Sometimes I wonder why I’m so mentally exhausted at the end of each day. Ask my coworkers, after 3pm, my vocabulary goes from professional to third grade level. It’s not like I’m solving the problems of the world. I have a normal job, with normal stresses, and it’s totally manageable. But some days just kick my ass. I’m pretty sure it’s mom guilt. It’s like a little furry guilt gremlin that hides in my brain and constantly is knocking stuff over. It jumps in front of good ideas and plays loud music when I need to concentrate. That stupid guilt gremlin is wasting all my good energy. I discovered this gremlin when one day I realized that I was stressing out about getting home fast enough so the babysitter could go home early. I literally pay an awesome person to give undivided attention to my two totally capable kids and I feel guilty when I get home at the time that I pay her to stay there till. What the heck is that? When did I set the standard for myself that I should pay for childcare that I don’t use, and that it’s badge of honor that I get home before I say I’m going to be home. Palm, forehead.
Follow me here for a second. I have those memories of being the last kid at dance class waiting with the teacher, or sometimes by myself for my mom to come get me. When you’re a kid and you see everyone else’s parents come get them before you, it apparently attaches amount of love to amount of tardiness. Or maybe I just cared what the other kids thought too much, or maybe I was just scared to be alone. Who knows, I haven’t unpacked that timeline memory yet, but I saw it again when my kids were in daycare. I would get there late, and the vacuum would be going, and the kids looked at me with those eyes of relief that they could finally leave this place. I knew they were familiar with the end of day teacher routines and heard them all talk about how much they wanted to go home, and each time it happened (a handful in 7 years), my heart broke one-thousand times. We’re out of daycare now, and their childcare after school is very minimal, but that constant mental race during the day counting down how much risk is in my schedule, and how that’s going to affect my home arrival is a daily mental marathon.
My kids don’t even notice when I come home anymore. The days of waiting by the door and hugs and screams are few and far between. They are far too cool for that. My babysitter is totally awesome and doesn’t judge me either. This is my own crap weighing my brain down. Awareness is good, guilt is bad. I have nothing to feel guilty about. I’m aware of my individual time with the kids and as a family, and I’m aware of the break that we all need from each other. I made a specific decision not to be a stay at home mom because I knew it was the right thing for me and our family. So why am I judging myself on a time spent basis on a scale I can never meet? Because guilt gremlins are strong little buggers. I need a new rating scale. Time is not the variable, but quality is. I’ve started giving myself the number 2 each day. During the time we spend together in the evenings, I want to make sure we do 2 specific things that can produce a great memory. When I stop worrying about the time, and focus on different and more valuable goals, we all win, and the guilt gremlin takes a vacation every now and then.