Wednesday, October 19, 2011

My guilt, mom-hood, rushing through life and some of my biggest regrets... these are the dark holes in my soul.

I had a an old friend comment today on a photo I posted of me and my daughter -
she said - "i bet you're an amazing mom."

So this started the conversation....

me: you're too kind! the funny thing about mom-hood is that trying to be amazing is really hard, and at the end of most days I feel like I've failed it.

her: Leah that's blasphemy. You love your kids more than anything and the entire facebookiverse knows it!

me: yes - love is the easy part! :) The hard part is not letting the busy, the clutter, the stupid, the mundane of life get in the way from missing all the moments, or being fully present.

I felt like this conversation compounded an onslaught of things lately that have been poking me to address this topic.

This is an on-going struggle for me. The constant guilt I can't ever seem to shake. The overwhelming regret I have for how un-present I have been for my family. At the end of every day I realize the clutter takes over and I missed the moments. My bustling through it got me nowhere important. I spent 6 years working really long days while trying to also watch my kids at the same time, and by the end of my 10 year career gig when i was a complete wreck from trying to do both, I finally walked away -
& all i had to show - .... was the 6 years I lost with my kids.

I'll never get over that. And i have nothing but greatness to speak of for the company I worked for. They were so good to me. I loved the people. the job was completely stressful - yes, but they became a sort of family. it is what it is - and i needed to work and they were truly my best option, but trying to do that from home while my kids could still see me, but not have my attention - was a new heart break every day.

It broke me bit by bit and over time the guilt, the burn out, the stress - it corroded my spirit, and although it was a slow and steady downward spiral for me, I pretty much just lost it over night. i finally hit the wall where I couldn't do all things and something had to give, and I just wasn't willing to let it be my kids any more. i walked. without a net. i didn't know how or if it would work (still don't), but i couldn't do anything else.

this is not an argument for working moms vs. stay at home moms, because I have the utmost respect for both - and I've done both. This is about my OWN inner battle, trying to do both at the same time, and how it utterly did NOT work for ME.

On the busiest of work days, I would start working at 6am. that would give me a couple hours before the kids got up. Then me or my husband would take my daughter to school, and I would spend the day rotating the baby from bouncer to swing, to play yard (which was tightly stuffed in to my home office), to walker, then crib, then repeat. I had one of those boppy bottle holders so he could have his milk because i couldn't take enough time to stop to even do that.
I'd work crazily all day across 2 computers, take conference calls and try to squeeze them in during nap times, and on the really wretched days, I would be stuck on a long conference call (on mute of course) and i would hear the baby wake up and start crying, and I didn't feel like I could say to the client - "I'm sorry I have to go get the baby up", so I would sit in a torturous anxiety filled state where I grew literally hot & panicked and would get more agitated by the second, feeling horrible that I wasn't running to get him. And then i realized - work was coming first. I should have hung up the phone. I should have gone to him. I should have taken more time to hold him and give him his bottle.

I'd skip lunch, keep working, then I would rush out to pick my daughter up from school, and I'd be a stressed out mess during every moment that I was gone, because I'd be getting calls and emails the whole time I was gone. I'd rush her home and be short about her taking too long to get her things, and then I'd run inside, set her up with a snack, try to get the baby to nap again, and then back to work. Then she would come beg for us to go play outside for a while, and I'd be too busy and stressed, and then she'd get upset. And then I'd decay even more. By the time my husband would get home around 6:30, I was still working, and I was such an angry mess by that point that I was done talking for the day. We would rush to try to figure out dinner, get the kids bathed and in bed, and then I'd check emails again, often I'd still be working until 10pm and then rush to shower and get in bed so I could get up early and do it all again. By the peak of my busy season I had lost half my hair from stress, got shingles from stress, I was sick, i got the worst 2 week ear infection of my life, lived on advil and coffee and had started having what I can only assume are panic attacks.
It was merely a life of survival. And I rushed all day every day. I missed all their moments, the conversations, the snuggles, the play time, the bonding time. And I knew it would eventually break me from trying to do both or ruin us all.
I think it would have been easier had they been somewhere else all day while I worked, or had I worked outside of the house. At least they would not see me in front of them but be frustrated that they couldn't have my attention. But I couldn't release my control or my desire to want to be with them, even though I couldn't be present. I didn't necessarily have the option to not work at the time (merely due to budget), but it doesn't make me regret it less. I will always wish i could have done it better, handled it better, not failed at it somehow. Not have noticed the resentment in my 5/6 year old....

There was nothing left of me to give. anyone.

So the only offering of me was the one that couldn't see friends, do playdates, play ball, have time for my husband, or family, sign my daughter up for soccer, do housework, or function - outside of being a working mom.
I was burned out by November... but i staggered on fumes until March/April when I realized i was unsalvageable. That's when i started attempting to document my journey in gifts - inspired by Ann Voskamps' 1,000 Gifts. I wanted to force myself to see the moments I was constantly missing. And i remember the first one that got me. I was taking a quick lunch break to run to the store for milk for the baby, and he was sitting in the front of the cart and we walked out of the cold store and into the sun and he shivered and then smiled and looked up, smiling - like 'what just did that'. And i caught the moment like a picture which i still see in my mind. because it made me smile, which I realized I hadn't done in a while, and it made me really fully aware of a small moment that i was truly thankful for. And it felt like a gift.
#22. sun on neck after shivers.

I started over in May, and embarked on what felt to me like being a first time mom. sad to think of that when I have a 6 year old and a 17 month old at the time. But it felt that way.
This is not an -oh-poor-me story. Because trust me, I am embarrassed by how I handled it, regretful, and still often find lots of anger at myself, and it's hard for me to even share it. These are the darker chambers in the depths of my heart. I somewhat don't even know why I'm bothering to share it either. i wish I was one of those rock-star moms that seems to be so laid back and just takes everything in stride and can handle all of life's stress. Graceful at it somehow. I'm not that.
I am not at all thrilled that this is part of my story. That this is how the beginning stages of our relationships formed. I loathe that. I was given life. and i wasted.

"here dies another day.
During which i have had eyes, ears, hands
And the great world round me:
and with tomorrow begins another.
Why am I allowed two?"

If i could have just been more thankful for my life. More present. more aware.
I was given tomorrow. & tomorrow. & tomorrow....
maybe I would have done it better. I don't know. I'm still trying to figure it out.

let me make clear that I am not trying to convince anyone to quit their job. My regret is totally in how I handled it. I could not have changed the fact that I had to work, and may need to again. It is what it is. I just wish i could have been better for my family at the same time. My encouragement is to do the best with what you have to do. Otherwise, you end up with a lot of anger like I did. And the angrier i got, the more I shut down.

I am still attempting to grow out my mullet :) and ironically, it is still a battle to keep myself fully focused on the moments, to not let myself get busy or overwhelmed, but to see and find and experience joys with my kidlets. They are easy to love, but life is easy to miss, and trying to balance things for the first time, like staying on top of the house, laundry, new business, family time, school, friend time, appointments, etc... It's an ongoing battle to prioritize. I am trying more every day to find my comfortable center. to be the mom I always wanted to be. i wake up thankful every day now, and i try to keep that at the front of my brain. Some days that is easier than others. Lots of days I still feel like I am blowing it. But every day is new. And tomorrow i will wake up, armed for another day, and hope/pray that I live it well.


Katie Langer said...

Thank you for sharing. I, too, am a working mother. I have 5 month old twins and work in the highly stressful child welfare system. I have been waging the inner war of feeling like I'm missing these precious moments with my babies. I tried the working from home andwhile I loved being there, being torn between commitments and forced to physically choose that phone call or that crying baby, it was awful. I dont find it any easier working in the office now as I physically ache for the sweet faces of my babies. I am missing so much but torn by trying to provide for them. Your post showed me I am not alone. That I am right in my regret of having to choose work. I've been struggling, wondering, aching to leave. Your post made me cry but also gave me hope. If you can choose your babies, so can I. Thank you.

Jaime VanLandingham said...

I'm so glad you are sharing all this, It seems to be your journey through the healing process.I feel your pain and I totally understand it. Remember, no mother is perfect, but mothers love perfectly. Love you Leah thanks for sharing.

Mya Bruce Designs said...

Katie - thank you so much for your comment. i always have second thoughts about sharing when i bust right open. i am so sorry for your struggle.
You are indeed not alone. Don't forget that you ARE choosing your babies by needing to provide for them. Not choosing them would be not making sure they have food, milk, warmth... I don't want to sound like I'm trying to convince others to quit their job. Lots of us NEED that job. I sure did. I might again too. My encouragement would be in how to handle it. I just handled it so badly. I was resentful and angry and I focused on the anger too much, and that made me miss the good moments i may have seen. My regret is also in not making myself have better boundaries. work was always here, so I never closed the door to it when I could have. there is a way to function in both worlds I am sure. I just didn't do that well.

Jaime - thanks so much :) love you!

CRbury said...

Beautiful words Leah. And trust me when I say every mom (working or not working) identifies with you on some level. XOXO -CR

Kim Wolpe said...

Leah, you are so insightful to see what you want before it's too late. To realize your priorities and make them just that. It's so brave and giving of you to share your story I know there are so many who can learn from you. I know I constantly learn from you. I hope that you will let this regret go and move forward with the reassurance that you are a wonderful mother and everything your kids need and more. Your family and friends are blessed to have you. Thank you for all that you do.

Leslie @ top of the page said...

Leah, this is such a poignant post. Wow, your working/mothering life sounded awful. I can see how that was unbearable over time, and broke you down on the inside. I too have regrets that are really deep, and hard for me to shake. Agh, the brutality of shame. I've written a lot about that. It is important work to process how Jesus came to free us from it all. I'd love to talk more about that with you if you want. I can hear your need for grace, and accepting that forgiveness. But you're right where He wants you, and He's proud of you. And finally, if you were a perfect mother, your kids would have no need of a perfect God.

Anonymous said...

You are being way too hard on yourself. I learned this today, "God appointes all of our abilities, disabilities, and our handicaps". He always, unlike us, makes no mistakes. We can beat ourselves up, and try to be perfectionist wannabes, but it is not in our grasp and will not change His course. He gives us opportunities,and we offer up that we are incapable of doing them, as He already knows. You are a great mom, and if I had a business, you would be my first choice to run it. You have done well with the gifts He has blessed you with. Mother, daughter, wife, friend, employee, you have excelled because of Him.
Luv U Dad

enviromom81 said...

Thanks so much for sharing. Although it's sad to hear that other moms hold this guilt and feel that they've missed so much, it's comforting to hear I'm not the only one who feels this way.

jolene_s said...

I'm a new 'liker' simply for the big ol' give-away. But, for some reason, your post caught my attention in these quiet hours of the night, and you brought me to tears - because I can relate so well. You are not alone in your struggles to find balance among the things that matter most and handle it all in stride. I loved my career, and the reward that came with it, but I, too couldn't handle both and ultimately had to choose my path: family or career. I'm home now. My kidlets are amazing, but I still find myself feeling incredibly guilty about not being present enough. I need to work on playing more, cleaning less and being that laid back mom. I feel like I'm always saying, "In a minute, honey." You're writing and sharing is wonderfully written, soulful, and just what I needed. Thank you, and God Bless, I mean REALLY Bless you. :-)

Nicole said...

i have thought a lot about since getting married in june. asking God to guard my heart for the most important things in life. so thankful for HIS grace in our lives.


Talysa said...

Thank you for sharing and bearing your soul here. I am not a working mom but I have still wrestled with distractions and being pressed on all sides. Rushing. Busy. Hurry. Precious time wasted. I still struggle with being "all there" even when I share the same space with them all day. You did an amazing thing. You followed your heart and did something that I'm sure was scary. Good for you for saying no to things that won't matter in the long run, and yes to the things that matter most of all. :-)