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Single +1

Mother’s Guilt. Is there anything like it? The joy of motherhood is something that is completely indescribable but the worry and guilt that comes along with it is equally beyond words. As little girls we spend countless hours playing with our baby dolls, combing their hair and changing their clothes, all the while imagining being a Mommy to a real baby when we grow up. What we don’t imagine is having a mental and emotional battle between formula and breast feeding because, while you know that one is better than the other and formula is ridiculously expensive, your boobs are going to look like hell after you’re done. Then there’s spending 10 minutes standing in the fruit isle at the grocery store contemplating whether or not an organic banana is really worth six bucks.  From the little decisions to the big ones, you constantly worry if somehow, someway, you’re going to screw it up.

I never imagined I would be a mom at 20, much less a single mom. But I was and I am and no matter what I do or who I become, Prinny will always be my biggest accomplishment. That being said, there is a nagging feeling that is tugging at my heart. One of my favorite authors, Nora Ephron, once said that she never truly knows how she feels until she writes it down. Well…here we go. As much as I love being a mother, as much as I love being Prinny’s mother…I want more. We’re told as women that motherhood is supposed to complete us, make us truly fulfilled. And it does. But at the same time it doesn’t. I want a career too. Just writing those words, even thinking those words, my heart hurts because I feel that I am failing my daughter in some way. I am wracked with guilt and shame because how dare I…how dare I want more for myself? Isn’t being a mommy supposed to be enough?

I was a stay at home mom for two years and loved every single minute of it. I got to spend the entire day with my little angel, listening to her laugh, watching her play and discover the world one rollie pollie at a time. It was a magical time in my life, in our lives, and I wouldn’t trade it for anything in the world. And then I had to go to work. Every morning I would take Prinny to daycare and then go to a job where I basically sold my soul begging countless people to buy real estate from me in an economy that was being compared to The Great Depression. My bank account was hemorrhaging money and I felt like I was missing out on seeing my baby grow up; I was completely miserable and hated every minute of it. And then fate stepped in. One day I was putting my name, face and phone number on everything from billboards to Frisbees and the next I was interviewing the governor of Mississippi. Looking back now, it was a wild ride and I’m still not quite sure how I got here. What I do know however, is that I wasn’t going to work every day for just a job anymore; I had discovered a career field that I loved. Simply put, I was hooked. But as much as I love my job, as much as it has truly become a part of who I am, I feel guilty every time I walk out that door, leaving my five year old at home in the care of someone who isn’t me, who isn’t “Mommy”.

We all know we do things differently in the South. But there’s a part of me that can’t help but wonder if maybe, just maybe, we’re doing one of those things wrong. I look at the wedding announcements every week and more often than not read: “Jane Smith graduated summa cum laude from Mississippi State with her degree in bio chemistry. She is currently employed as a teller at ABC Bank.” Now if that is what she wants to do, that’s wonderful but, I know I’m going out on a limb here and probably stepping on toes, but what happened to having a career before marriage and a baby? Saying that it’s OK to be selfish and put yourself and your career first instead of settling into some mediocre 8-5 job just to pay the bills? Where did that go? I admittedly had a baby and got married before establishing myself in a career and part of me questions if I would miss less and be home more if I had worked on my career first. I’m vehemently trying to balance motherhood and a career and to be honest, there are moments of doubt that creep in when I wonder if I’m failing at both.

There are millions of women, all over the world, married and single, who go to work every day and leave their children in the care of someone else. Since the 1950’s women have poured into the workforce being told that “We can do it.” But what happens when we find out that not only can we do it, but we can excel at it? What’s the trade-off? How many school plays, field trips, soccer games and piano recitals are we willing to miss? As much as I love going to work everyday, that dang Cat’s in the Cradle song is on repeat in my mind and that dreaded feeling of guilt is a constant companion. But at the end of each day I come home feeling happy, accomplished and fulfilled and those feelings are multiplied by a thousand when I am greeted at the door by my sweet little girl giving me a hug and a kiss and telling me all about her day. I am blessed to have two jobs that I love; one is at home and one is at work. I can only hope that that feeling of fulfillment I get from my job at work helps me do a better job at home. And vice versa. Because when it comes right down to it, being a mommy is the best job I’ll ever have.

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4 comments

  1. Single -3.

    “Yes” to breast milk. It’s good, naturally sweet stuff; and, there’s no doubt the boobs will still look fine as ever after you’re done.

  2. Monica

    I have recently started reading your article. You have a way with words, and I look forward to reading every week. I am a mother (not a single one) of 3 and have stayed home and taken care of them for 8 years now. I did not finish collage and there is no dout that, now that my youngest will be starting pre school at the end of the summer that i will be going back. I see no reason why not to. I know i will miss a few things here and there, but I also know in the long run I will be bettering myself and my childrens lives. I just hope am able to suceed. Anyway, Thanks for your truely correct and humorous insight.

  3. Anon

    I think your child’s health and well being should be a bigger determining factor in breast feeding than whether or not your “boobs are going to look like hell” after you’re done. Isn’t being a mother all about making sacrifices anyway? And don’t you think you’re sending the wrong message to the growing number of single young mothers out there, some of whom enjoy reading your column? Breast milk is the cheapest and healthiest option, no matter what your boobs look like in the end.

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