Thursday, January 24, 2008


Parenting guilt issues # 34789

I am a mothering anomaly.

Here I am, a SAHM, still, because I can't bear not to be around for my kids. When they might need me. (Because I feel compelled to drive them hither and thither to all their sports after school, more like.)

Plus, what the hell would I do with them in school holidays if I had to work?

While they were little, even though they often drove me mad, I still, inexplicably, wanted to be at home with them, though not because I set out to be like that. It was just how it happened and how I felt once they were in my life. [Helped to be kind of 'between careers' and not knowing what the hell to do for work.] Oh, I choofed them off to preschool soon enough. From around 2 years old, they started one to two days a week, building up to about three days by the time they were 4. They needed it, and so did I. I'm no mother saint. And I waved them off quite happily when they each started school. Yee ha!

(Mind you, I've always objected slightly to the 'Home' part of the SAHM acronym, because being out and about with them happened just as much as being at home. I used to love going shopping with #3, once she was the only one left at home. Can you believe I said that? This is the same 'me' who told Ms 14 and Ms 12 to go sit in the car while I went through the supermarket the other day! No, #3 was a real delight when she didn't have big sisters bossing her around and arguing over who got to sit in the trolley, or push the trolley... And she still talks about how she and I used to go to a coffee shop - I'd have a cappucino, and she'd have a babycino!)

But I'd be lying if I didn't tell you that I'd occasionally [OFTEN!] feel a bit trapped when they were little... particularly because my husband worked long hours, and then when he changed jobs in 1997 (with the move up here), he started going away a lot as well as working long hours. I was on call 24/7, and when he was home we didn't get round to doing anything as smart as getting a babysitter so we could get out together. He just wanted to 'be home' after being away for so long, so it didn't really happen.

A few years ago I gradually, and finally, started doing a few things for myself. Blessed with well-behaved girls, I could start leaving them unsupervised to watch (or play) while I did a 1 hour swim squad class. They were old enough, by then, I figured, that it wouldn't kill them to watch or wait for me for a change, given the hours and hours I spent watching them. (And there was the Role Model stuff - exercise, fitness, etc - that had merit as well.)

As #1 and #2 got older and proved to be pretty responsible and sensible, I've gradually built up the time I could leave them at home. I started with deliberately getting home from shopping, for example, half an hour after they got home from school. So they could handle letting themselves in, and so they could cope with things if I ever got held up in traffic, or the car broke down, or the like.

I started going out for 45 min walks.. and I have built it up from there. I do feel a whole lot happier having a mobile phone, so they can contact me anytime. (Except when I'm in the swimming pool!)

So, with the eldest at 14 now, this past year it feels as if we've been pushing the envelope more and more. She's old enough to babysit other people's kids, so surely she'll be right 'in charge' at home? I now leave them at home while I go to netball meetings. And they cope just fine. (TV choice here they come.)

Being the crazy couple that we are, Marc and I have started getting our 'us' time with our early morning bike rides. (It does feel better leaving them when it's daylight. Yep. Some people go out for romantic dinners. We go out for a bike ride and breakfast!) We leave here around 5.40, and get back around 9.30 or 10.00. But half that time they're in bed!

When netball was on we'd ring them at 8.00 to make sure everyone was out of bed and getting themselves ready for netball. (Now #1 and #2 get themselves up to do a paper run!) But if we weren't out riding, we'd probably still be in bed, and they'd be doing the exact same thing - computer or TV! So I don't feel too bad about it. We'd have to nag at home for them to get ready, and it is possible to nag via phone!! (And to tell them to hang the washing out!)

Lately, though, it seems we've been taking even more liberties, and here's where I'm starting to tousle with my conscience.

Last Sunday we left home around 10.30 to go to a bicycle group AGM. They could have come, but didn't want to. It was supposed to be at 11.00, but didn't start till 12.00! By the time it finished at 2.00 I was famished, so we went and had lunch. (Then went to the hardware store.) Rang them a couple of times and they were fine. They had even very capably made themselves a special lunch! Egg and ham breadcups no less! Baked in the oven! (Though Ms 14 needs Ms 12 to break the eggs!)

I still felt rather guilty because they were home pretty much all day Sunday by themselves, and not doing anything much bar TV, computer and reading .. but then, once we were home, everyone continued doing much the same thing anyway! When we're not full on active sports, we specialise in Sloth!

Last Tuesday I left at 6.15 to go riding with a friend. Marc was home till he left for work around 8.30 ... only #3 was up, but she already knew I'd gone riding.

When I finished my ride I rang home at about 10.00. #2 answered.
Where are you? she asked.
I thought you must have been still up in bed!
Good communication all round, huh? And.. um... makes me look like the slacko that I am every other day if she thought I was still in bed!

Still, I felt a bit sheepish as I then had a coffee before heading home. I did take them some vanilla slice which made me feel a whole lot less guilty! And what do you know.. they were all ready and organised to go iceskating. So... no problem. I wouldn't have been doing anything with them in that time anyway! Would I? Except nagging them to clean their rooms, pick their shoes up off the floor. Etc.

I would have been on here while they did their own thing anyway.

Tonight I went swimming. (Leaving them to put pies in the oven for dinner!).

And with this weekend coming up, I have a bit of a raging debate happening within. Up there in my head. Between my conscience, and the "I wanna" part of me, wherever it is.

Marc is away for work (and then sport) till Sunday night and I have the choice of:

Saturday morning ride. 6.00 till about 9.30.
A Sunday morning ride - 7.30 till mmmm, maybe 12.00 by the time I get home.
Tuesday morning ride again... 6.15 till... 11 ish. And it's the last day of the school holidays.

My conscience tells me that I'd be going a bit overboard if I left them at home while I did all three... (My inner sloth tells me I don't want to get up at 5 am on Saturday!)

My conscience tells me that if I can leave them for all that, I could go and get a damn job already...

My common sense tells me they will be fine, and I should Seize the Day, and take the opportunity to do some exercise... and soon enough it'll be term time again and I'll be running them all over the countryside.

If you made it this far... What do you think?


Being holiday time they will probably sleep in so go.

Even with telling them the night before it would be good to leave a note on the table reminding them you are gone until ???

If they are comfortable,( have they ever said otherwise? )you can be comfortable. You have your mobile, they know how to dial and I'm sure you've given them emergency numbers.

We mothers take longer letting go then children. Some part of it, I think, is our need to be needed.
Lol - I think maybe I am not the person to give advice, as I feel guilty if the neighbour has my child for too long during the day while I am working.

I am very good at self-guilt generation myself. Its a gift.

If you do not need to work, then don't use the time to generate another version of guilt - I think it should be called "Trace time" and you have carte blanche to do what you want.

If the kids want more you time, then so long as they are comfortable with asking and you with listening they will ask.

Its the end of holidays - we can find a myriad of shadows to jump at!
ask the kids if they want to do anything special with you before holidays end?
You are my guiding angel E.

Jeanie, I always did the guilt thing about people minding my kids while I did something. Always obsessed about returning the favour equally.

I don't need to work financially. I just wonder if I need to work for my self esteem.

We are going shopping this afternoon, and to the movies.
Well, the early part of your post sounds like my life right now!!! Very bizzare.
I think telling them the night before of your intention and leaving a note as a reminder in the morning is a good thing, as Elizabeth said. It sounds like you guys all have an understanding pretty much worked out by now. If they look peeved when announcing your intentions, perhaps that is their way of saying that they need you more. You could ask them what they hoped to do instead or whatever and if it there were some hopes on their behalf, you coudl talk about doing them when you get back.
Like Jeanie, I am the guilty-ridden queen. Mine are still pretty dependant, so I can not reflect upon a similar experince with older children. My son is starting primary school on Tuesday and I am pretty anxious about that, and a bit sad. It is going to be weird not having him aroudn all day long. He is pretty full on and quite overwhelming, but I feel guilty that my secret wish for some brand of peace from that kind of chaos is about to be granted. My girl starts kindy the following wednesday and it will literally be the first two and a half hours of unscheduled time I will have had to myself in 6 years. That is itself is completely overwhelming - a few hours to myself...I feel like I don't deserve isn't that sad? Thanks for the honesty in this post.

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