Mum guilt is very real and can strike at any time!
For the first half of 2018, I had my kids with me full time. No weekends off, very little time away from them, and carrying 100% of the load. Every meal they’ve eaten I’ve provided. Every piece of clothing they’ve worn, I’ve washed, and every time they’ve dropped their crap on the ground I’ve picked it up.
Mid 2018, that changed and I finally had a weekend “off”. I try not to think about things too deeply, but it’s an odd feeling as a Mum, particularly such a hands-on Mum. When I had kids, I never imagined that I’d spend every second weekend without them and they’d have a whole other life, but that’s life as it is today and it can’t be changed. I guess the best thing to do is to not dwell on it and just accept that this is how it is.
Let me tell you, after 7 months full time with the kids and the last 3 weeks being school holidays I’m not going to lie – I was counting down the days, hours and minutes until they went to their father’s house.
That is – until they left. And then I was at home with their stuff everywhere, toys they’d been playing with before we went to drop them off still in the same spot they were sitting. B1’s Kindle still running. The house in silence.
Before the weekend I was tossing and turning between wanting to hang out with other people and “just leave me alone I don’t want to see anyone or talk to anyone I want to cherish the silence“. I opted for a bit of both. No wild plans, some socialising and some time to myself. I’ve never been a big party animal anyway and certainly have no interest in starting now. I much prefer a quiet wine, nice dinner or coffee with close friends, then some time to recover for the week ahead.
Saturday came and went fairly quickly, I squeezed in some exercise, met a friend for lunch, worked a little bit and watched a movie. As I was getting ready to pick up the baby who still comes home to sleep, I received a text message to say one of the other boys also wanted to return home.
At the end of the text message was a sentence – “hope your night wasn’t ruined“. Look, I know it was said with no meaning behind it. We have mutually decided to start respecting each other more and set an excellent example for our kids so I’m reasonably sure it was just a “sorry if you had other plans”. Which I did. But to cancel those plans to hang out with one of my most favourite people and one of the 4 people who are most important to me is undoubtedly no inconvenience and my night wasn’t ruined. I got to hang out with my 4-year-old son one on one which virtually never happens.
His little brother fell asleep pretty much as soon as we got home so B3 and I watched the Gruffalo, read the book, and then we snuggled in his bed until he fell asleep. There was no place I would’ve rather been.
One on one time with any of the children is rare, and this was amazing.
Sunday, the Mum guilt settled in. Maybe it was due to the night before or perhaps I blocked it out on Saturday. The overwhelming feeling that I am a Mum, and therefore, I must do Mum things even when I’m not with the kids was not something I could shake. The guilt was so bad, I cancelled all plans to stay home and give their bedrooms a thorough clean, organise their clothes and pretty much sit back and waited for pick up time.
How do you switch off from being Mum every second weekend, especially when you are so deep in motherhood every single day? How do you not feel this dreaded Mum guilt? I almost feel I’m cheating on them by taking time off to enjoy myself, I don’t talk to them about what I did while they were away because I don’t want them to think that I enjoy time away from them. It’s a weird feeling. Cherishing the silence and not having to run after 4 other people but also finding the silence is deafening. Sitting amongst kids toys that are just waiting to be played with.
Before the last 7 months, the children went to their father’s house every 2nd weekend, and I don’t remember having this kind of guilt attached to those visits. Maybe because I was going through a phase of recovery and focused on myself, I didn’t have time to feel guilt. I do remember not being home very often though because I couldn’t handle the silence.
I wonder if this is how it is going to be from now on, always feeling guilty for doing things for myself even when I’m not on Mum duty and then desperately wanting “time off” when I’m knee-deep in children on the other 12 days a fortnight.
My home is filled with toys, has fingerprints on everything and is never quiet. My hair is usually a mess, and I’m always tired, but there is always love and laughter. In 20 years my children won’t remember the house or my hair, but they will remember the time we spent together and the love they felt.
Kirsty is the founder of That Noise Is Mine.
An established blogger, writer and business owner raising 4 children independently. Kirsty is determined to succeed in this new life forced upon her.