Mom Guilt, Be Gone!


I didn't really believe it was going to happen until I was waving in the driveway while the kids were pulling away with JB at the wheel. And then it took me a few minutes longer to command my body to turn around and go back into the house, instead of chasing the minivan down the road and asking to jump inside. 

For the past couple of days, I've been in seclusion. JB tells me whenever I have a very rare snippet of quiet time, I give it away to others and other things. And he thinks I should make it more of a priority to give some of that quiet time to myself. He makes sense, but I have a hard time following through on his advice. I've come to understand that I'm a person who feels like I'm doing a good job when I'm doing too much. Until I start to make mistakes or get overwhelmed and then end up feeling like I'm not doing such a good job, after all. I'm not without gratitude for my many fortunes, but sometimes I let it get too noisy to be able to appreciate them.

He packed up the kids and took them to his family three hours away for the long weekend. He told me not to do anything for anyone but myself. I think he's hopeful I'll tackle some of the projects that have been staring us down for the past several months (office renovation and messy basement and overstuffed freezer), but he won't be upset if I don't. And he definitely won't say anything when he gets back and sees everything that didn't get done — at least not in a way that's meant to make me feel bad (even though I'll probably let it make me feel bad).

Like anyone else with a hectic life and young children, the house gets cluttered and messy. And we do a pretty good job of stepping around it, until we try to tackle a home reno project or 10 months worth of schoolwork arrives on our dining room table at once. Then I find myself standing helplessly in front of all of it wondering how I can make it disappear. And, admittedly, I feel resentment because I let myself think a failure to do so is a failure on my part.

Last week, I wrote a piece for Today's Parent on being the scheduler-in-chief for our family, not necessarily because I always want to, but because I feel obligated to. I really wish I was better at letting myself off the hook. And I want to be a good role model for my kids. I want them to jump into parenthood with their whole beings, because there is so much joy to be found in doing that, but I don't want them to feel it has to come at the cost of their own well-being or success (as so well said by my friend, Ali). 

I know I'm at the start of a busy summer and JB's gesture of easing me into it is very appreciated. So are the texts and messages from my fellow parents telling me to ignore the chores and sleep in late. Yes, there is a lot that needs to get done around this house, but there's a lot I need to do for myself, too. 

I've read two newspapers on the same day they arrived, fed myself hot breakfasts with bottomless coffee, taken several long walks, listened to and bought records, repotted all the houseplants, sewed up some tattered stuffed animals, helped my parents with the Bluetooth in their car, cleaned the garage, returned a pile of merchandise that was too small or not the right colour, vacuumed, Netflixed, slept, and let go of the guilt. 

I hope I'll get to the towering clutter in our dining room before the kids pull into the driveway tonight. But if I don't, it's okay. I have dinner plans with my parents tonight and that's more important. And clutter isn't so bad anyway. Sparsely decorated, clutter-free homes will always tug at my conscience and nudge the guilt button, but my life isn't sparse — it doesn't make sense that my home would be.

This quiet, me-centred weekend is exactly what I needed to face down the mayhem of summer that begins tomorrow. And it was exactly what I needed to remind myself I don't have to do it all, that no one expects me to, and that a messy and cluttered home is the picture of everything I've ever wanted. 

And, JB? 

You get to sleep in tomorrow.