It's 8:45 p.m. in our house. The dishwasher has been loaded and is working its magic. Every surface in the kitchen has been wiped clean to the point where they're
emitting a bit of a sparkle. The floors are swept. The dog has been walked. The baby has just nodded off to sleep. My husband stretches before giving his tummy a pat of satisfaction, letting me know dinner was on point tonight. For this miniature moment in time, all is well in the world and I am feeling accomplished.
Unfortunately, this feeling will be gone by daybreak. Guilt will take its place.
Every morning as my husband rises to get ready for work, she takes her seat next to me as I give my daughter her first diaper change for the day. Sometimes she speaks softly. Sometimes she yells. All of the time she makes me feel as if I need to be doing more. She tells me that despite taking on the majority of childcare and household chores, I'm not pulling my weight because I gave up my salary. As I indulge in morning snuggles with the baby, she reminds of my husband's taxing commute into the city. When we walk him to the door and wave goodbye, she reminds me of all of the amazing accomplishments my girlfriends are making in the working world that I've left behind.
She loves to taunt me. Who is she? She is me.
When my husband first tossed out the idea of me being a stay-at-home mom, we were still dating. His mom had been a stay-at-home mom and he wanted the same for our kids. I understood and I appreciated the fact that he wanted to provide our future kids with the gift of having their mom around full-time.
"Sounds good," I said. "Let's do it."
It did sound good. I had always wanted to be home with my kids while they were small because my own mom had worked around the clock. As a child, I would have given my left arm to have her around more. At the same time, a part of me winced as those words left my mouth. It was the part of me that thought about all of the career growth I would miss out on during those five years it would take for our then-hypothetical kid to grow from a newborn to a kindergartner. But in my mind, it was all worth it. So I agreed.
And it's still worth it. I love being able to watch my daughter grow and change each day. I love witnessing each and every last one of her milestones. Most of all, I love the fact that I'm not so tired and burnt out that I don't have the energy to be the patient mother I have always dreamed of being. This surely would not have been the case if I maintained my demanding position as a middle school teacher. The first five years of a child's life are magical and I am blessed to be home to witness them. However, it's been quite the adjustment.
I've worked since I was 12 years old. As a middle schooler, I would babysit my niece while my sister attended night classes at a local college. I loved the feeling of independence that earning my own money gave me, so I continued to work. All through high school and college, I maintained a steady flow of income and that continued throughout adulthood. When I formally resigned from my position at the conclusion of my maternity leave, I couldn't help but feel as though some aspect of my identity and independence had been stripped from me.
And then came the guilt.
Some days, it would manifest as me feeling as though my husband was working harder than me for our family. Some days, it would manifest as me feeling like financial dead weight. Some days, it came in the form of worry that my daughter may somehow end up getting less than she deserves because we're living on one income. Some days, it shows up as shame that I'm squandering this precious time with my baby because I'm busy worrying and stressing. Each time, it would temporarily rob me of the joy watching my baby grow up before my very eyes.
Apparently, I'm not alone. Regardless of one's occupation or lack thereof, lingering guilt affects all moms. According to a 2013 survey conducted by NUK, nearly 87 percent of moms feel guilty. 21 percent admitted feeling this way all or most of the time.
Mom guilt is real. Thankfully, the more that I acknowledge it for what it is, the better I get at dealing with it. Here are some of the things that are helping me to overcome:
First and foremost, praying for guidance and trusting that the steps of my life have already been ordered has been giving me peace.
Savor the moment.
Babies grow up so quickly. Before I know it, my little girl will be starting kindergarten and I'll be heading back to work, looking back at these days as the good ole days. Each day, I remind myself to be mentally present for these priceless moments instead of constantly worrying about what's next.
When I'm feeling particularly vulnerable or anxious about my new unemployed state, I find that communicating my feelings and concerns to my husband always puts my mind at ease.
I'll admit that the guilt hasn't completely dissipated, but each day I'm getting better at shutting it out which is all we can really ask for, right?
Jazmine Denise is a mother, writer and educator. Follow her on Twitter @jazminedenie and visit her blog, www.blackgirlmom.com, for more of her musings on millennial motherhood.
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