodness it was my wife who misplaced one of the youngsters in Nordstrom many moons ago, or I probably wouldn’t be alive to write this comment 😉

    Reply
    1. Jenny from the blog Post author

      Bill, Wilern is a long time reader and probably knows all too well how little credit I give my hubs. Too too true, you men really don’t get the benefit of the doubt, but hey it’s not you it’s me. I know, I’ve said that before, but this time I really mean it! Thanks for reading, come back and listen to my sexist anytime. YOU GO STAY AT HOME DADS OF AMERICA!

      Reply
  25. Keyuri Joshi (on the ball parent coach)

    Wonderful post. My guilt? Not making a hot breakfast for my family every single morning. But really… cold cereal never killed anyone that I know of! On the more serious side… I always teach my mom clients to find and keep their oxygen mask on. It’s just like they teach us on the airplane. “Put your own mask on before helping others”. Why? We have to be breathing in order to be of service to anyone. Also… our kids are more likely to put their own mask on when we role model it.

    Reply

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