I don’t know about you, but I feel guilty about loads of things about my kids. I want them to be well-rounded and happy. I want them to be polite and liked by others. I want them to be thoughtful and unaffected.
And if they’re not, it’s a reflection on me, isn’t it? For isn’t it my responsibility as a mother to ensure my kids turn out just right? It’s a huge responsibility, this thing we call ‘Motherhood’ and we all strive so hard to be absolutely perfect at it. But are we expecting too much from our children and ourselves?
I gave up full time work in corporate marketing seven-and-a-half years ago, a few weeks prior to the birth of my first child. I was determined to be a full time mum and thought that by becoming one, I would give my children the greatest chance possible to grow up to be the best kind of adult.
What I didn’t count on was my in-built need for mental stimulation that went way beyond changing dirty nappies or cleaning up baby vomit. Sure, the dirty nappies and vomit cleaning-up didn’t take their toll for a while. At first, I was delighted (and completely unprepared) for anything my new baby did. But by about nine months into this motherhood gig, though I loved my son dearly and we did everything together and I remember saying he was my ‘best friend’ (surely a sign there was something wrong!), there were times when he slept for hours on end and the housework just wouldn’t cut it as something that fulfilled my life’s purpose.
My mind kept wandering back to that latent desire I’d always had: to be a writer. And, while he slept it was a perfect time for me to research that historical novel I’d always wanted to write. Some nights while his father minded him, I could even slip into the State Library to delightedly trawl for hours through roll after roll of micro-film, piecing together the potted history of colonial ancestors from old newspapers. Then, after several hours, I’d skip home just in time for the midnight breastfeed. It was all timed perfectly. Motherhood and a few hours of freedom. Who could ask for more?
Now the years have flown by and my writing career has surprisingly taken off. I’m finding it’s demanding more and more of my time. So, too, are my three children.
Who comes first?
I’d like to say it’s always them, but sometimes it’s not. And here’s where the guilt creeps in… Am I being selfish for occasionally putting myself first?
Sometimes they have to go to daycare or after-school care because I’m working. The guilt on those days is horrendous. It’s not made any better by the fact that my two-year-old daughter cries most mornings when I drop her off at daycare. Though several minutes later she’s perfectly fine, it’s the crying when I leave that makes me feel depressed and guilty. Am I damaging her irreparably? Or is she just ‘putting it on’? I don’t think I’ll ever know.
It’s even harder to juggle everything in school holidays, because I try to spend more time with them but the work doesn’t slow down. The emails keep coming, demanding to be answered. The deadlines march ever closer, demanding that I write that manuscript I’ve been paid an advance for.
One way I try to cope is by limiting any unnecessary time I have away from them. It’s not easy. Most events I attend take place while the kids are at school (or daycare, which is only three days a week). Any night time activities take place after they are in bed anyway so I don’t feel so much that they are missing out. And when I am with them, I try to remember that there is more to life than ironing and washing and cleaning. That time with them can be spent playing board games, reading books, drawing, going on trips to the zoo or the beach and so on.
If we have take away some nights because I’ve spent time playing with them instead of cooking a fancy meal, then so be it. If I didn’t bring the washing in from the line and it gets soaked from the rain (again) because I was reading with them by the fire, then so be it. Life’s too short to worry about these things, anyway. At least this way, the time spent with my kids is as special as it can be.
I need to work for that good feeling inside me. That sense of achievement and worth. And I want to work. I love writing and expressing myself and seeing my books illustrated and published. So, I must keep doing it.
If I could have my kids stay the ages they are now – 7, 5, and 2, life would be perfect. But wishes like that don’t come true and life is never perfect, so I guess all I can do is make the most of the age they are now and the ages they will be in the future.
Aleesah Darlison writes picture books and novels for children. She also reviews books for The Sun Herald. Her first picture book, Puggle’s Problem, was released in July. Her junior series for girls aged 7 plus, Totally Twins: Musical Mayhem, was released in September. The series follows the adventures of identical twins, Persephone (she’s the sensible one) and Portia (she’s the messy one) Pinchgut and is written in diary format by Persephone. To find out more about Aleesah, visit her website here.
Next stop on Aleesah’s blog tour is the Squiggle Mum blog, where Aleesah will be talking about the joys and challenges of writing for children.
Is your motherhood guilt-free? Do you struggle to combine your work with your motherhood? Do you crave more mental stimulation? What choices have you made and are you happy with the balance you’ve achieved?