I’m Guilty of Not Feeling Guilty
As I type this post 30,000 miles high, somewhere over Central California, en route to a conference, I can't help but think how torturous a business trip USED to be... When my son was 13 months old, I went back to work full time and in a major way.... Then, sadly, about 7 months later, I was amidst a divorce.
Between working insane hours and having days where I didn't see my son, the guilt factor was at an all time high. Sure, going back to work was both a conscious decision and necessity, but it didn't seem to minimize the agony I felt about having to travel (at one point for 9 days)... I cried a lot and cursed myself for being such a bad mom. Sure, he was with his dad (and if I had been home, at some point, he'd have to go to his dad's too), but the fact that I wasn't there was gut wrenching. Everything evoked panic and sadness. I felt guilty for just being me- guilty for doing, guilty for not doing, and guilty for being.
Then something shifted. I don't know when, and I don't know how. But it all became okay. Separating from my son, though never ideal, became easier. Less stressful. Whether it was having to come home late from work, or sharing time/custody, I was able to stop beating myself up for doing something both professionally and personally that I needed to do. After all, everything IS for him.
It is....And the people- the "working moms DO have a choice" and the "divorce is for sinners" people, that have slammed me and other bloggers who talk about this very subject, have NO idea just how MUCH we do think about every move we make and how it will effect our family: My life is like a game of Tetrus. I'm CONSTANTLY thinking about where things go, how things fit, when to push the start and stop button. I'm balancing, moving, shaping, fitting, and engineering every piece and component of my life and my son's to build a perfectly solid wall of familiarity and family. Just yesterday, I sat (with my ex-husband) at a parent/teacher conference and heard the words that every hard working/guilt ridden mom needs and likes to hear: He is perfect. He is smart. He is HAPPY.
My son IS happy. My son is able to move through his (still new) world freely and excitedly because of the foundation that both myself and ex-husband have worked hard to give him. No matter where I am or what I'm doing, not a day goes by that I haven't thought and considered all facets of HIS life- from his extra-curricular activities to his caretakers and friends, and what he'll have for breakfast: He is never without love and he is NEVER not provided for. Why then would I feel guilty then if I'm not there right now to drop him off at school? I'm certain that someone that loves him, will protect him, and will make sure his teachers know that the green snot is the remnants of a sinus infection and nothing more. Similarly, why would I feel guilty when my son is with his dad, having the time of his life while I'm working out or spending time with my boyfriend or taking care of myself. He needs a full functioning and happy mommy when we're together- one that is present, available, and undistracted. Again, he doesn't have to feel or know the work that goes on behind the scenes - the hard work and careful considerations for each and every facet of his life. How can I then feel guilty?
Tonight, I will head out to Fisherman's Wharf in San Francisco with other conference attendees. I'll have a glass of wine, some good conversation, and then crawl into bed and get 8 full hours of sleep. I'll probably even wash, dry and curl my hair. Then tomorrow, I'll finish my morning meetings, come home and be is from mid afternoon until he falls fast asleep in my arms at night.
Am I guilty? Yes. But only because I do not feel guilty. Not today. And hopefully, not ever again.