I have been overwhelmed by ‘Mom Guilt’ with Mila (my second born – 1 years old). Not the odd bad day where you feel like you could have done better… proper full on –bringing you to the brink of tears- guilty feelings. I have had more guilt in the past year than I have had in the 5 years Ella has been alive (all rolled into one).
With Ella I always made time. When I went back to work and she started at crèche then I would dedicate huge chunks of the weekend to playing developmental games with her and setting up activities for her. I would bake creative things for her to eat. After we got home each day I would sit with her and do something small and quick one-on-one and chat about our days, before getting stuck into the chores for the evening.
Mila has had none of that… during maternity leave I was always trying to fit her routine around fetching Ella from school. It was all about what suited the family and she just had to fit in and tag along. I know, I know –I can hear you saying “what’s the big deal?” afterall most children are not only children or first born. Yes, I agree with many of the reasons for not feeling bad…logically -now if only I could somehow convince the mommy side of my brain to get on board with the logical side, then I would really sleep a lot better.
Even after a year I still find most of my free time consumed by Ella, spending most of my Mila time feeding and changing nappies etc instead of the fun stuff. I have no time or capacity to do all the little things I did with Ella. There will no doubt be pros and cons to that and I will (I’m sure) see it in their personalities as they grow up. For example, Mila has a peer in her big sister, someone closer to her age to show her the way things work.
Lately I have really tried to focus more on Mila during playtime in our house… the reality is though that someone always wants to eat, the washing machine is always beeping its reminder that the washing needs to be hung up and once we all settle down there is usually a lovely aromatic nappy that needs attention… seriously something has got to give.
As the world goes through the changes that this CORONA Pandemic has brought to our lives, I have gone through ALL the emotions. Usually spending a considerable amount of time drowning in a pool of anxiety. I have witnessed and heard about tragedies and of how in one way or another people are suffering, have lost loved ones (without being able to attend their funerals or go to the hospitals to say goodbye). Ella’s friend (also 4) had to be hospitalized due to severe asthma and her mom was not allowed to go visit her in the hospital. Her mother (who has 3 other children) only had contact with her daughter via video chats on her daughters iPad (which luckily she had). I can’t imagine the effect on both mom and child of having almost 2 weeks apart during a stressful time. I can’t imagine not being able to hold and comfort my child when they are sick. I have to date only spent one night away from Ella… and that was by choice.
This week instead of being overcome by the anxiety, I have fought hard to try and turn this into a positive experience… to become a real cliché and to try to make every day a happy one (or a day with happy moments for each of us in the family). What if tragedy lies around the corner for me. What if it is tomorrow for us? Do I not want our final few experiences to be happy? What does really matter and what is today’s priority?
My colleague’s daughter (22) passed away a couple of weeks ago (not CORONA related) – but because of the pandemic she could not go to the funeral (as they lived in different countries). My colleague sent a message to us shortly after her tradegy saying that she found such comfort in being the mother that she was to her daughter. She had let her daughter follow her dreams and had helped her to have the fullest life possible. It is a message that I can’t stop thinking about. I realised that instead of disappearing into a pool of self-deprecating, anxiety riddled madness I needed to step out of myself. I need to train myself to live differently, to think differently, to not wait until everything was perfect before starting. Slowly (I think my age has a bit to do with it-midlife crisis and all) I am putting myself out there, caring less of what other people think and making more mindful decisions during the day. Prioritising what is really essential in that moment.
The catalyst for this long ramble was really just rolling the ball to Mila. We had 5 minutes until nap time and I just sat down with her and rolled her car to her, she rolled it back, then we rolled the ball back and forth and then bounced it. All of these little incidental games have huge developmental merit but that wasn’t the point… what was the point was giving her some one-on-one undivided attention, playing with her toys, on her level. Hearing her laugh, appreciating her and feeling my heart sing in her presence.
These are the moments that will define us as a family and as individuals. Not if the dishes are done or the clothes are ironed. I hope that as the days pass by I can start to let go more often, learning to leave the unimportant things for later and to appreciate the moments for what they are –making decisions that prioritise our joy above all else.