Saturday, 20 February 2010

Happily guilt-free

I always thought I'd tend towards the neurotic Supermum end of the parenting scale. I imagine quite a few friends and acquaintances thought so too. Not quite sure how that didn't happen.

It's wonderful to be guilt-free. I'm in paid work full time, and I don't feel bad about it. I sometimes have to go away for that work, or work at night, and I don't feel bad about it.* When I miss something with Wriggly because I'm off working I just accept it; it can't be changed, and my work is important not only because it is quite good, meaningful mahi, and I enjoy it, but also because it keeps our household going financially too. It's good for Wriggly for his mum to be happy, and my job helps with that.

I've been guilt-free for so long now that I didn't even realise I was until today. I can clearly remember the first time I rejected feeling guilty for being a mum in paid employment. It was over a year ago, when a colleague expressed their disapproval that I was working on my child's first birthday. Nevermind that I'd made arrangements to take time off in the middle of the day to go see him at his swimming lesson (although actually that was disastrous and we've never repeated that) or that I would be there in the evening for his special birthday tea (pieces of roast dinner with special floor sauce). And discounting the fact that we do not have any Child's Birthday Leave in our collective agreement. Let's not even mention that even at 2 Wriggly still didn't get that it was his actual birthday, so we can hardly conclude that he would have been upset by my absence on the day of his first. Apparently I was nonetheless Failing As A Mother for being at my job that day.

I could have wallowed in that and angsted. The mother I thought I'd be probably would have. Instead I got a bit snarky with my workmate, not in a defensive way, but in a mildly stated "so you took all your children's birthdays off" manner (the answer was no, my colleague didn't) and just didn't feel guilty. It was a revelation.

So now I don't feel bad about myself if I am not with Wriggly all the time. I cherish the time we do have together, and he is a very smiley, happy, independent little boy so it's easy to have fun with him. Even if frequently when I get home of an evening his excitement at seeing me passes like lightning and the cat is far more interesting. He does this to his father too, so I figure it's not some passive agressive rejection technique, just that he is so comfortable that we are around and support and love him that we don't get the Fresh and Fruity welcome on ordinary days.

It would be remiss of me to not mention the number one thing that helps me to be guilt-free. And that's both the attitude and the unpaid work of my partner. He's in paid work two days a week; Fridays in the office (when my mother cares for Wriggly) and the other day through bits and pieces throughout the week often done from home. Without his toil keeping our home going, and his supportive attitude to my work outside the home, I probably would feel a bit shit a lot of the time. We made a decision together many many months ago now that I would work full time for a while and he would not, and he has honoured that in a way that works for all three of us. Many motwomen are not so lucky.

* Not feeling bad about it is different from not sometimes finding it a pain or resenting it, and this nuance does mean that I don't get angry at myself.


Br3nda of said...

Julie I love You. I just started this working mum gig and I needed to read this. Thank you.

Psycho Milt said...

Let's not even mention that even at 2 Wriggly still didn't get that it was his actual birthday, so we can hardly conclude that he would have been upset by my absence on the day of his first.

There is nothing in the universe more pointless and less about the child than a first birthday party. A one-year-old wouldn't know a birthday or a party if it kicked them in the arse. It's a vanity gig for the parents, nothing else. Good on you for not falling for it.

Anonymous said...

I know that wriggly is still quite young but one of the best ways to keep the house running smoothly is to get the child to pull their weight too. If they pull all their toys out they can put them all back.

My son understands that everyone has their jobs to do around the house and the more that he does the less stressed we are and the more time we have to play with him.

Pizza made by our 5yr old chef is now going to be a regular on the family menu because not only does it mean less stress for me (the large male is cooking challenged) but because he takes a huge amount of pride in contributing to the running of the household.

lisette said...

What a wonderful entry Julie. Thank you, thank you, thank you. As a woman who has just made the decision to follow a "career" rather than a day by day job I am so greatful for this.
You are a wonderful mother, and an inspiration.
Ive been quite worried about in the future having to choose between family and a challenging and rewarding career. You have made me feel so much better about having both without feeling substandard in either.