Evil, Stinkin’ Mommy Guilt

If you have a child and you work, you have Mommy Guilt. If you have a child and you don’t work, you have Mommy guilt.

Maybe you formula feed and have Mommy Guilt. Maybe you breastfeed and have Mommy Guilt because you can’t give as much attention to your other children. Maybe your child has colic, and you have Mommy Guilt. Maybe everything is going relatively smoothly and you still have Mommy Guilt. Sound familiar?

Moms are amazing. This is a pretty well-known fact, but it’s reiterated when you actually have a child. Men start to see it in the mother of their child, and women start to feel it after they carry and nourish another life, and then continue to nourish that life.

So why do we beat ourselves up? This has been on my mind for a while. I feel that, at almost 15 weeks old, Baby Anna and I have settled into a good routine. She randomly sleeps through the night (yay!), only gets up once a night if she doesn’t, eats like a champ but still has her slender, girlish figure, and is the happiest darn baby I’ve ever known. She is my traveling companion, my partner in crime, and my biggest reason to take care of myself, because I want to do my best at taking care of her.

But sometimes at work, I get a familiar pang and wish I could see her right. now. Not when work is done, not after I sit in traffic to go to daycare. Now. That thought almost always leads to, “You know, you really should just be home with her anyway.”

Wow! Where did that evil nugget come from?

Here’s some background; I have a good job. Actually, a really good job. My boss is flexible and doesn’t micromanage. He lets me leave early often and I pretty much run the schedule myself. Even if we could afford for me to stay home, I would be crazy to let go of a good job that pays well.

Plus, I remember the last few weeks before I returned to work. I was tired, overwhelmed and majorly lacking in vitamin D.

I have a chronic pain condition. It hurts to get out of bed. Carrying around my little pork chop takes a toll on my back. If I don’t have a reason to leave my house, I won’t…especially in winter. I also think I deal with Seasonal Affective Disorder.

Truth

Truth

I’m a better mom because I work. Having a reason to set the alarm early means I feel better because I’m up early. Returning to work has helped me get (almost) back to my normal weight range, and sometimes it’s refreshing to be outside in the cold (don’t tell my husband I said that).

Yet, I still beat myself up for the things I don’t do. When Angel passed away, I did the same thing. I sang the “Shoulda, Coulda, Woulda’s” and cried until I practically made myself sick. It took a conversation with a friend to point out what we did do for Angel. Her last memories weren’t of a shelter, or abuse, or a cold, wet floor. They were of love, a warm and comfy bed, good food, and the best fur-brother anyone could ask for.

Fred is a good helper when it comes to organizing laundry.

Fred is a good helper when it comes to organizing laundry.

Maybe we all need to do this more when it comes to our kids. Feel bad because your husband works  longer hours so you can stay home? Don’t. You’re home with your child. Feel bad because you’re at work and your child is at daycare? Don’t. You’re providing for your child. And if you’re blessed enough to have a similar situation to mine, you have an awesome day care and your little one loves going.

Healthy and happy...must be doing something right!

Healthy and happy…must be doing something right!

So stop beating yourself up. Creating a child, delivering a child and raising a child is a pretty big deal. Odds are, you’re awesome at it. Heck, maybe the most anxiety-ridden moms really are the best, because the crazy voices in their head make them try harder.

Wouldn’t that be nice? Shoot, I would deserve a medal.

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The Bunsen Burner

I was in the chair, the one we all hate. The one that sits in the cold little room where you go to see the dentist, everyone’s favorite person.

There was a picture on the wall directly in front of me, showing boats in a marina. I wondered if a picture with water was purposely placed to soothe the almost-always-nervous souls who fidgeted in this chair.

It was my third visit in an ongoing quest to complete a difficult root canal. I have learned quite a bit on this latest series of appointments, mostly because my dentist is one of my father-in-law’s best friends, and we do a lot of chatting. We will call him Dr. P.

Dr. P loves to teach me about his field because he knows I work for a doctor. Often, I will stay longer than necessary while he shows x-rays, sketches teeth and answers my endless questions. I learned lower molars often have extra nerves (oh goody), which was why it took two trips just to remove them all. Then there is an impression, then filling in the tooth, the little poles that anchor everything, the temporary crown, the filing down of the tooth, and then finally, the permanent crown and the end to my troubles.

Well, my troubles with that tooth, anyway.

I tried to focus on the boats. The water. I thought of the beach, my wedding on the Chesapeake Bay, swimming in the crisp, salty ocean. I willed my body to un-clench and told myself repeatedly, “You’re fine. You’re at the dentist, not a prison camp. You’re not going to die at the dentist.”

During most of the procedures, I have the extreme fortune of rocking a rubber dam. They look something like this:

This isn't me, in case you were wondering ... or the mustache didn't give it away.

The rubber dam is a good thing. It prevents anything gross from leaking down my throat. For this, I am grateful.

However, it completely limits your speech to “Yes” or “No.” Any conversation beyond that is literally impossible. We’ve all heard the jokes, how dentists love to engage while their entire fist is in your mouth, but the rubber dam stays the whole time. Any questions/responses/cries for help will have to wait until the end.

Dr. P said, “Do you know what a bunsen burner is?”

I responded with “Mrmps,” aka “Yes.”

My brain responded with “Why, dear God, is he asking me if I know what a bunsen burner is?” Usually our conversations are teeth-related when the rubber dam is in place.

And then, lo and behold, a mini bunsen burner appeared on the tray beside his stool. Apparently, it was going to have an active role in my visit.

I’ve become accustomed to closing my eyes when the tools start to come toward my face, so I continued to listen as he described what he was doing, but firmly clamped my eyes shut. Dr. P asked if I was interested in all of this, and I replied with “Mrmps.”

Then he asked if I wanted the mirror.

I love ya, Dr. P, but that one got a firm “Nrmph, nrmph,” along with a shake of my head.

Eyes closed, I tried to remember the picture of the boats, and not focus on what I was really thinking.

I smelled something burning, and took a peek. He was holding a tool, possibly with some material on the tool, over the flame. I didn’t peek long enough to actually find out.

The smell started to permeate my throat, and I felt the anxiety rise. I mentally scolded myself because I knew he was almost done, and I had only felt a little pain.

I un-clenched and gave myself a break. I thought of random moments in the day when I feel really good, then am overcome by a sharp, stabbing pain in my knee. Down my leg. Up my arm. In my head. Through my shoulder. It’s always a brief shriek of pain, lasting only seconds, but sometimes takes away my breath for just that moment.

But it always goes away. It leaves behind a constant ache, but I’ll take the ache over the stab.

That was when I knew why I always sat so rigidly in this chair. I was always waiting for the stab. But in waiting for the stab, I was contributing to the ache. I relaxed, yet again, and heard Dr. P say, “And we’re done!”

I opened my eyes and the flame was gone. In a brief flash, I thought of the people I know and know of that suffer from the illness I have. The ones who can’t get out of bed, can’t work, can’t meet their friends for coffee, can’t go on dates with their husbands, and can’t go alone to their dentist appointments.

So next time I feel that stab, I’ll try to remember it will soon fade to an ache. When I feel the ache, I’ll be grateful it’s not a stab.

And I’ll remember the bunsen burner, whose presence made me write this.