Momaical is a humorous look at trying not to raise a flock of assholes. Cursing & copious coffee involved.

Momaical: [mom-mahy-uh-kuhl] = (Hybrid of Mom and Maniacal.)

6.29.2012

Mama's Backpack of Guilt

I didn't know it at the time, but when I left the hospital carrying my new bundle of wonderful, I also gained a new piece of luggage. I'm not sure exactly when I received it - although I suspect it was when I was getting my epidural (which is probably why they kicked my husband out of the room). Maybe in the 50,000 pieces of paper I signed about not shaking my baby, vaccinations and horrible newborn photos - they slipped this in. I don't have a clue.  What I do know is that I can't get rid of it and it keeps getting heavier as Mommyhood morphs. It's my Backpack of Guilt.

It started out light. Oh sure, the bottom was lined with "Did I make all the right choices for my baby when I was pregnant?" and "Did breathing in that fire extinguisher the dumb ass sprayed as a joke compromise my infants immune system?" "Is my baby going to get rejected from Yale because I didn't get the video that promised to make my baby read in the womb?" But, it was manageable.

Through the beginning of motherhood the backpack began to get filled. I left my high paying executive job to be a teacher. Much (much) less money - better hours. But, I had worked so hard to get to that level (and pay grade). And I walked away because it required too much travel and I would be gone from my babies more than I would be home raising them. My husband and I made a decision that we felt was best for raising our children. However, it didn't come without baggage. Guilt because we had half the income. Guilt because I left my career. Guilt because it was costing us more money than I was making so I could teach. But, I shoved that guilt down into that weird front pocket of my backpack because I knew it was the best choice for my family.

The years stretched on and so did my backpack. There were times when the guilt pile lessened. "Oh, God. She just banged her head for the 3,000th time. Is she going to have brain damage?" When it became apparent that she was not, that load lightened. But, it was quickly replaced with "Should I have a second baby? Will she be ok sharing me? Will I be able to handle everything since my first baby was so challenging? Did I remember to put sunscreen on her? Is she going to turn into a serial killer because we let her watch Sponge Bob?"

My second pregnancy was excruciatingly difficult. I was sick and miserable and depressed through all 40 hideous, torturous weeks of hell. I wanted to crawl under a rock and die. I felt guilty because I was a deadbeat mom and a terrible wife. There was too much television, not enough outside adventures, absolutely no cleaning or cooking and no happiness at all. I hid from my friends and family because I was a giant, fat, sick pile of misery and everything coming out of my mouth was toxic. I left teaching midway through the year because I couldn't handle my life. My doctor wanted to put me on anti-depressants but I didn't want to put my burgeoning baby through that chemical dependency, withdrawal and chance for birth defects (I mean, being born is hard enough!). Shove this guilt in the backpack's side drink holder!

Then, I had the mother lode of guilt to store. My OB thought I was having a pulmonary embolism. I was hospitalized and required x-rays. I just sat and cried because this could seriously affect my baby. I couldn't even make the decision; my husband had to because I was sobbing too hard to talk (and extra McHot with hives and hiccups). Thankfully my baby and I survived unscathed and there was no damage from the radiation. But, as crap rolls down hill - so does guilt: Is my oldest child being neglected because my newborn demands so much attention? Is she going to grow up to hate me as a result? Is the youngest getting enough attention because the oldest is jealous? Is the youngest getting enough tummy time, exercise, fresh air? Why is my hair falling out in fistfuls? Am I going to be bald?

Then my world shifted on its axis: my husband accepted a position clear across the country. All of the sudden an extension was added to my backpack. I'm taking the girls to paradise but it's on the opposite side of the world from everyone you know and love. Oh, and I won't be working now. Which brings on a whole NEW set of guilt and challenges and wonderful and atrocious.

I never thought I was the kind of person that can be home full time.  Lena and I get along much better when we’re not together constantly.  And, I have high anxiety and a short fuse.  How the hell was I supposed to handle being on call 24 hours a day with no break EVER?  There are no sick days.  There are no vacation days.  There’s just mommyhood.  But now I get to be home with my pumpkins in paradise and help shape them into being wonderful adults. 

But, there’s a strange stigma with stay at home mom-dom.  There are many people that look down at you for making this choice.  I have actually had people say to me that they can’t believe how smart I am because they assumed I would be too dumb to have a “real job” which is why I am home.  Um, what the fuck?  Being home is by far the hardest job I have ever had!   I end every day mentally, physically and spiritually exhausted.  Because trying not to raise a flock of assholes is really hard work!  When there are highs at home – it’s amazing and makes all the sacrifices you have made 150% worth it.   But, there are a lot of lows no one really talks about.  A lot of crying, whining, fighting – and that’s just me.   And you sometimes feel like “I have a Master’s degree and all I do is clean and wipe boogers and butts and referee!”  And then you feel the guilt of the world weighing down on your shoulders because you should be enjoying this time and instead you want to hide from it. 

Because sometimes I don't want to carpe the diem. Sometimes I want to run away from the diem. I want to find one of those moms that hangs a "Sorry for the mess ~ my kids are making memories" signs and leave my kids with her. Because my house is a mess and the only memories they are making are of me screaming "Stop (Insert one of the following: whining, crying, tattling, fighting, hitting, biting)." And my backpack keeps getting more and more stuffed.  I want to seek out Dora the Explorer because that bitch has everything in her mochila and she never falls over like a turtle on its back. Which is what I feel like the weight of the guilt backpack is doing many days.

But, having stood on both sides of the fence I now realize that the grass isn't greener on either side. See, when you work full time you have this guilt that you're away from your kids too much. That they're being raised by someone else. That you're missing all the critical moments in their life. When they're sick you blame the fact that you have to send them to daycare. When they misbehave you are positive others are saying "Well, you know her mother is never around, right? She WORKS which is why that child is a heathen."

However, when you're home all the time you feel guilty that you are "just" a stay at home mom. Your career is over. You are not bringing in any money into the household. What if my husband loses his job or something happens to him or to our marriage? Then where are you? You now have taken time away from the corporate food chain and you're no longer the shark. You're not even a jelly fish. You're more like the salmon now trying to swim upstream against younger and singler (Yes, I know that's not a real word - just go with it for now) and less expensive candidates than you. Most likely they don't have kids to go home to and shoulders that are weighed down by this giant guilt backpack. They are willing to work long hours and crappy assignments because they're paying their dues - which you already paid! And, anytime your husband jokes about you having to get a paper route when you wish to purchase something for yourself it makes another part of you die inside. You are entirely, completely dependent upon another person. And, if you fall on your face, you're screwed. The only thing you're qualified for now is the bald lady at the circus because your hair has never recovered from pregnancy. Your body is stretched out of shape, your eyes look like they've been stomped on by chickens and you'd need a month long coma to really recover from the sleep deprivation and who would really want to hire a train wreck like you anyway????  You’d have to get a job as a stripper at a truck stop so you can support your family and they’d end up getting taken away from you because you turn to crystal meth as a diet plan so you can at least strip at a two star establishment and have enough energy left over to clean your house. 

The grass on the other side of the fence is not really grass at all. It's turf. From afar it looks lush and verdant and so appealing that you would give anything just to run through it with bare feet and reckless abandon. However, when you get up close, you realize that it's not real. It's pretty. It looks nice but it's not real. Either side has benefits. Either side has downfalls. Both sides have guilt and people telling you that your choices are wrong. And, you have people looking at you from the other side of the fence wishing vehemently that they could just be in your Manolo Blahniks for a few hours (unless you’re on the SAHM side and then they want to be in your Havaianas).
So, we moms have to bond together to help shoulder this burden.  Because this backpack can be suffocating.  Share your frustrations with people going through it.  You’ll find that you’re not alone.  Other moms are experiencing the same guilt. And the same struggles.  And the same challenges; some far worse than yours. Oh, and make sure you have a cute backpack.  Because it’s much easier to be weighed down by something trendy than some hand-me-down.  Although, you might want to get one with wheels.


50 comments:

  1. What a wonderful post - so true and absolutely hilarious! I look forward to reading more.

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    1. Thank you so very much! I appreciate you reading my blog!

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    1. Hilarious! This may be your best one yet. Your posts always make me laugh, but underneath there's also a lot of truth too. (And no, I'm not buying you a bag. Your Burberry supplier has officially gone out of business!)

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    2. Crap! I'll have to start pimping your book harder so you can go back to being my sugar mama! PLEASE GO AND BUY JAGUAR SUN BY MARTHA BOURKE. IT'S A FREAKIN' FANTASTIC BOOK AND MAMA NEEDS A NEW BACKPACK!

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  3. lol....what's even funnier is that I can HEAR you delivering that monolog as if you were sitting across from me. lol. I'll share this with my wife. She may wanna buy a franchise.

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    1. Hahahaha! Ed! That's hilarious - everyone says that about my blog. Now I need to get some graphics lessons from you. ;)

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  4. Been home almost nine years now so I've graduated from a backpack to a suitcase and I think I need to move on to a trunk -- so awkward to carry -- perhaps the trunk of my car would work since I'm in my car more than I am out of it - chauffeuring the kids around...joy :-)
    Great post. Thanks for sharing and reconfirming that I'm 'not alone.'

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    1. We perhaps can invest in a shopping cart of guilt? Much easier to push around and I can probably chuck a kid or two into it! Thank you so much for reading my blog!

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  5. Dang, you put that so well. My hubby and I have raised 6 kids and I've carried enough guilt along the years to weigh down an elephant! Thanks for sharing about the ups and downs of both sides. Too many times I hear one or the other side brag about their choice as the better one!
    Great post!
    ~Erin

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    1. Hi Erin! Thank you so much for reading! At the end of the day I'm just glad no one is carting me off to the looney bin - although I bet I could catch up on a little sleep there... ;)

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  6. This is one of the most honest, thoughtful and absolutely true-to-life descriptions of being a Mom that I have ever read. I've been a working Mom, a single Mom, and a work-from-home Mom and they are all "the turf is always greener" situations. But, when my son went to college I seemed to be able to lighten up my backpack. The worries are different, but I'm operating with a little less daily guilt. Maybe what we all need are those backpacks on wheels,eh?

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    1. Hi Kim! Yes - wheels are a must. I may consider also an upgrade to a trunk or one of those old lady carts. The trunk may be best because when my tiny people do me in you can just bury my body in it. ;) Thank you so much for reading!

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  7. Following you back! (:
    This is SO accurate. Almost my life to a T.

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    1. Thanks so much!! Looking forward to your posts!

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  8. Jada Den Herder7/02/2012

    Tracy!!! Just fantastic. Keep going!! xox

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  9. It is refreshing to hear the tale told from both sides of the tracks. I think we need to band together,treat those backpacks like clay pigeons and shoot the Sh#! out of them instead of each other and ourselves.

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    1. Oh dear. Me + a fire arm = disaster! But, I agree. It may be amazingly cathartic!

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  10. Thanks for visiting Between Two Rams!

    This post is so true and so well said. I've been a SAHM, a full-time working mom, and now I only work on the weekends. I still feel like I haven't got it right. Maybe when my boys are married and their wives are asking me for baby advice I will be able to look back and say, "You know what? I did pretty good." And I'll dump that damn backpack in the ocean.

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    1. Maybe we'll figure it out before then - but at least we'll get some good blog fodder in the meantime! Thanks so much for reading!

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  11. I adore this this post!!! It is completely relatable and made me laugh out loud. I am also a stay at home mom with a backpack of my own and a need to stab women who think the choice to stay at home is either easy or equivalent to stupidity with a crafty little homemade, modge podge shiv. My favorite line was "trying not to raise a flock of assholes" when I quote that, and I am sure I will, I will give you the credit for sure. I am officially a fan:)

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    1. Thanks so much Nicole! And, yes, feel free to employ flock of assholes whenever necessary. You will find out that it applies to many situations!

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  12. Oh, how I needed to read this!! I needed the honesty, I needed to laugh, and I needed to know that my husband isn't the only one making allowance jokes. Loved this...every darn bit of it!!!

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    1. Yeah - the allowance jokes either make me cringe or cry - depending on when they are dispensed... I also love "What did you buy at Target for $150????" Well, clearly I purchased a Burberry purse for myself and slipped it in among the Tide and paper towels. I was hoping you wouldn't notice.

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  13. Clearly, through your wonderful description, I have found that adopting isn't much different from birthing your children. I have the stretch marks, just earned them differently!!! That guilt baggage is a little different, the start is when you learn the history of your adopted child and it builds from there....

    I really enjoyed your post. Thank you. Makes me feel better to know it's stinky on both sides, makes the other side look normal again. LOL.

    Visiting back from Crafty Zoo with Monkeys

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    1. Hey Crafty Zoo! We're all in this insanity together. Makes it a little easier to survive unscathed! Thanks so much for reading!

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  14. Amalie7/09/2012

    LOVE this. So beautifully written! A friend once said to me that staying home is hard, in part, because we never leave work. We never shut down the computer and go home for the day. It IS crazy. BTW, have you ever read/seen Revolutionary Road?

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    1. Thanks Amalie! No, I haven't read it yet. Do you recommend?

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  15. Anonymous7/20/2012

    This is FANTASTIC - funny and full or so dang much truth!! I'm one on the not SAHM side of the fence, and all too often people can be downright mean to those on the other side. This was refreshing to read - we all have the backpacks - just full of different versions of the same guilt! Awesome, well done!

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    1. Thank you so much! Yes, women can be vicious. And, I'm not sure why that is! Mean Girls: The Mommy Years! (Sorry for the delay in response - my page didn't tell me you had commented for some reason!)

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  16. I love the backpack analogy. So very, very true. Great post!

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  17. Love love love this post! I carry around the same backpack or both backpacks or all of the backpacks. Let's see, there's the "I had my boys only 13 months apart" guilt pack, the "I had to return to work because we are broke" guilt pack, and the "I got a divorce" guilt pack. Seriously, I need a u-haul, not a backpack for all of this guilt! thank so much for the analogy!

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    1. Well, damn. Maybe just get a big turtle shell to wear? Let's start a self help group. Our therapist will be Chardonnay and Pinot. (Sorry for the late response!)

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  18. I am totally loving your blog! This particular post perfectly describes the reason I started blogging! It is cheaper than therapy and it is wonderful to hear other moms going through the same hot mess!

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    1. Thank you so much! That's why I started writing - to confirm my theories that most of us are going through the same amount of crap. It's just that we live in a society that doesn't want to announce that being a mom is difficult. It's like we're all living with Tom Cruise.

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  19. I'm at work, laughing so loud and hard at this post and most definitely, the gynecologist appt! That was absolutely the funniest story of all times, you should write childrens books about your girls...I needed that awesome laugh today! I wish you were around when I was a SAHM for 9 years, went back to work in 2007 and for years, I thought I was the only crazy woman but now I see I wasnt and being a crazy SAHM is not a bad title. Great Job!

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    1. Thank you very much Tabba! I feel like being a working mom is just a SAHM with better shoes. And, less tiny people messing up your shit. ;)

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  20. Well put! I'm a new SAHM with a 4mo son. It's the most challenging experience and such an adjustment to go from using my M.Ed. to diapering, cleaning, etc.

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    1. Right there with you Grace! Enjoy the sweet snuggly moments with your pumpkin. Before long he'll be running down the hallway at the gynecologist's office yelling about how you're nakey. ;)

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  21. I can`t belive I have not read this yet! It is so beautiful, I know exactly what you mean. I lay awake at night beating myself up about what I could do better, what I have not done. It is a rough road. Have I told you I think you are the best writer blogger, you are. (My question mark button is not working)

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  22. Today someone asked me, after hearing what my husband does for work, "What about you? Do you do anything?"

    I wish I would have read this four hours ago!

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  23. Well crap Tracy! Now I'm all depressed for being a bad mother. Oh well onward and upward and another bottle of wine.

    Thanks for hooking up at the Hump Day Hook Up

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  24. This is so true...and can I just say THANK YOU for changing the font of your content. SO much easier to read now! I feel that guilt crawling on me constantly. I know changing my circumstances won't help. It's just there...like a permanent zit.

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  25. Finally I know why my back has been killing me! ;) I love this post. It's honest, it's funny and I didn't want it to end.

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  26. Play Possum5/03/2013

    I LOVE LOVE LOVE this post!
    This is a conversation that I have (had really) with one of my friends. I was a stay at home mom or really a mom and a student for most of my kids lives. I spend a majority of an entire year living and breathing school...and then BOOM! I graduate. I took off a long time before job hunting. I needed to get my family back on track. THen I found a job..now I am gone literally 55 hrs a week. My kids, even though they aren't babies, need me more than I thought. I am constantly torn between work and my kids. I can't take time off for one kid if I can't take it off for the others...so I end up missing EVERYTHING. The extra income isn't a luxery it's a necessity so I do my best to keep up but it's hard.
    Being home was hard too. It was redundant, depressing and just not a good for me...but balancing it all isn't something I've figured out yet.
    I just hope I do before my kids grow up without me being there for all their important events and memories.
    I was asked last week why I am not working a voluntary Sat overtime shift. My answer is the truth: "My kids need ME more than I need the money".
    I have repeatedly turned down working late because there just isn't anything that makes taking MORE time from my kids okay. Not money, not the kudos...NOTHING. If they can't respect that then maybe I'm in the wrong place.

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  27. Anonymous6/01/2013

    I like this post...I like the "grass is not really greener" point, because I think you are right.
    What I would like to know, however, is: Does Dad ever feel guilty? I don't think we've really reached equality with men until all parents are equally burdened (or unburdened preferably) by guilt. Why are so many Moms taking it all on themselves? Why aren't more Dads wrestling with the work-v-stay home question--at this point, many women are earning as much as or more than their husbands. If Dad can make life/parenting decisions guilt free, why can't Mom? (I know why, because Western society expects Superwoman, but why do we attempt to meet those ridiculous standards? Why not reset the bar more realistically?)

    Personally, I don't feel much guilt with regards to my children...with the exception of food. They are not SUPER picky eaters, but they eat way more crap than I'd like them to, and it is partly my fault. I feel guilty about that. But otherwise? Nope. I really don't care if someone else disapproves of my/our child-rearing choices or circumstances, and I am comfortable with what we are doing. At least currently, it is working. But I can relate to the idea that many families are forced into situations they don't want to be in, and maybe that aren't working so well, and the Mom (maybe even Dad) feel guilty about it, because it is not how they would like it to be.

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  28. Anonymous6/03/2013

    big sigh....
    that's me!

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  29. Direct hit on that nailhead! My husband mentioned the 'he's working his ass off to provide for this family and what does he get?' when I wanted to buy something for me the other day. He was just tired and he really isn't a jerk...but damn. Just as you said, died inside. I'm really not in the fighting stage yet, my boys are 2 and 1 and most days I love my life and wouldn't want to go back to work even if they paid teachers enough to make something after daycare costs...which they don't where I live...anyway, this is powerful stuff, and I carry my own backpack, and the load gets lighter and then fills right back up again. You're brilliant.
    Sarah

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  30. So candid! I love your honesty! Thank you for sharing an important piece of your life so the rest of us don't feel so alone. Keep up the great work!

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