Mama guilt – a dog called Bob

In case you missed the blahblah memo, I’ve started working full time, and with the change in routine I’ve developed a healthy dose of working-mother guilt. Before I was a mum full time, a wife full time, a freelance worker (so, somewhere between ‘every waking minute’ and ‘not at all’); and yet somehow I felt like half of nothing. Now I feel fulfilled, there is guilt for dessert. Almost like a woman with kids isn’t a proper mother unless she puts part of herself away and leaves it there until her kids give their blessing for her to go and retrieve it, many years later when it may no longer be there. I’m not saying this is how it is, just how I feel.

Where does our identity come from in our 30s when so much of our 20s is centred around a working persona? I’ve been wrangling with this for some time now, in my search for work satisfaction – be it part-time or freelance. The right job came along, but with it full time hours. I talked it over with the girls who are excited to go to before and after school care (so far…). It will mean a lot to me, personally, to have a separate identity outside the home again.

Even freelancing, my work in the home office was always without clear boundaries, with loads of washing here, pickups there, and hours that extended late into the night at my computer. My thoughts on working identity are a post for another day. Right now? This little worker bee is loaded up with guilt about how much I love being back at work in an office.

Sitting at my desk at 9 each morning feels so natural for me, it’s like I stepped back in time 10 years and misplaced a couple of kids along the way.

Working mother guilt. My new buddy, like a pet dog that lives in my handbag. We’ll call him Bob. Bob catches the train with me every day. He barked like an annoying MOFO when I missed the first infants’ sports carnival on Day 3. He made me buy lots of charity pens and daffodils on Daffodil Day, in case each seller at 200 m intervals in the city thought I hadn’t bought anything, since I purchased from the first schoolgirls I saw off the train that morning. (Does anyone else’s brain work this way?!)

Bob tells me going to the gym would be a selfish indulgence now I’m gone so much. Bob is probably letting my littlest get away with a bit more bad behaviour than usual, and a bit more clingy ‘mummy’ behaviour too, because, transition. Change. I did it to her. Stupid dog. Bob even tells me to eat Tim Tams in the office far too often, and I’m sure he’s the evil little bugger who arranged for my skin to breakout. That dog has powers. Powers to the nth arsehole degree.


My stupid mummy-guilt dog Bob. Ugly little shit.

My stupid mummy-guilt dog Bob. Ugly little shit.

I’d euthanase the dog, but I don’t need to. I just feed him a lovely barista-made coffee, a toilet break with a closed door and nobody yelling, and a healthy dose of work respect, and POOF! He’s gone. His stupid fluffy little head tucks back into the recesses of my handbag.

That’s right, people. I said RESPECT. That’s what’s been missing, and what I’ve found back at work. The jury’s still out, but it *may* be even more important than money.

Among the other perks, aside from a choice of coffee, respect, lunch breaks, shops, RESPECT and the knowledge that my brain won’t atrophy, is the train. My spoilt 20s-self thought the train was a hardship to be endured. Now it’s an uninterrupted 40 mins of quiet time, just for me, twice a day, when I couldn’t be doing washing or sweating it out in a Pump class even if I wanted to. Take THAT, Bob.

I’m excited about this new bend in the lane. Bob is a fluffy dog, small and manageable. I’ll turn him into a football at some point, when I’m ready to let him go.

Do you carry around a mother-guilt dog in your handbag? What do you feed him to shut him up? 

14 thoughts on “Mama guilt – a dog called Bob

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  2. The guilt allows you to achieve so much more – I did more with the kids after school on the “my kids won’t miss out because I’m working” guilt, than they do now – night time tours of the museum, observatory, night noodle markets all sorts of things. It’s what keeps you on top of things (also put more effort into book parade etc – now it’s just ‘sure, wear that onsie’)
    So keep him in your handbag for when you’re a little out of sorts, but know that it makes you like a cool French lady (or Paris Hilton).
    Lydia C. Lee recently posted…Things I (don’t) know…My Profile

  3. I skimmed this first and saw what Bob was saying and was about to tell you to give Bob what for when I read it properly :D

    Mother guilt is something we all do – but you have a right to be happy. Guilt is only useful if it is teaching us not to do something again, and you are doing nothing wrong. So if you find yourself beating yourself mentally, perhaps you could try challenging and rationalising those thoughts, eg “No, I am not a bad mum, I know this, I have seen bad parenting and this is not it. It’s ok not to feel guilty about this” and so on.

    You’ve sent your mind on quest to figure out something unsolvable – how to make every member of your family happy all the time. Tell your brain, each time you catch your thoughts on this, that it is ok to stop now, there is no answer, stop looking for one and just relax :) No catastrophic language either. It’s not terrible, awful, horrible. It’s a bit annoying, irritating, makes you feel a bit bad etc. Save the catastrophic stuff for the real catastrophies :)

    It will take time, if you practise catching your unconscious thoughts as they whiz past you will find a lot more inner chatter and negative self thoughts than you realised you ever had, most probably. I had no idea that I had an inner Alison nagging the hell out of me until one day I tuned in to radio Mental. When we shut the thoughts down and suppress them they just pop up in another place, like bubble wrap. The only way to really stop them is to challenge them and keep challenging them until they give up.

    Or, just ignore me, because I tend to lecture about CBT stuff because it changed my life so much for the better :) Either way, so long as you keep on blogging when you have the time!
    Alison recently posted…Sometimes more is just too muchMy Profile

    • Oh wow, Alison. Thank you for such an amazingly thoughtful and insightful comment. No way am I going to ignore you- you’re my new guru, cos you’re absolutely right. Wish I could hug you from here. I’m going to reread this whenever the dog gets the better of me. Xx

      • Sheesh, Guru Ace is a terrifying prospect. Picture the world we’ll be living in shortly – lots of Converse and Sarong wearing hippies with uncut hair headbanging to Foo Fighters and telling people they are not keen on to eff off in no uncertain terms. On the other hand nobody will be watching any TV so we’ll sort that little problem out in one fell swoop. There will also be a LOT more swearing. Actually, I’m coming round to the idea…:D

        CBT is amazing. It really, really helped with me a number of things, particularly anxiety issues. Hope it helps a wee bit :)
        Alison recently posted…my own tips for bloggers.My Profile

  4. Guilt. Why is it a mother thing? Hubby went back to work when the kids were three weeks old. Where’s the guilt? (Shouldn’t ask that. There is actually guilt there. But not as much as if it was the other way around, I’m sure.)

    There’s no escaping it though. Here I am at home, both kids asleep, and I feel guilty that I’m so happy they’re both asleep at the same time. We’re just programmed to feel it. All. The. Time.
    Emily recently posted…LaughterMy Profile

    • I know. Is it some leftover neanderthalithic bullshit survival thing that we could really do without or something? Like, ‘ding ding! Remember don’t go picking berries too long mama cos bears will come and eat your babies in the cave’? Grrrr. Move on, human DNA.

    • You always make me feel better Brenda. Thanks for reminding me that if I wasn’t being guilty here I’d be guilty somewhere else. As you, and Gaga say, ‘baby we were born this way’.

  5. Great post, my wife went back to work two weeks ago, I can’t wait to show her this… she’ll love it.

    She’s gone through the whole spectrum of feelings as well… guilt plays a big part. Guilt that she’s away but more so guilt that she’s LOVING being back in the workplace, LOVING being needed somewhere not at home, LOVING that she gets to talk to big people, LOVING that she gets out of the house…

    but she also HATES the fact that she LOVES all those things.

    Guilt. It’s a bitch. Like Bob.
    Alex recently posted…A Few Things…My Profile

  6. I think you’ve summed up the feelings of many working mothers. I definitely had a Bob when I went back to working full time, but managed to turn him into a football when I changed to part time work and could work mostly around the kids. I so get that taking time out for yourself feels sooo self-indulgent, especially when you get all that “free” time on the train. Respect for work is so important, it makes a huge difference to your self-esteem, doesn’t it?
    Dorothy recently posted…Bad habits strike againMy Profile

    • It really does Dorothy- I feel much better about myself the past couple of weeks (Bob aside). Part-time… Well. I’m not sure where those jobs are. One day!

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