Grief, guilt, longing – working parenthood

Me with my Emma

Me with my Emma

Today I wanted to talk a little bit about one of the reasons I search for ways to change myself.  My husband and I have a young daughter, Emma.  She will be turning four in March.  Before we had her, I thought I wanted to be a career woman.  That feeling quickly evaporated once she was born.

I still love what I do for a living, but being away from her so much is really hard.  It hurts my heart to leave her every morning, and my soul dies a little on the occasions when I travel, and hear that she cried after I left, or that she had bad dreams about me leaving her forever.  No one could have prepared me for the depth of these feelings.

I spend as much time with Emma as possible when I’m home, and we have mommy-daughter dates on the weekends.  We go to the library, to the play area at the local mall, we’ll have play dates with her friends, and we do the weekly grocery shopping together.

But, there’s always this sense of, it’s not enough.  Like I’m letting both of us down by not being a stay at home mom to her.  I live with the guilt of a mother that isn’t available to her child 24/7/365.

I think that many working mothers (and fathers, too!!) feel what I feel.  I don’t imagine that I’m unique in this.  I haven’t yet found a way to lessen the feelings, though.  I plan to keep looking for the magic potion that will wipe away the grief, guilt, and longing that go along with being away from my “baby”.  That’s the thing I want to change about myself in this case.  I can’t stop working – that’s just not an option for us – so I need to find a way to live with this situation, and not have my heart torn in two.

Are you a working parent?  Have you found a way to cope with these feelings?

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5 thoughts on “Grief, guilt, longing – working parenthood

  1. I think everyone feels that and my thoughts have always been the deeper the guilt, the better the parent. 😉 Only a crappy parent feels no guilt for leaving their kid, even if it’s what you have to do.

    I think it’s worse for our generation of parents, though, with the internet in our face all the time and all the stories of parents who CAN manage to make it work (or at least they say so online). And all the “professional” information out there about how much more we ought to be doing for our kids…….I think it makes that guilt a lot worse.

    • C Lo, thanks so much for your comments, and for the encouraging message.

      I think you have a great point about our generation having to cope with major outside influences on us, including the “mommyblogger” phenomenon, which shows us one side of an ever-increasing number of women throwing elaborate birthday parties, baking dozens of gorgeous cupcakes, homeschooling their 4 children, or otherwise maintaining the perfect public facade.

      This is akin to us holding our bodies up against photographs of airbrushed models and feeling inadequate. It’s an unfair, and unrealistic standard, and it’s a comparison that I wasn’t aware I was making (but I have been!).

  2. Megan says:

    Emma will remember the time you do spend together was quality fun time with mommy. You go above and beyond to make that time special. She will grow up learning to be a strong, loving, independent mommy herself because she will want to be like you. The guilt sucks, but you are an awesome mom.

    • Megan, I so appreciate your supportive comment! Emma and I really do connect during the time we have together, and I know we are both getting a lot out of it.

      In some ways, I feel as though having quality time that is SO fulfilling actually INCREASES the heartache for me. I crave MORE of that time, and it hurts not to have the capability to give us more of it.

      I know that given more free time, I would be conversely less inclined to devote myself so fully to Emma, so I hope that I can convince my heart of the inherent value of limited free time to spend with her.

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