Question of the day: I wonder if you ever have any guilt that you should put your career on the back burner to spend more time with you kids? Sometimes I feel like I have my whole life to build my career, but my kids will only be young for a short time and I should "put them first" and just work as much as I need to for us to pay the bills. But this feeling quickly dissipates after about three consecutive hours alone with them! Also, I sort of feel like I've been waiting my whole life to write, or at least seriously attempt to write, a novel and I don't want to put it off forever. Just wondering if you ever have this struggle...
What a great question for the blog. Thanks for sending it in.
You know, I posted this because I think it is the struggle that marks so many of our lives, but I have to offer a full disclaimer before we launch into this discussion. I seem to have been born without a guilty gene. What I mean is that guilt trips rarely work on me (just ask my husband who caves at the first sign of a guilt trip and is both perplexed/amazed at my immunity to one) and I truly believe that guilt is often wasted energy. If I feel badly about something, I amend my behavior, and move on. Period. Done. I wash it of my mind. And yes, I DO sometimes feel guilty over being rude to my parents or whatever (yes, it happens!), but I'm just one of those people who is rarely affected by the emotion because it's often so easily fixable by actionable behavior.
BUT, that said, I certainly know what you're talking about, and I do feel that tug of emotion - but for me, I'm not sure if it's guilt, more really, of a longing - when my nanny takes the kids out the door, and I wonder if I shouldn't be spending more time with them. I think it is truly rare that you'll meet a 2008 mom who doesn't have this sort of conflict...in fact, it is one of the underlying themes of Time of My Life: how do you sustain yourself, how do you not give too much of your self, how do you find that balance between motherhood and the rest of your life?
For me, I find that balance in a couple of ways: I truly try to give my kids my complete attention when I'm not working - I give them breakfast every morning, dinner every night, take my son to school/camp nearly every day (occasionally my husband wants to do it...and I'm certainly not going to stop him!), and I put one of them, sometimes both if my husband isn't yet home, to bed each night. These are our rituals, and these are the ways that they know that I am there for them. When I have more time to give, I do. But when I don't, I don't spend a lot of time worrying about it because that's even more of a drain on my energy, and God knows that I don't have much in reserves.
Being a writer is nearly as much a part of me as being a mother. NOT as much, and there is NO DOUBT that I'd sacrifice everything - including, quite obviously, my career for my kids - but it is one of the most important pieces of who I am. I love being able to show my kids my byline or my books in our bookshelf or walking into a bookstore and hearing my son say, "Mommy, remember when you signed books here?" It's empowering to me, and thus, I know that I pass that empowerment on to them. What we get to do - put words on a page and (hopefully) get paid for them - is a pretty cool thing: it's creative and independent and intelligent all at once, and I really believe that my kids see that. For me, that's far better than spending 24/7 with them, which, like you, only makes me crazy. I love them more than anything on the planet - you know what kind of love I'm talking about - but that doesn't mean that I have to lose myself to motherhood.
So...I guess...to answer your question in a very long-winded way: I know that in doing this, I'm not only doing what's best for me, but I'm doing what's best for my kids. Yes, sometimes I feel those pangs of wishing I could whisk them out the door, but I also know that big picture, we'll all come out okay, more than okay, we'll all come out pretty great.
Working mommies out there - want to chime in on how you deal with guilt and motherhood?