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Hello, Guilt, My Old Friend

Posted Dec 29 2012 12:00am

It seems to me that I live with feelings of guilt my entire day.

I could work harder. I could be a better parent, a better spouse, certainly a better friend. I spend a lot of time thinking how I could be "better", be "more", be "on". I could be more creative, more "Martha Stewart" and less, I don't know - Peg Bundy. I spend vast quantities of time thinking about how I've screwed up in this situation or that, how I could have parented better in one circumstance or another -

and some days, I can avoid it. I can look people in the eye and say, "I'm doing my best. I've got a bigger load than you ever will, so get off my back and let me be." (I'd really love for some of those really judgemental people in my life to just, you know, be me for a day or two. I'm thinking that they'd shut their mouths pretty damned quickly.)

And sometimes, I just can't avoid it. It's not that my life is traditionally hard - I've got electricity and running water, heat and food and a JOB and my health and that of my kids and parents. In fact, when I reflect on those things - I feel really petty and stupid to vent at all.

It's just that my days are packed to the brim with responsibility and stress. Moving from one fire to another. That can be wearing on a body.

And it's Christmas break when I have a full time job and am the sole parent at home 99% of the time with some pretty high needs shorties, and I'd even vote myself off the island most days.

Yesterday was just such a day.

There will be no names here, for a) it doesn't need to be googalable and b) it doesn't matter, for the situation transcends time and individuality and could be molded and morphed to fit each of my kids - and, I'd venture to say, if I'm being totally honest - each and every one of you.

Working from home presents unique challenges. It can be difficult to transition from work to "Mom! Come look at this!" and back to work, only to get up and break up a fight, admire a creation, find a snack, change over the laundry, go back to work, listen to a drama, give advice, answer an email, answer a phone call, find a missing shoe, dream up a game, play a hand or two of Old Maid, and fill out a spreadsheet. Most days, I can juggle it.

Yesterday was just a failure.

Do not misunderstand what I am sharing here - I love work. I love my job. I love everything about it. I love my family. Love my kids. Love (almost) everything about them - could do without the smart mouths, but, hey.

At about 5, I decided that I needed to get out of the house. Needed to go pay a few bills, return some things, pick up another that was on sale, and get some espresso powder for a recipe. I thought that I'd take some of the shorties with me - maybe they'd want to get out of the house too. I offered, and most of them said no.

One said yes. And, I returned with a no.

Ouch. How could you, Carmen?

Because after I'd offered, I thought to myself how good it would be to be alone for a few minutes. I haven't been alone, except in the shower (well, even then, people are knocking on the door) since December 18. Even at night, I've had one kid with me or another, because we've had a slate of asthma flares and bad dreams and every night, I'm up for something. I've taken people to eye doctors and dentists before the year ends and the benefits reset, driven kids to friends houses and to boyfriend meet ups, entertained and purchased. The thought of getting in the car alone, being able to listen to music and just have no one pulling on me, no one talk talk talking, no one arguing or needing me, to think without interruption and to just, you know, be -

it was irresistable.

Said child walked out of the room and I continued to get ready to go.

Said child came back into the room, tears flooding the face, and said in a small, broken and entirely pitiful voice, "I just thought we could spend some time together. All you do is work, and I thought you might want to spend some time alone with me. No one wants to be with me!" and broke into hysterics. (Said child had struggled all day with no one wanting to play - friends weren't home, siblings weren't interested, and said child is overly dramatic, but still - oof.)

And so, I took said child with me, to do some of the most mundane errands, and said child talked and talked and talked and there was absolutely no ability to listen to music and no time to gather my thoughts. At one point, I asked said child to just let me think for a minute, and felt even more guilty for THAT - but said child talks without a need to obtain oxygen.

And I felt guilty for even that.

I wonder - when will the guilt stop?

I explained to said child that yes, Mommy works - and I need to work. Both for the very necessary income it provides, which helps us do things like EAT and SHOP and have Christmas and pay for school and medications - and also because I NEED TO WORK. I need to feel like I'm a productive member of the family. Need to be able to take my husband out for dinner one night and pick up the check. Need to be able to buy new eyeglasses for people and prom dresses and walking, barking, battery operated puppies that make me want to scream, to donate to a friend in need, to buy new soap and new shoes and have a bit of money in my pocket so I don't feel like a moocher. And I explained that I have a set amount of hours of work to do, and when I'm constantly interrupted, those tasks don't go away and that work still needs to be done and I still have responsibilities. That usually, I accomplish that work when they are all at school and doing homework, but they are home now and so it seems that all I do is work. That I've skipped exercise for an entire month because my work, both online and house maintenance/cooking/bills/laundry/grocery/kid duties have taken so much longer with 6 other people around all the time, Christmas and parties and birthdays and concerts and performances and conferences and doctor appointments.

And I don't know if said child understood it.

Hell, I don't know if I understood it.

I have to try, concurrently, to figure out how to do it all. Without losing me. Or trying to be someone else.

Because, I think, when I'm trying to be "more" - I'm trying to be someone else. Like it or not - I'm stuck with me.

So how to be a "me" that's fair to all? That is the question.

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