Conquering the Mommy Guilt and Losing the Stuff
Man, I wish I could go running tonight after work. But the kids! I haven't seen the kids today.
So, yeah, the girls are going out for dinner on Saturday night, but I should probably stay home. I haven't spent much time with the kids this week. Work and all, you know.
I know this 6:00 pm meeting is important, but my kids are in bed by 8:00 pm and I've been in the office since 7:00 am! I haven't even SEEN THEM TODAY.
Ah, yes. The Mommy Guilt is at it again. A nasty little hobgoblin, that one.
Before I had kids, "mommy guilt" was not something I was able to empathize with. It was something pretty foreign to me, as real as the Easter Bunny or the Tooth Fairy, and I leant it about that same merit.
Now that I have kids and I'm a working mom, Mommy Guilt is what owns me a lot of the time. Mommy Guilt drives a lot of my decision making when it comes to time management, and also when it comes to budget. Mommy Guilt is a pretty nasty little devil in my ear.
It's not at all uncommon that I see my kids maybe two or three hours a day during the week, and that's it. Some days, I don't even get that time. But it's how I provide for my family. So even as it eats away at me, I find ways to soothe that savage beast. Toys! Toys will fix that! How about more clothes for the boys! I'll buy them all this STUFF and they'll feel complete again.
I am notorious for doing this. It's true. It's a lot easier for me to throw a toy/book/game/snack/something into my cart while running through Target for weekly groceries than it is for me to listen to that nagging Mommy Guilt in my ear. It hushes the Guilt pretty significantly.
I ran into a guy some time ago who had four kids in private school. I glibly wished that I wish I could send MY kids to that school, and he said that they sacrifice in other areas to make it work.
He said, "We don't buy them STUFF. We buy them education and experiences."
This conversation happened a mere week before Alabama was ravaged by tornadoes in April of 2011. And as we picked up the pieces of our lives, his words seemed clearer. Don't replace STUFF. Give them memories. Give them experiences. Give them new air to breathe.
The week following the tornadoes, we were without power. Instead of sitting in the dark and morbidly listening to the news, we decided to drive an hour or two north and spend a weekend in Chattanooga, Tennessee. We hadn't taken the boys to the many, many things to do there. We decided that - especially for THAT weekend - spending the money on experiences rather than stuff was the right decision.
We visited Rock City and the Tennessee Aquarium. We walked along downtown and the river and stopped in at all the shops, even if we bought nothing the entire day. We took tons of pictures.
The boys STILL talk about that weekend. They don't talk about the tornadoes or the fear or the despair or anything surrounding the tornadoes - they remember petting an owl at Rock City's Wild Bird Exhibit. They remember having pillow fights in the hotel. They remember petting sting rays at the aquarium. They remember the road trip.
With that in mind, we made big decisions. We now take monthly excursions - never far, never more than three hours away - for just a weekend. Maybe two nights in a hotel, sometimes just one night. We see the local educational attractions and we eat at locally-owned restaraunts. I am SO INCREDIBLY EXCITED that we're visiting Atlanta in two weeks so that all of us - all four of us, ages 4 to 40 - will do a 5K called The Color Run. I can't wait to see what memories that makes.
I've stopped allowing Mommy Guilt to own me. I've stopped encouraging it to make me feel inadequate as a mother. I'm allowing myself to find time for me now.
Because one weekend a month, we all hop in the car and I give them a lifetime of experiences.
What makes your Mommy Guilt cry the loudest? How can you silence it? (Or at least quiet it down a bit?)