You Still Feel Guilty
I got my first big-girl job when I was 19-years-old. Eighteen years later, in what I refer to as the Great Flake Out of 2005, I had to acknowledge that I could either work or be a good mother, but I couldn’t do both.
I wanted to be like my own mother, who has been following the same weekly routine since roughly 1960 – the year she and my father were married.
Monday: clean house
Tuesday: do laundry
Thursday: grocery shopping
Friday: miscellaneous errands (until 1973, this day was reserved for her weekly hair appointment)
My mother worked until my sister was born in 1962, and she returned to work in the mid-80s, but for most of my childhood, she was a stay-at-home mother, right along with the rest of her generation. Our house was spotless. She had dinner on the table when my father came home from work, including dessert, and she did all of this with cosmetics tastefully applied. But she thinks she wasn’t a good mother, because she did all of that stuff instead of spending more time with my sister and me.
When I made my fateful choice two years ago, I knew I would have to continue earning something, if only to feed my shoe habit, so I still spend a good portion of my day sitting at my computer, working. Or surfing. Sometimes.
And in between assignments, there is still that list of stuff my mother did every week that I have to do, because I feel guilty asking my husband to help. I asked my mother how she dealt with the guilt when, at the end of a Long Afternoon, your child tugs at your arm, pleading for attention and you realize an entire day has gone by and all you can remember saying to her is, “Not now, honey, mommy’s busy.” How is this any better than day care? My house is a wreck, I don’t have anything to cook for dinner, my husband has no clean socks and my child has watched television All Day Long.
With no hesitation, she replied, “That’s why we carry big purses.”
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