The majority of women who have ever given birth have felt it – that little niggle of low grade vibration in the back of your brain. The feeling appears every time you try to go somewhere alone, leave your child with a sitter, or wish for a few more minutes of sleep despite the crying noises on the monitor. Basically, any time you even think about putting your own wants or needs above your child’s. One would think this physical manifestation of guilt would disappear as children get old, but in certain areas it never goes away completely.
My kids are now old enough to fold their own laundry, fix some basic meals, and clean the bathroom. Despite their growing self-sufficiency, I still feel guilty for leaving them to their own devices in the evenings so I can write. The hubby says they’ll be fine, but he has no clue how hard it is to turn off Mommy Guilt.
There are a few (very few) techniques I’ve learned over the years to combat that niggling feeling. Maybe if I write them all down in one place, I’ll remember to use them during my upcoming writing push.
1. Cuddle First, Work Later
Okay, so my kids are really too big now to cuddle, but it doesn’t stop them from trying…or from wanting attention. I find there are fewer interruptions if I give them some one-on-one time before I work, rather than after. Fill up the attention-deficit, and they’re usually good for a while.
I’ve heard all the childcare experts, but I’m still not above using the television, video games, computer, etc. to distract my kids while I work. I simply save it for when I know I’ll be busy, then turn them loose.
3. Firm Boundaries
I’m lucky in that my kids still want to talk to me all the time. But that makes working at home hard. Now that my kids are old enough, I can employ the ole “don’t bother me unless there’s fire or blood” caveat. The fewer interruptions I have, the lesser my guilt, maybe because I feel less like I’m abandoning them.
Giving them a firm boundary (and specific exceptions) helps minimize interruptions. Most of the time, I’ve also employed a visual boundary as a reminder. You see, my office has an open doorway between me and the rest of the house. Its really an extension of the laundry room. So hubby helped me hang a sheet across the expanse that I can either pull back (open) or let down (closed). This door reminds the kids that mommy is working. If they stand on the other side and talk, I tell them to leave or just ignore them (every kid, no matter their age, will test his or her boundaries). But in time they’ve learned to abide by them.
These are my very slim options for managing my kids and my guilt, but I’d love to have more! How do you minimize the guilt when you know you need to take time away from being “Mommy”?