Friday, May 27, 2011

Parent Guilt

I've written before about the state of terror I entered upon realising I was pregnant, and the somewhat surprised happiness I felt upon Little E’s birth. This persisted until she was maybe 10 months old, whereupon she started sleeping properly at night. Suddenly I wasn’t constantly exhausted anymore. It was like waking up from a dream. I had the energy to be bored.

Now I vary between enjoying being at home with E, and wishing that there was something more to my life, and then feeling guilty for wishing that. I enjoy spending time with her. I know it’s a luxury that we can afford for me not to be in paid work. I love it when E learns things, I love it when I recognise an expression of mine or D’s on her face. Her cuteness and rapidly diminishing babyness and her beauty touch my heart multiple times a day. I feel enormously gratified that I can comfort her when no one else can. I don't like the idea of giving up the opportunity to witness/partake in all that, even to her grandparents. Simultaneously I want more. My brain feels tired from not being used in the ways I was accustomed to using it before her birth.

There are too many days when I have to force myself to play with E. We go out a lot, to parks and to see friends, which we both enjoy. But there are too many days where I find myself trying to distract her so I can do something else, like read a book or the newspaper or a stupid website, and not even enjoying it because for one who can enjoy any of these things whilst trying to watch a toddler, and second why should someone with a toddler get to do these things instead of playing with their child? I hope that if I was at work a few days a week that our time together would be more precious and I would be a better and more genuinely enthusiastic parent.

I have moments where I sit in the garden, drinking a cup of tea in a chair in the sun, watching E play, when I think “isn’t this better than being in an office, panicking about some case or the other, writing lists of the most urgent things I have to do so I can prioritise how to get through the day, telling some poor blighter that if he doesn’t come up with an astronomical amount of money we’re not going to be his lawyers any more?

Some of the time it is, and the rest of the time it patently isn’t. If you’d asked me how I felt about work two years ago, I’d have probably said that I was keen for a change, and that I wanted the opportunity to stay at home, read stories, play with a baby, go for walks, to not be responsible to anyone but my family. Nonetheless, despite the near constant stress, I was proud that I managed my job the way I did. I know all the reasons I resigned when my maternity leave ran out are good reasons. It was an easy choice at the time. I’m not desperate enough to go back to that job and given my commitments now, I hope I never am. I know all the reasons why criminal law is a hard job to do part time, and why it’s worth waiting for a job that I can comfortably do part time to come along.

We could try to have a second baby sooner rather than later, but, probably selfishly, I want a little bit of time where I'm not pregnant and not caring for a tiny baby as well as a toddler. E is nearing the end of breastfeeding. If I became pregnant immediately it would also mean being out of the workforce for probably 3-4 years and that seems like a long time given I only worked for 6 years before Little E was born.

It frustrates me that all of this isn’t even an original way to feel. Is all of parenthood a universality? Can’t I have even one unique experience?

The dominating feelings right now are impatience, frustration, guilt. Those are not good ways to feel.

I hope something turns up soon.

** I finished writing this five minutes ago and then read a lovely post at Team O'Toole. I am converting this into my Grateful post because I should focus on the many good things in my life and not be a misery guts. I am grateful for the fact that I have the opportunity for the work/baby dilemma to occur. Here's to positivity.


Alice Becomes said...

such an honest post. And I do know all the feelings you mentioned here. As you say, these are not original feelings for any parent to have. But choosing to focus on the positive side, well not all parents do that...

Gill xo

deux chiens et un garcon said...

Hey, I really liked reading your thoughts.

Every family situation is unique. And your are too.

I think there is too much pressure on trying to do everything right. I have realsied I cant be everything to my toddler son. I am not really into make believe or imaginary play. He can get that from others. When I think about my own childhood all I really wanted was to be loved, cuddled and have food and a warm safe place and be have the opportunity to be with friends.

Those little precious moments to yourself are so important.

x jll

Jane said...

Oh, I really *get* what you're saying here. As an insurance litigation lawyer who's not been practising for the past 3 years (we have our 3 pixies under 6), I'm sitting on a big, fat Pandora's box full of concerns about when I'm going to return to paid work and how. I'm building up to a post on it! J x

jody said...

Good on you for choosing to focus on the positive! :)

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