I often feel guilty that I don’t have a full-time office job. I should be productive, busy, earn a better living, have colleagues, deadlines, pressures, and have a “normal” day like so many other single moms. At least, that’s what I tell myself as I look over the job postings in my field.
But I know myself. The truth is, I can’t manage it. Not now. Maybe not for a long time. How would I bake my boys muffins? Make sure there was dinner on the table? Have time to agonize over what combination of healthy foods can fit in their lunches? How would I have time to decompress after breaking up their squabbles, rushing them to baseball practice, and hosting play dates for them and their friends? It takes so long to clean up after them, pick up individual pieces of popcorn or rice from the floor, and get them to bed at a reasonable hour. Sure, I freelance. I am one year through my two-year Masters program. I have deadlines. Peers. Things to do. But the guilt about not doing more, being busier, working full-time, somehow persists.
Yet if I was working full-time, I’d feel guilty about that. Today, for instance, I would have missed accompanying my son’s Grade 1 class on their field trip to the zoo. I wouldn’t have gotten to sit next to my gorgeous boy at lunch and prod him to “eat just one more bite.” I wouldn’t have gotten to hold his soft hand. To see him interact with his friends. To smile at him throughout the day and admire how well behaved and sweet he is.
Interestingly enough, the leader at the divorce workshop I recently attended even told us the most important thing we can do for our kids is take care of ourselves. It suddenly occurred to me that maybe I shouldn’t feel guilty about my lack of a full-time job. Maybe the best thing I can do for my kids is go to the gym, make time to prepare a healthy dinner, have time to ask about their day and the energy to listen. It helped me realize that as guilty as I often feel, as conflicted as I still am, I know I’m doing the right thing for now. If I really want to, I can get more involved in their school. Pitch more article ideas. Pursue another degree. But I can’t berate myself if I don’t do it now.
We moms tend to spend so much time feeling guilty, to feel we’re not doing enough, to put ourselves last, when maybe the experts are right. Maybe some self-love is what our families need the most.