Little is nine months old soon. Once, for two hours, he was cared for by my parents. Every other minute of his life has been spent with his mum or dad.* We haven’t gone out together without him. Three times I have left him with his dad, again for all of two hours. I didn’t want to leave him. He needed me. What if he got hungry? Thirsty? Upset? Tired? I was very much a mum that needs to be with her baby. I felt guilty if I wasn’t with him.
Not only did I have to be with him, I had to be doing the right thing when I was with him. Was I playing enough games with him? Giving him enough independant exploration time? Reading enough? Singing enough? Socialising with other babies enough? Feeding him the right solids? Were they too lumpy or too pureed for this stage or that? Did we get enough fresh air? On it goes, doing my head in.
Then something happened. Some kind of unforseen corner was turned at the eight month mark. I needed to get away all of a sudden. I needed real me time, not a longer shower on a saturday morning, but a few hours, even half a day or an evening to myself. I needed to feel like me, Roxanne, Rocky, Roxi, Rox, not mum. It hasn’t even happened yet, the half a day, but I already have pangs of guilt just for wanting it.
Add to this my impending return to work. I’m returning two days a week because we need the money. I’ve had a year off work, and consider myself incredibly lucky to have been able to do this, but maternity leave, long service leave and Paid Parental leave are all running out. Again the guilt builds up.
Incredibly it has often been other mums who have added to my guilt. I have been openly questioned by some on my need to return to work. Did we really need the money? Can’t my partner take time off? Can we both go part time? What if Little needed me? Attitudes like ‘why have a baby if you’re not prepared to look after it?’ Even the head of a child care centre felt the need to tell me they didn’t believe mums should go back to work full time. Surely we all know that peoples circumstances differ. There isn’t a one size fits all model. Soon after Little’s birth my partner was made redundant. We had to consider the neccesity of me going back full time and soon. It terrified me and reduced me to tears many times. Fortunately he found a great new job, but to be judged by other mums and child care workers as less of a mum would have been the straw on this camels back. If you could and wanted to stay home for X amount of years good for you! That’s two big things right there, could and want. Not many can afford that luxury. Yes people struggle to keep one partner home, and that’s admiable, but some of us wouldn’t struggle so much as drown. Some want to stay home everyday, some feel they are a better parent if they have time away.
What really annoys me though is my guilty reaction to all of this. I know every parent and every baby is different. Every parent does what they need to do to get through the day or night, and with only some sad exceptions, do well. I know that my son is happy, healthy and developing beautifully. So I’m going to take a step back from this whole guilt trip. I’m going to suspend any judgements I may have once had based on parenting as I thought I knew it. I’m going to remind myself that the fact I even care if Little’s had enough exploration/play/books/singing makes me a good mum. This will at least get me to the frist day of child care. Lets see how I go then.
*Since I wrote this post Little’s dad and I had a night out together for a friends birthday, leaving him in the very capable hands of his aunt and cousin. He didn’t even know we were gone, sleeping right through the night! I was like an excited kid in a lolly shop, but also a little manic with worry. This culminated in me talking very fast at people, grasping my phone in one hand a glass of wine in the other and treating both like a lifeline. Practically running from one person to another in my excitment to be out with them and showing everyone way to many photos and videos of our Little. I both wanted to socialise, drink and eat fast and get out of there and home to him and never wanted to leave this adult world that at times I had missed. The next day Little got a cold and I felt so guilty I had gone out the night before. His big green snot candelabras taunting me, saying “we’re your fault mummy, you went out”. So as lovely as it was I just dont know if I can be bothered doing it again for all the guilt. So much for taking a step back from the guilt trips.
let’s try that again shall we?