Mommy Guilt

I don’t care if you have children with two feet or four, if you have “children” you have mommy guilt. It goes along with the territory. It’s in your goodie bag when you leave the hospital, adoption center, or wherever your baby came from. Alas, it’s not something visible, tangible or something they tell you is in there. It’s kinda like those “boxes of love” that one gets as a bridal shower gift that you’re supposed to keep by the stove to “sprinkle” onto your cooking.

Gen Matchette and FamilyYou know about the love, the sleepless nights, the expense, but the guilt? Most likely not. The vast majority of us don’t think about the guilt until after our precious little darlings have gotten a death grip around our hearts. And then, it hits… the first time we go out without them, to work, to shop, to play. The accusing stare, the tears, the crying… how dare we?!

I was as guilty as the next new mommy. Our oldest daughter was only a few weeks old when my husband and I went out to dinner to celebrate our second anniversary at a restaurant less than ten minutes from the house. I was a nervous wreck and felt horribly guilty leaving her alone for <gasp> less than two hours with her doting aunt. Thankfully, that baby is now a teenager and is as normal as most teens. Had I known then what I know now, we would have gone to the movies as well!

My husband and I made the conscious choice to have one of us stay home full-time when our kids were small. Since my husband’s earning potential far outweighed mine, I won the stay-at-home parent lottery. For years, my life revolved around the kids and their needs.  I fit exercise in when I could – exercise videos while they slept, walking around the neighborhood or zoo with the kids in their jogger stroller…

With the first two, I waited until they were off at Montessori school before I ventured back into the gym. I couldn’t bear the thought (translation: guilt) about exercising without them attached to me somehow. With my third and finally little one, I’d developed some thicker skin and the need for some sanity in my crazy spilled-sippy-cup and Goldfish-strewn life. As soon as she was one, we headed back to the gym. My wee one loved it and I tempered my guilt of leaving her by relishing in the fact that she really seemed to enjoy going to see the sweet lady at the gym nursery.

And then I started triathlon.

Thankfully, the gym I went to had a pool so instead of doing aerobics or yoga, I swam while my littlest sweetheart hung out in the nursery. I ran with her in the jogger stroller. Biking was my biggest difficulty. I had to either rely on my hubby, my only training partner in the beginning, or hire a babysitter. Ah, the mommy guilt! Not only was I relying on someone else to watch my babies while I went out and did something that I wanted to do, but I also had to shell out the precious cash to do so.

My husband was the one who really pushed me to look past the money and the guilt, telling me the money was inconsequential – my well-being and physical fitness were more important. I resisted for a really long time, but eventually, my desire to push myself physically and mentally won out. And, a funny thing happened. I realized that despite the expense and the time away from my babies, I was a better mom. I was definitely fitter, but I was also happier. I realized that I needed that time away, especially when my husband was deployed or out of town with his job in the Air Force. Just like my daily phone calls to my other stay-at-home mommy friends, my workouts became a necessity.

Yes, I still feel that mommy guilt and yes, I still reschedule or forgo my training if it interferes with the kids’ schedules. I even get up at “O’Ungodly” (as we refer to it in our house) to get workouts done before the kids get up when we have a busy day ahead. Through the years and with the wisdom that comes with age, I have greatly reduced the amount of mommy guilt that I carry around with me during my workouts. Having training buddies who are also mommies helps. If I’m too hard on myself, they’ll rein me in, and vice versa.

Thankfully, the babysitters that I used to have to spend precious cash on are a thing of the past. The baby that I couldn’t bear to leave with anyone, to do something as frivolous as workout, is now old enough to watch her siblings. The arrangement works out well for both of us. I get some exercise and build up a store of wonderful endorphins that help me deal with her teenage angst while she earns some cold hard cash. The best thing is, I get a family discount and I can run a line of credit with her as long as I need to.

So, Happy Mother’s Day to all of you mommies out there, be you moms to kiddies with two legs or four! I hope that you spend the day how you wish; doing something you love with your babies or solo. Don’t let the mommy guilt drag you down. You truly are a better mom when you take the time to exercise. Besides being able to keep up with your babies, remember, you’re setting a wonderful example for them. And, with any luck, one day you’ll be able to share the joy that exercise brings to you with them.  :0)

GEN MATCHETTE has always been active, participating in a multitude of sports from running to gymnastics and soccer as a child, to yoga, aerobics and kickboxing as an adult. At the urging of a friend, she competed in her first sprint triathlon shortly before her thirty-seventh birthday, at a time when her youngest child was not yet out of diapers... more »

Comments

  1. Amy Patterson says:

    Gen – thank you – this is the best athleta chi entry yet! Resonated so deeply that I was in tears and my youngest daughter hugged on me and asked what was wrong…instantly had mommy guilt for seeming sad on Mother’s Day! Haha! — thank you again, you inspire me. – happy mother’s day! ~ ap

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  2. KP says:

    Well, I didn’t have any children, and I honestly had no clue about this phenomenon! I appreciate your taking the time to let those of us who opted not to have kids know exactly what that feels like. I don’t envy any Mom who goes through the guilt feelings! I can let all of you know that I have 2 of the best, most loving cats. To me, they really feel like my kids. I am so attached to both of them that because I happen to live right on the coast of the Pacific Ocean, it is across the street from my condo complex (very close to Santa Cruz where two men actually lost their lives because they wanted to see the tsunami for themselves and probably didn’t dream that they would be in any danger) after the earthquake in Japan and the raised levels of Radiation positioning in the water here in CA, I will only let my cats drink bottled water! Crazy right? Well, whether or not it is, I think that they deserve only the best and since they can’t go purchase water or get tap water for themselves, it is my responsibility to get them only the best. So I can understand the depth of what a woman must feel like after giving birth to a child that you carried yourself for nine months! I just say that I give you a great deal of credit and wish you a very happy Mother’s Day this year and for the rest of the year’s to come!!

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  3. jackie says:

    Thank you so much for this post! I’m dealing with this exact thing right now. I work full time so I feel guilty spending any additional time away from my 7-month old. But I haven’t been myself because I haven’t been training. I mean, not even training I haven’t been doing anything! I needed to hear that it’s OK to spend the time, and money, to go out and take care of myself. My husband has no problems finding the time to get his workouts in. I need to make it more of a priority for myself. Thank you!

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  4. Sandy S says:

    Gen, i too experience mommy guilt — which is why i started incorporating the playground into my weekely workouts. Lol sometimes I regret that I did it because now i’m actually held accountable by my kids for those sunday workouts — “mommmmm, you promised that every sunday we’d go to the park!!!” I’m sure you had a most excellent mother’s day, and thanks for reminding us to not feel guilty. :-)

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  5. Great blog! And so true! I need that time to myself to be a better mom, wife and just a better person in general. Thanks for sharing:)

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