I never anticipated the crushing force of mom guilt and how much going back to work would exacerbate the problem. Your heart aches in ways I never knew possible, and I blame my hormones for this 100%. Since these hormones, however, are completely out of my control, I figured I may as well address the problem head on by dissecting the sources of my mommy angst, right?
Going back to work is an often-cited reason for giving up breastfeeding. This was probably the biggest source of emotional anguish for me, and I would not have expected it in a million years. It was also likely the most hormonally fueled meltdown I had that I can attribute to mommy guilt. I ended breastfeeding, or rather gave up pumping breast milk, at the 7 month mark for various reasons that I could do a whole post about, but I’m still questioning my decision and doubting whether it was the right thing to do, and I can’t make those thoughts go away.
Ultimately, I was a formula-fed baby and I turned out fine. I gained back hours in the day, hours that I need to work, not to mention flexibility, which has also been necessary for days full of meetings. I also shed the dietary restrictions, caffeine limits, and lack of alcohol, which has allowed me to enjoy life just a little bit more. I should not have to feel guilty for that. And yet, I do. Damn hormones.
Having to Focus on the Day to Day
When you’re busy with work and you’re just trying to fit everything in, it can feel like you don’t have enough time to do anything extra. It feels like you’re only doing the day-to-day tasks that need to get done, e.g., feedings and bath time, and don’t have time to do enriching activities. I would love to take him out somewhere new every day, but there are just not enough hours available.
I actually sat down and calculated how many hours I would need to do everything that I would want to do with him on a daily basis if I could, and I came up with a whopping 9 hours of baby time I would need to have free from other obligations. Clearly, I must be trying to drive myself crazy and a reality check was in order. Not only can I not do everything on my list with a full time job, I’m also just trying to do too much in general. Calm down, girl.
We don’t currently have child care, but we do have grandparents who frequently help out. When I have to spend a long day at the office, which is thankfully few and far between, it’s possible I could miss something. My mother, in particular, seemed hell bent on having him crawl when he was in her care. The thing is, and the reason that this point bothers me perhaps the least, he is a little person. There are going to be many things that I’m not necessarily a part of that are pivotal points in growing up. He needs relationships and moments with other people, and particularly with other family members, as part of his own experiences. Both mom and dad work remotely anyway, so he probably gets to spend more time with both of us than most American babies are able, given the crappy parental leave policies in this country.
Does He Think I’ve Abandoned Him?
No, I know he does not. He is pretty much always watched by people who love him, entertain him, feed him, and change him and who do whatever else he needs. Does that make me wonder any less if he cries looking for me? No, it does not. Do I need to stop fretting about this? Yes, I do.
I should think of it this way: I want to raise an independent, self-sufficient little person. If he is always searching for his mama, that is not going to happen. He is always happy to see me when I return, but he is also thankfully not suffering because I’m gone, and that’s the way it should be.
Being a Control Freak
I thought I’d be cool with a whole host of things that I’ve gone Psycho Mom about, and part of this has stemmed from mom guilt and the feeling that I should be filling every role and fulfilling every need this new little creature may have. I am the worst about weaning because I have chosen this as my pet cause to do my way. It makes it pretty difficult to spend long periods of time away from him, and I’m really doing this to myself. I just have this need to do things right or as I planned, and I’m putting so much pressure on myself that it can become a serious point of stress. One of the reasons that weaning is so important to me is because I love food and want him to have a great relationship with it too. I need to be reminded that I’m doing it wrong if it’s not fun, and stress, especially self-imposed, is no fun.
It’s a comfort to know that I’m not alone in having these feelings. I’ve read a good number of blogs that share in these emotions that rear their ugly head when you’re heading out the door. My advice to myself and others: take a deep breath, it’s all in your mind, your baby is fine, and it’s probably you who needs to get out more. I know I do.