Mom Guilt: 3 Things You Can Do To Kill The Culture
**LONG POST ALERT**
While typing this, I am tucked away in my bedroom, door closed while the twins are asleep at the same time (super important for my sanity). I have also informed the older kids (9, 8, 6) they are not to bother me until I come out unless there is an emergency. An emergency is defined as large amounts of blood and/or broken bones. Yes, you may go into the kitchen to get water only. No, you may not get a snack until I come out. It was 3:35pm when I attempted this solace, lights dimmed, shades drawn with just a peek of the sunlight.
In my mind, 4pm is the time for snack. That gives me 25 minutes. My first thought was to catch some Netflix or other mundane medium of brainless activity I could think of. My second thought was to fold the piles of clothes in three baskets that have been sitting there for at least two days. They are waiting for someone (cue: me) to fold them. My third thought was to clean my bathroom. My fourth and final thought was: write.
The overall culture of the mother is "all mothering, all the time." It is like a nonstop existence of perpetual questions and cleaning, meal plans, scheduling activities, balancing the bank account, online shopping and a hundred other things that feel are of the utmost importance and that life cannot revolve smoothly unless all things from the above list are in balance. You might feel this more or less if you are working outside of the home or are a stay at home mother.
It wasn’t until I met my husband that I began to see the polar differences in the way men and women parent. My husband does not acquiesce to the children’s needs the way I do. He does not put pressure on himself to be readily available to them. He does not multitask his time, attention or focus. He, sometimes sternly, asks the kids to just give him x minutes to do what he needs to do in order to provide the adequate amount of attention for them. And they listen. It may be his personal belief system. It could be perpetuated from how he was raised. It could be all of those things combined. I also believe it is because of the culture of fatherhood versus the culture of motherhood.
Mothers are expected to cater to the children more than men. Women are expected to perform most, if not all, of the domestic responsibilities at home while men are to make the money for the household and watch the fruit of their labor unfold. It is not wrong or right. It is culture.
It’s time we change the culture. Hear me well. I am not saying that it is wrong for a woman to perform domestic duties or to cater to the needs of children. I'm also not saying that it is wrong for a man to work while his wife stays home. If a woman chooses to be that woman, I love it. However, if that same woman feels guilty for taking the time she needs to be a better person to her family, I believe she needs to change her paradigm. No mother should feel guilty about wanting any amount of free time to use the bathroom in peace because--heaven forbid--their child may throw a fit about the tiny scratch you can’t see with your naked eye but feels like World War III landed on her finger. The same way we bend to our children's needs is the same effort and care we should put towards the needs of ourselves. Not doing this could kill the woman inside.
I remember feeling so nervous when I asked my husband for a free two hours every weekend to hit a coffee shop and write. My heart was literally racing. Much to my surprise, he simply said, “Ok, that’s fine. When do you want to start?” It was that simple. And I started that very weekend.
Looking back to this conversation -- even while editing this post -- there is one thing dead wrong: the feeling that I needed to ask permission. My husband reassured me that I did not need to ask his permission but instead reminded me that I had to believe that I deserved that time. Demanding the time for myself, I was able to put myself in the most free and creative space I have been in years. If those two hours didn’t happen, it was because I did not make them happen. When they didn’t happen, my mood changed, I had less patience with everyone and my energy was poor. If those two hours were consistent, I felt less pressure from myself, my attitude with the kids was more balanced and the focus on doing what I could to help my husband reach his goals was more intentional.
Let me go back to my original point. Understanding my need for time was simple to my husband because he demands time for himself. He puts himself in a position to be away from the kids and even me sometimes so that he can refresh and renew himself, putting his energy into what he values the most and comes back focused on who matters the most. It is embedded in his culture as a man and as an individual.
Ladies, we must push past the culture and narrative of mothering that says we must be all things to everyone else except ourselves. We must demand the time we deserve.
Here's what I'm doing to kill the culture:
- Have a talk with your support system. In my case, my biggest and closest ally is my husband so naturally I went to him first. In your case, it may be your significant other, your mother, a co-parent or a confidant. Whoever it is, have the talk! Let them know your frustrations without blaming them. Use "I" and "me." Take responsibility for the time you haven't given yourself.
- Decide how you want to spend your time. I was already getting an occasional evening out or happy hour with my girls. I needed creative time. Perhaps you are the opposite: a plethora of creative time but no downtime with your girls. Or perhaps you need time to pray and/or meditate. Walk in the park? Time to workout? Whatever it is, take stock and figure it out!
- Be consistent. I lasted three weekends in a row before I missed my two hour ritual. Once I missed one weekend, it turned into two. And then an entire month went by. My husband didn’t notice because I didn’t notice. Remember, no else is responsible for you achieving your goals. You have to make it a priority to get what you want. Once you take it seriously and remain consistent, those who love you will too.
In the course of those 25 minutes, Trinity and Sophia have each knocked on the door once, Kaden woke up once, I received three texts on my phone and only got distracted by Facebook three times (this is good, trust me).
It is now 4:23p.
Me: 1 (feeling like a milli)