Monday, March 12, 2012

The Guilt of Motherhood

Why do I feel so guilty?  I've just dropped Bode off for his morning of "school" today, and I feel like I've abandoned him. For four months now Bode has been going to day care one morning per week and by all accounts he has been thriving there.  Sure the first handful of weeks were tough, but he never cried and screamed (nor did I thankfully), and once he grew to trust that I would reliably be there to pick him up every single day, he began to relax and truly embrace his new, stimulating environment.  So just this week Bode began going to school two mornings per week instead of one.  He seemed perfectly content when I dropped him off this morning.  So why do I feel so guilty? 

 Before Bode started school, perhaps even a year or more before, Ian and I discussed the timing of when our son might start based on what we believed would be best for him.  At 2 1/2 years old we felt Bode would be the perfect age to start building a life independent from us.  By this time we felt our gentle little soul would have the requisite independence to initiate solo play in a new environment, the confidence to communicate his needs to and be guided by alternate figures of authority, and the inner fortitude to successfully deal with confronting emotions on his own.  Indeed, it brought me immense satisfaction to watch my one-time shy little baby grow into proper little boy-hood and step up beautifully to handle each of these challenges in stride. 

From his very first day, with me trying desperately to conceal my gut-bundle of nerves, Bode bravely faced his own trepidation of being left without mommy and stiffened his bottom lip, determined not to cry.  Choking in deep breaths just like we had discussed as a way to handle feelings of "upset," Bode turned away from me and focused his attention on a new toy, allowing me the space to leave.  I had never been more proud of him, even as my heart was splintering into thousands of pieces.

Thankfully the drop-offs got easier with time.  These days the prospect of school is so exciting for Bode that he pushes me out of the house in the mornings and then reluctantly waves goodbye to his teachers (and sandpit) when I pick him up in the afternoons.  My heart sings knowing that school is such a positive activity in Bode's life.  And it wasn't without great thought and consideration that we decided to give him a second day in school each week.  With the new baby only weeks away, we felt that it would be best for everyone to give Bode an extra day of fun all his own, the new baby an extra day of devoted attention and mama bear an opportunity to catch up on a bit of rest. So again, why do I feel so guilty?

For four months I have gone in to the office on the days that Bode went to school. While he was in care I was at work; sitting in front of my computer attempting to be productive, some days more successfully than others.  Today when I dropped him off I came back home - still intending to work (obviously not succeeding), but not needing to go into the office to do so. Something about coming home to an empty house, with plenty to do but the luxury of being able to do it in my track pants and slippers, feels terribly self-indulgent.  It's as though I've bundled my child into school so I could rush back home and enjoy my own company, fulfil the desires of the moment, simply indulge in the precise activities of MY choice.  Argh, the guilt!

But I'm letting that go. Bode is loving school. I'm loving this time to myself. When I pick him up we are very happy to see each other and we have terrific afternoons together. Having spent some time apart we seem to enjoy an even greater appreciation of the time we have together, just the two of us.  What could be better?  So chalk up one more victory for me in this fierce wrangle (or is it a tango?) called the guilt of motherhood. No doubt there will be many more wrestles to come. 

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