I'm not trying to nag him or tell him how to parent. I have to ask.
Did he poop today? Maybe he needs some more prune juice. Do we even have any?
How long did he nap for? Maybe going to bed early would be helpful.
Did you put the Vaseline on his face before bed? He's been so chapped. The wind is so cold. Did his snow pants come home from daycare?
How did bedtime go? What was his day like? Any peer stuff?
These are the questions I ask almost every day. I ask and wait for the eyebrow raises, and sometimes huffs and glares. I can't help it. I have to ask. I've tried not asking. Not possible.
The truth is, it's not that I don't think my partner isn't doing an amazing job with all of the in and outs of handling the day. I know he's amazing. Our child is happy, well fed, and his needs are managed.
This is about MomGuilt.
These questions and their answers are how I stay connected, involved and sometimes, express my guilt of working as much as I do. I work full time at a day job that takes me out of the house two nights a week, and one weekend a month. I also have my own business as a birth and postpartum doula. I LOVE what I do. With my whole heart. But ...I'm gone. Lately, a lot. It hurts my heart to be missing so much. I need to know if there are any bits of the day he's struggling with. And I need to say my two cents. In my guilt ridden brain, this is how I can contribute to my son's well-being when I'm not around. I need to hear about the little comments, quirky faces, statements he makes, and what cute things he said at bedtime. It helps me feel like I'm not missing so much. It's already like I'm missing my arm. I feel insurmountable guilt some days for wanting to build a business while I work full time. I LOVE my work. I'm kind of a workaholic. *cough* Ok, I am. My home time with him is precious. Though I admit, some days I struggle with connecting with him while I'm low on energy. I tend to want to cook with him, do crafts, paint, make airplanes. Watch a show. His Dad does the chasing, rolling, physical play. He loves it so much. Sometimes, I can't play at all.
"Play with me, mama!"
"We are playing, we just made airplanes and painted!"
"But we aren't playing!"
"Mama can't chase just now buddy, but we can do floor stuff."
"But, I wanna playyyyyy."
Do I feel as if I have something to prove? Is this about gender roles? Feeling like I SHOULD be the one at home with our child? Not in my husband's eyes. Maybe in the back of mine. Archaic. Chances are it comes back to feeling shame. Doesn't it always? Shame that I'm not the most connected human to our child in every phase? Shame that I can't do it all. If I can't contribute through "reminders" aka: nagging, I'm not contributing. In my head, I might not be needed.
I'm trying to do more focused connectivity with him. Of course I feel guilty when I can't. There are folks wiser than me who have written great things about intentional connections. Hygge time. Distraction free breakfasts. I'll say that adding another responsibility to parent in a certain way seems like another thing to feel guilty over right now. If you're like me on this one, I need to tell you that it's ok to just get through if everyone is safe. It's o.k that not every moment is flippin' magical. It's ok that your partner is holding down the fort so you can do what you need to do. If everyone is emotionally and physically safe, everyone will be ok. It's also perfectly ok if you need to ask a billion questions to quell your anxieties about your kids' day. At least these are things I'm telling myself.
Final note on Bedtime last night:
A: "Mama! I need you to come back to snuggle me!" (Heard over the "momitor.")
Me: "I'm here buddy," Crawling around the bedrails.
A: "Mama is for snuggling." Sweet boy. Sigh.
Me: "Right you are! Mama is doing the snuggling tonight, and Dada did the playing."
A: "Mama does the playing too, just different kinds." Oh love. You did hear me.
This morning at pre-school to his teacher after our "Mommy Morning."
A: "I was being so silly with my Mom."
Jackie Anger is a London, Ontario doula, a mama to an amazing toddler, a community advocate, and a lover of coffee.