As a mother any time I do something for myself, personally or professionally, there are varying levels of guilt associated with it. Everything from peeing with the door closed to a girl’s night out to a work trip are all causes for enjoyment with a side serving of good old-fashioned guilt. And it pisses me off. Immensely. Why is it that every single time we mothers dare to—gasp—put ourselves first we receive shade from all sorts of places but worst of all from someone who should be our greatest ally in self-preservation: ourselves.
This weekend I ran thirteen miles over thirty hours with eleven other teammates on a total of three and a half hours of non-consecutive sleep. You’d think that would be punishment enough. But running a Ragnar race wasn’t enough torture for this working mom. Nope, I had to heap on all sorts of punch-in-the-gut guilt for missing two basketball games and two football games. I was so guilty that when I got home even though I was utterly physically exhausted I unpacked, did laundry, cleaned the house and cooked dinner for my family. And still when my husband jokingly (I think) introduced himself and my son as Peter and Sam Corning I laughed on the outside while guilt gut punched me.
Tomorrow I leave for a work trip in Vegas. Sure I’ll be away from my kids and household duties (again) but as a happily married forty-three-year-old mother of two I won’t be clubbing, or gambling or generally whooping it up—as I mentioned earlier, peeing with the door closed is a luxury to me at this point in my life. In fact for almost all work-related conferences I pretty much am captive to whatever conference center the event is being held in. I once spent three days at a conference center located on a cliff overlooking the Pacific Ocean. Since I live in the desert this is a rare treat. And as much as I promised myself I would head down to the beach and at least dip my toes in the water I never managed to be able to find the time. When I’m in work mode I am there to work. Yet I already feel the anxiety of having to shift all of my mom duties to my husband, parents, and neighbors. It’s like I can read the thought bubbles over their heads: “Vegas? Really?” So in my mind Vegas isn’t even counting as me time but I feel like the world counts it as such and so now I have guilt even traveling for work.
I don’t think I’m the only one who does the mental gymnastics that turns grueling physical activities and work conferences into opportunities to feel guilty. Working mother constantly feel like we’re doing too much yet not enough at the same damned time. It’s craziness.
The first step towards recovery is admitting you have a problem. “Hello my name is Nicole Corning and I am a guilty working mom.” It starts with each of us recognizing that we need to unplug with our friends and have crazy adventures sometimes, or commit to elevating our professional skills through education, or just plain taking time to pee by our own damned selves. None of these things make us horrible mothers, in fact quite the opposite. These make us better mothers because they feed our minds, bodies and souls. We are mothers always but we are also fully actualized human beings who need to feed all the important parts of ourselves so that we can show up as fully engaged loving mothers. And isn’t that what it’s all about: being the best mothers we can possibly be?
So next time I run thirteen miles on three and a half hours of non-consecutive sleep I will be whispering to myself, “this is making you a better mom, this is making you a better mom, this is making you a better mom.”