17 different women, 36 crazy children, 0 babies in utero
Adventures, Advice and Questions from a group of Mormon women who met in Queens, NY and have now scattered all over the place.

Sunday, August 13, 2006

Tackling the mommy guilt

The other day I was playing with my little guy as usual. We read some stories, played with toys and he kicked around and turned over a few times (his new favorite pastime!). Then I took him in my bedroom to change his diaper. While in my room I was changing my shirt (from an earlier spit-up catastrophe) and I suddenly felt inspired to clean. I started digging through my drawers and organizing clothes into piles --- things to keep and things to donate. My little man was just kicking away on the floor, intrigued by his mom and the huge pile of clothes being flung about. About 45 minutes later (time flies when you’re cleaning!) I felt this huge surge of guilt come about me. For the past 45 minutes I had been doing what I wanted to do. I looked down at my DS and he was starting to get fussy (ready for a nap) and I just felt guilty, guilty, guilty! I was thinking that if DS were able to express himself he would say “Hey mom, what about me?” I know that’s my own speculation (and guilt talking), but I felt this pull inside me that I should’ve been playing with him instead of cleaning.

My question to you is, when you’re a SAHM how do you balance your time to do things that you need (or want) to do for yourself, and spending time with your kids? Do you only do things for yourself when your kids are napping? I mean, it’s hard enough to just get a shower and maybe exercise during my son’s naps. What about cleaning, emailing, phone calls, scripture study, planning lessons & activities for church callings, making dinner, etc.?! And I have a DH who works CRAZY hours so unfortunately I don't always have access to an extra pair of helping hands to get stuff done. How do you deal with feelings of guilt when you do something for yourself while your kids are awake? Now maybe this is the kind of issue that changes as your kids get older and become more independent. And I'm sure there are no perfect answers to this question and of course spending time with my son is my priority. But whatever the situation, help this new mom deal with SAHM time management and the first signs of mommy guilt. What are your secrets to dealing with this stuff? Any tips for this newbie mommy?


  • Your little guy will be FINE. It doesn't kill a child to realize that a mom can't be with him 24/7. And get your cleaning done before he CAN talk and say, "Hey, what about ME!". I don't know how old your kid is, but if he is happy on the floor, leave him there.

    As for the balancing act, I still don't have a clue, and my kid is 4. Good luck figuring it out, and when you have a plan, lemme know, because I'd love to be in on it!
    posted by Blogger Heather O. at 8/13/2006 05:01:00 PM  

  • You're feeling guilty about cleaning instead of playing with your baby? Yeah, I'm with the "don't sweat it" camp. Of course, I don't have any kids yet. Number one is due in three weeks, and I'll be a SAHM. I'm already planning on training him to entertain himself so I can do other stuff. I'll spend lots of time with him, but not every minute.

    My opinions on this are from watching my sister's kids for all day for nearly a year. Her oldest daughter spent every waking minute with her parents for the first several years of her life. Now she's 8, and she's just barely getting to the point where she can entertain herself. It's crazy to think that you're responsible for entertaining a kid 24/7. It turns the kid into a high-maintenance brat.

    Plenty of parent time is great. But the kid can spend some time without parental interaction, and personally, I think they ought to learn how to play on their own.

    You can't get my sister's kids out of the room. They'll go get a toy and bring it back to the room where you're trying to have a conversation or get dinner ready or whatever. But they seem to be physically incapable of being in a different room from mom. Annoying.

    My kid is going to know that the world doesn't end if mommy has something else she'd rather do than hold him and shake a rattle in his face.

    I have so many plans. Yeah, reality will be a shock. :)
    posted by Blogger Melinda at 8/13/2006 05:24:00 PM  

  • Ok, I've got a 4 yo, 2yo, and 3 month old. DON'T feel guilty over this kind of stuff!! Not only do you NOT need to devote every waking hour to your baby, it's good for them to see mom doing other things besides waiting on or or playing with them!

    I make sure all of my kids needs are met (needs, not wants) and then take a time-out for myself. If they count on me to constantly entertain them, they never have to rely on their own imaginations and ingenuity. Yes, I play games and do puzzles and various other activities with them, but I also will tell them to go play, I am taking 15 minutes to read, or write, or check my e-mail. The trick is not letting it stretch out to too much time. And I know you baby is younger and you can't send him to play, but having him hang out on the floor while you clean is FINE... he was with you, he could see you, you were getting somthing done, he was happy, when it started to be nap time, he began to fuss, letting you know he needed some attention now, too. Good things for both of you.

    Mom;s who spend every waking moment tending the needs/wants of their kids become fried out shells in short order. Cut yourself some slack and know your son is going to be fine. Maybe better than fine- maybe have a healthy view of what life is like. You're doing great!
    posted by Blogger Tracy M at 8/13/2006 06:27:00 PM  

  • I actually think you are doing your child a disservice if all you do is play with him. You answered your own questio when you said he was watching you and the clothes pile up. Believe it or not, that was probably more stimulating for him then those books you just read him. And the next time you have to do that, if you talk to him about what you are doing and why you are doing it, he'll be so happy.

    When I had my firs, at around 5 or 6 months old I started giving her alone time. I put out blanket, stuck her in the boppy, provided some toys, music or a video and checked my email or showered or whatever I wanted to do. No guilt. Try it, you'll like it.
    posted by Blogger Kage at 8/13/2006 08:08:00 PM  

  • I am a very guilt ridden person as well! But what you are talking about is just neccesity activities! I mean, you HAVE to do certain things throughout the day to maintain some semblance of normalcy for your own well being right? You NEED to do those things and your child(children) will grow up with a balanced life. I think the scales should not tip too far towards doing nothing but being the "1 woman show circus act", which too many times I have felt like.

    It's healthy to have time for yourself, not only for leisure, but just because it's what you gotta do to get things done sometimes.
    posted by Blogger Rachel H at 8/13/2006 09:04:00 PM  

  • I've struggled with this as well, although not as much as when my little girl was a tiny baby. But I have found that in letting her play on her own, she has learned to entertain herself and developed her imagination. Now sometimes when I try to play with her, it's very obvious that she is playing something specific and I just don't know what it is (she's 20 mo.)although she still lets me play. ;o) She also makes it very obvious when she's done playing on her own and needs some mommy time. And sometimes I just enjoy watching her play on her own and wondering how my little, tiny baby is growing up so fast.
    Plus, now I can focus my guilt energy on all the other things that I do such a bad job at! ;o)
    posted by Anonymous Eskinose Kisses at 8/14/2006 07:40:00 AM  

  • Beth - I am totally with you on the guilt thing. We had some friends over for dinner on Friday and my husband didn't get home until they were supposed to be here so I stuck my son in his excersaucer. He played while I franticly cooked, but when I would look at him, I would feel guilty.
    I appreciate everyone's suggestions and reassurance.

    One reason I have thought not to get used to playing together 24/7 is because when it's time for #2 to come along, I don't want to deal with feeling guilty for leaving #1 alone and I don't want #1 to resent #2 because mom has suddenly stopped spending every waking minute with him and is now focusing a lot on a baby. That scares me.

    Maybe if our sons could talk they would be saying "chill out mom - go fold your clothes and cook some dinner, I'm cool kickin' it over here with my toys." Maybe?
    posted by Blogger Melissa at 8/14/2006 08:41:00 AM  

  • Melissa - I totally think that's what our little guys are telling us (at least some of the time).

    Thanks for the comments and reassurance. I DEFINITELY agree that I want my son to be independent and to be able to play on his own. I also think it's not a good idea to entertain your kid 24/7 (or you could have issues like Melinda's sister!) Knowing that other moms aren't so great at handling the "balancing act" definitely helps me to not feel so alone.

    I think it's hard sometimes when you only have one kid, because part of you thinks, "well... what else am I gonna do but play with him?" I mean, it is just you & him hangin' out. I'm learning how to tell the difference between the bad guilt (that you should try to ignore) and that little feeling that says, "put down the laundry, or turn the computer off, and play with your little guy. Somehow everything will get done. And who cares if it doesn't".

    Kage - you get more done than just about anyone I know. Do you have any secrets that you need to share with us?
    posted by Blogger Beth at 8/14/2006 09:09:00 AM  

  • Kage somehow has a 37 hour day while the rest of us get 24...
    posted by Blogger Melissa at 8/14/2006 10:14:00 AM  

  • Motherhood invented guilt. All kinds, too. And it WILL NEVER GO AWAY. EVER.

    That's why we just do the best that we can. I concur with all the comments that have already been said, so there's not much else to say... :)
    posted by Blogger Cheryl at 8/15/2006 07:18:00 AM  

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