I had my first case of Mommy Guilt recently. Normally, I roll my eyes at the idea that I should feel guilty about most things Mommy-related. I do the best I can; beyond that, just get off my back, people! But last week my daughter's class had a field trip and she wanted me to go. Badly. Deeply. Seriously. She gets so excited about riding the bus and she wanted me to sit beside her. It's not lost on me that the moment is quickly approaching when she wouldn't want me within 100 miles of her friends, much less sitting beside her on a school bus. But she demanded that we buy her sack lunch immediately and she dutifully packed it about 900 days in advance. (Luckily she was willing to put it in the fridge until trip day--otherwise we'd have a Rudy Huxtable situation--anybody remember that episode?). Her teacher told her that mommies and daddies could go with them, so she came home and told me that I had to go. I told her that I had to go to work, that I had students who needed their teacher just like she needs her teacher (I'm sure my students would disagree, but that's not the point). The Babydoll wasn't buying it. She wanted me to go and no other answer would do. I felt awful. She felt awful. Her desire was so sincere. I apologized about a million times. I started to think that maybe I should just cancel two of my classes and get on the stupid bus. My husband thought that was a ridiculous idea; I guess he should be an expert on the matter since he was taking his happy behind to work that day without a thought about this field trip--not an ounce of guilt there.
Trip day came and she didn't mention my impending absence. I put a note in her lunch wishing her a fun trip. She was thrilled at receiving "mail" along with her lunch. When I picked her up she showed me her pumpkin. She told me how another child's mother helped her with her lunch (I'd asked the mom to coddle her a little). She reenacted the dancing chicken they saw (don't know why a dancing chicken was at the pumpkin patch, but okay). She had a wonderful report of a fabulous field trip. But then she asked again why I didn't go. She expressed--again--that she really wanted me to go "because I love you Mommy!"
Now how was I supposed to respond to that? I turned away to fiddle with papers and hide the tears that were threatening to spill down my face.
I have to work. Well, I don't HAVE to, if I adhere to the "stay-home-at-all-costs-because-it's-the-only-way-to-be-a-loving-mother" philosophy. Of course, I would expect the student loan police to show up at every turn. And we'd never get ourselves into a decent school district on one paycheck. And I'd be annoyed and lonely and unfulfilled because I really do feel like I was meant to do the work I'm doing. Have to or not, the fact is that I have a job and I'm going to keep on having a job. Ninety-five percent of the time, I feel no guilt for working. In fact, I feel so blessed that the work I love often comes with the possibility of two days a week at home, summers off if I choose, and a flexible schedule. But when it collides with mommyhood, I do feel like I'm abandoning my children.
What will I do to remedy this feeling? I don't know, but I'll have another chance next week: I have class during my son's harvest party. Any chance the flu shot will vaccinate against this, too?