I was going to write a post about 'Mum Guilt' and how everything's felt better the second time round until I had a dream a few nights ago that made me have a little cry the following morning. In it, I found a guest at a wedding telling Vivienne that I was a terrible mother and didn't devote enough time to her and Sylvie, and when Vivienne came over to me afterwards she didn't reply when I said 'I love you'. So yeah, it appears there's still subconscious guilt going on no matter how rational I try to be.
Isn't everything just *enough* without guilt creeping into parenting? Isn't the mess and busy-ness and juggling routines and homework and general chaos just *enough*? It starts when they're born and you find yourself second guessing some answers you give to the common (and sometimes loaded) questions ("Are you breast or bottle feeding? But they're not meant to have solids until six months, are they? How long are you taking off work? Who are you going to leave them with when you go to work? Are you worried she'll have separation anxiety at that age? Wouldn't you rather a family member than a childminder?") and never. bloody. stops. It's pretty exhausting trying to be the best version of yourself in all areas when sometimes you just want to curl up and lounge about for a day reading all those books you haven't started yet and watching that film you've been meaning to for months..
Before the Summer holidays hit we've been to see a childminder who will start minding Sylvie two days a week from September and my impulse is still to question myself and wonder if I *really* need a childminder or whether I can manage on my own working and juggling her daily wants and needs. I've never been one to feel anxious about leaving the girls with people to mind them while I work, and my husband and I have been away numerous times without them (cueing some lovely loaded questions and comments such as, "Aren't you worried something will happen while you're away? Good for you, though.. *I* couldn't do it, myself.") but when I'm feeling a little delicate those guilty thoughts creep in like little voices trying to persuade you that you're not doing as well as you could be.
On top of that in our house there's me being self employed and working some silly hours, a partner who is pretty much self employed and the Summer holidays to 'make the most of'.. it's pretty exhausting. Being self employed in the Summer holidays means knowing you *could* spend this day with your kids but shipping them off to someone else because you need to work, it's being technically able to work flexibly but still needing to get a full day's work done in not-enough-time, it's emails while they're on the swings at the park, admin while they eat dinner and starting the bulk of your working day the second they're asleep.
I do try not to beat myself up about the little things, and most of the time I do pretty well at shrugging that feeling off but here is a little list of things I've felt guilty about over the past few weeks (and subsequently tried to tell myself to pack it in..)
- spending too much time working and not seeing the girls
- spending consecutive days away and having to tell a crying Vivienne over the phone it'll be another two days until I see them
- not doing enough with the girls when I do have days with them
- not 'making the most' of the Summer holidays in general
- saying 'one minute, I just need to send this message/email' too many times
- not being able to go away in the Summer holidays like a lot of other families we know
- asking a lot of my mother-in-law and mum for childcare (forever grateful)
- feeding Viv lazy lunches and teas of sandwiches, omelettes and old school kids' dinners like *something*, chips and beans
- feeding Sylvie shop-bought purees instead of making up baby-led weaning recipes
- asking Viv to feed Sylvie while I sort something out
- not cooking enough in general
- not doing enough stimulating stuff with Sylvie
- asking Viv to 'keep an eye' on Sylvie too often while I sort something out
- letting Viv watch a fair bit of TV and films instead of encouraging her to finish her library 'reading challenge'
- worrying that people will ask Viv what she's done in the holidays and she won't be able to tell them much
- being generally flustered and busy instead of appreciating the holidays
- being absolutely terrible at replying to messages and keeping on top of group messages (being a bit of a rubbish friend in general)
BUT, on a good day I will look at this array of little guilts and think, "This guilt is such shit. I do try my best. My kids may not have been further than an hour away from home these holidays but we've been to parks, we've been cycling, we've been swimming countless times.. Vivienne loves a living room floor picnic in front of a film, and she adores her little sister and feels grown up minding her for me and genuinely doesn't mind it. I have to work, and I enjoy work. It's good for my daughters to see both parents going out to work and it's good for them to spend time with their grandparents and cousins. Furthermore, their grandparents have the energy and the time to do some wonderful things with them and I can get work done - it's win-win. Life is inherently magical and exciting for children and they won't see a day in the holidays as a wasted day; they'll see it as the day they climbed to the top of the treehouse at the park, or the day I let them have ice cream before lunch, or the day they finished a crafty something-or-other on the dining room table."
So yeah, in summary, my kids are OK, they are fed, usually clean enough, they get fresh air, the house usually has at least one tidy room (sometimes even 3-4.. but not for long), the clean clothes dumped upstairs may never get put away before they goes back in the washing machine, I may send too many emails that start with 'sorry for my late reply..', coffee may run too strongly in my veins, but *IT'S OK*. Trying your best is enough. And 'Mum guilt' can get in the bin.