Wednesday, February 24, 2010

what's in you wednesday

Before I returned to work, way back when I was home on maternity leave, Charlie would often tell me how he struggled with guilt.


He felt guilty when he left for the office each day, and he felt guilty whenever he would take off for an outing to the store - the gym - or the strip club.

Just kidding!

(Are you paying attention?!)


I never really understood what he was talking about in regards to all of this "guilt" until very recently. Now that I've returned to work full time and Charlie is home, I feel really guilty whenever I'm not around to lend my support.

Like those times when I have to leave early for an all day meeting.

Or those times when I have to leave town for several days for a meeting.

Or those times when I'm busy working at home and cannot be disturbed. Like those occasions when I've got an important conference call and I sequester Charlie and the children to the garage or shoo them off to a park because there isn't a SINGLE room in our house that is fully sound proof when I absolutely need it to be. Take it from me when I say there's just something very unprofessional about an important call being interrupted by a small voice yelling out in the background:



Just yesterday, I was participating in a very important conference call with a team of lawyers and senior management while the children, I thought, were playing outdoors. Charlie had stepped in to the garage for a moment and in the span of 15 seconds, Henry ambushed me.

At the time, I was totally distracted by my conference call and I was studying a document that was opened on my lap. When something caught my eye, I looked up to see that Henry had stealthily climbed on top of my desk and was standing directly over me whilst holding a wooden spoon AND pot that he started CLANGING together as loudly as you could imagine.

It was like something from a cartoon.


I didn't even have time to hit mute on the phone. All I did was shout, "ARGHHH! HOLY CRAP HENRY HOW THE HECK DID YOU GET THERE!" before hastily hanging up on my call. Then, I dragged my toddler off my desk before hunting searching down my husband and kicking everyone out of the house for the next half hour.

When I called back in to my conference line a few minutes later, Charlie and the children were driving circles around the block and the attendees on the line were highly amused. Which was a good thing. Because they all know that I work from the same exact home where my husband and I are raising four small children.


Even though I know I can't take care of any one until I take care of myself, I feel like I'm ridden with guilt.


Because my husband is with the children the majority of each and every day. And whenever I get a break, it causes me great angst to imagine leaving Charlie alone with the kids so I can take care of me. Me. ME.


Instead, whenever I do get a break, I'm pushing Charlie out the door to go play softball - or tennis - or mountain bike - or run - or swim - or do pretty much anything that will bring joy to his soul and make him happy because it ain't easy being the primary caregiver of four small children. (And husband of me.)


So it's no wonder that my level of physical activity severely plummeted once I started to work full time. I've got less free hours in the day and during those free hours I do have, there's a tug to be at home and to give my husband a much needed break, while I spend time with the children.


Charlie certainly encourages me to take some time for myself. But I feel badly leaving when I'm at least "mentally" gone so much as it is. Hence the reason it's such a great thing that I invested in that small trampoline because now, I can be at home, while getting in family time and a side of exercise.


I've also been trying to get some physical activity, with the family, on the weekend.

Typically, this comes in the form of a hike.


Which is a lot more aerobic than you might think.

Because usually midway through the hike, the children can't walk any more and we end up carrying them back to the car. We don't have a picture of that. But just imagine Charlie with two kids in his arms and me with two kids in mine. And everyone is moaning.


Charlie and I the loudest of all, because our car is on the other side of that hill.


My question of the day is: do you struggle with guilt when you take time for yourself?

And if so, how do you manage it?

(FYI: Getting up really early isn't an option. I tried once and almost died.)


  1. I hear you Jen!
    I'm a single mom of a 3 yr old and a 6 month old and I feel really guilty every time I leave them to do something for myself. Since my husband left, I've really slacked in the exercise area.
    I gotta get back on the horse!
    You are an inspiration every day and you keep me laughing. :)

  2. I'm afraid I do take the getting up early option. even if you tke the time to read a book or have a long shower without a small person calling to you or do a little crafting, rather than exercising it'll give you some clear time before the day starts.
    Other than that, I have no advice!

  3. Ha, laughed a lot at your last sentence.
    My early in the morning time is on the computer, so no help here . . . .

  4. I don't feel guilty about taking time for myself. I really don't. Because I know what a horrible b*tch I would be if I didn't get a break. I am a SAHM to 3-year-old twins; they are not in school yet (will start in the fall) so I have a babysitter 2 days a week. I go to the gym, have lunch with friends, walk my dog, shop.....sometimes I just go to my room and read!! The mental break is so important. And my kids are TOTALLY FINE without me -- now, if I was working full-time, I think it might be harder to take time away since there would be so much less time to begin with. But still, I can't imagine not having at least a few hours of 'me time' every week, and frankly, I think it sets a good example to your children to see their parents spending time alone -- taking care of yourself is not being selfish, it's being smart.

  5. Okay, at the risk of sounding like someone you'd like to stab with a fork, I never feel guilty about taking time for myself. I think it started when my first was an infant, and I was suffering from severe anxiety. My husband put up a sign on the entertainment center that said "What your baby needs most is a happy, healthy mother".

    I can't tell you how much that relieved me of the guilt for letting someone else take over. From abdicating the night time feedings, to going out to the movies by myself, or even taking a girls weekend away, I've always been encouraged to get away and recharge, and I've always taken him up on it.

    Maybe it's the fact that he's always been supportive and understanding about how hard this job is, but I think that fact alone has led me to breezily smooch my kids on the way out the door. Alone. :)

  6. Guilt?? Me?? Coming from this family?? Hogwash. Now if you'll excuse me, I'm late for therapy.


  7. Guilt. It's the evil of my figure. I work out of the home so I am gone by 7 a.m. and do not get home until 6 p.m. I do not want to spend another hour away to get in the physical exercise I desparately need, because I feel guilty.
    What I try to do is use my lunch hour to take a walk. Which I can do when it's not 100 degrees outside. When it is, I walk the floors of the office building.
    I haven't quite figured it out, staying up late or getting up early feel like they are going to kill me, I've tried it a few times with no success.
    And like you I have tried to exercise with my child. Carrying 50lbs is a good workout but it's rather clumsy to do.
    I'm not sure what the answer is - but I'm glad you addressed it and I can't wait to see the comments.

  8. I recently have started running. Some of my runs are in the evening and I do feel guilty for not being home with our 3 yr old. I'm lucky that my husband Jason is so helpful and we have lots of family to help out too. No matter what I feel guilty. When I can I exercise at work during lunch to not take time away from my family. The guilt is tough but I know that it's making me heathier so that when I do play with my daugheter it's more quality time and hopefully I will be around longer.

  9. Yes, I do feel guilt. Hence the reason I am desperately in need of a haircut, I need to schedule a dentist appointment etc...

    I am one of the people who can get up early to exercise, so I don't feel guilty about that. But clothes shopping or going out with my friends, or that sort of thing I do feel very guilty about, and so I don't do it.

    We do get babysitters sometimes, but we go out to dinner after our boys go to bed (at 7), so I don't feel bad about that, either.

  10. I stay home with my boys all day, every day, so I don't struggle with any guilt when I leave for Zumba class two nights a week. But my husband feels like you do. He rides his bike to work and runs on his lunch hour, but his absolute favorite activites are snowboarding and mountain biking and he just doesn't do them now, because he doesn't want to spend a whole weekend day away from the boys when he sees them so little already.
    I think it will be awesome when they are old enough to go with him! And I can stay home and soak in the tub for an entire Saturday :)

    Your family hike pictures are, as always, fantastic!!

  11. Honestly, I've never been one to be able to join any "JUST FOR ME" team sports/activities or EVER go and get a massage etc. I've never been able to overcome that guilty feeling. Two of our kids are college age now and we still have a 12 year old home. Now, I do take time for girlfriend lunches/coffee while the youngest is at school. My sister on the other hand has always been able to make time for herself -I've come to the conclusion it's all so individual and just learn to be happy in your own skin -even if it means you can't possibly relax during a massage if you've got dinner still to make and you're going over the kid calendar in your head while inhaling the aromatherapy!

  12. Ah Guilt! It's written all over us - Catholic guilt!

    Honestly Jen if you've read my blog lately you know how riddled with guilt I was working in a job that didn't provide me enough time to fold a basket of laundry or cook a decent meal! I was getting so resentful and just really wanted to be home with my kids - I was always convincing myself that we needed my income to provide the "extra things". As luck would have it I got layed off and Joe got a promotion. Problem solved!

    I only felt guilty taking time for myself when someone else had the kids besides Joe - If Joe had them I was free to move about the cabin without guilt!

    I think you and Charlie had a great thing going - it's great that he can be there for the kids right now. Your kids aren't in daycare or having a Nanny watch them - they have one of their own parents with them at all times!

    You are blessed! Enjoy!

  13. No, I don't struggle with guilt for taking time for myself. My kids are much better off for it. My time was always late at night when they were all asleep. And about two Saturday mornings a month. Shopping and lunch with a friend. No guilt.

  14. I understand where your coming from, my solution is having a few minutes at night, sitting on the couch with a glass of wine and watching TV. I try not to think about the laundry that needs to be folded, or the kitchen that needs to be cleaned - that it just me time.
    My husband and I both work. He works full time, and is in school to get his Masters then watches the children when I work when he is supposed to be off. I work part time and
    Basically, we're still in that step of planning for the future. By that time, the kids will all be in school and since we're older - hopefully we'll one day both be able to reduce our schedules enough to actually have some times to ourselves.

  15. Being the SAHM of our triplets, obviously I don't have the guilt issue you do. I drive away from my house for 'me' time with my party hat on. HOWEVER, I see two really important items re your view of your situation:

    1) You had great SAHM time with the kids for several years while Charlie fought the guilt. Now it's his chance to get that time with the kids, even as you fight the guilt. You're taking turns... how awesome that is for your children! Too many dads don't get that opportunity; that's a gift to your children, even if it means getting less time with you (for now. See pt #2 below). My boys get summers with their dad because he's a teacher; they would KILL to have him all the time. No, giving your kids the gift of time with their father doesn't wipe away your guilt about spending time away from them, I know, but perhaps looking at it that way will help you not be so sad about it.

    2) What Janna said, about how "it will be awesome when they are old enough to go with him," is a fantastic point. It won't be long from now when your kids will be quite capable of taking serious & long bike rides with you, and jogging with you, and roller skating with you, and jump-roping with you (my boys have start jump-roping and love it!), and skiing with you (did you SEE Jessica's video of her triplets skiing...triplets who are your kids' age?), etc. So perhaps this issue about fitting in exercise and the guilt that goes with it is yet another 'phase'?

    Just thinking out loud here...

  16. I am going on a 12 day Mediterranean cruise to 7 countries with my girlfriends. Clearly, I do not suffer from guilt. At all. I must be a sociopath.

  17. Hmm, Some days I complain and complain about the weather here in AK (today, it is a whopping 45 below zero), and then I read a post like yours and I'm happy again to be living in a small village where nothing is more than one mile away, and everything aerobic that we do, we do with our kids. My kids are in school from 8:30 am - 3:30 p.m and then have an array of academic and sport practices to attend every day from 3:30 to 5:00, all of which they can walk to because the school is centrally located and mile wide town!

    Also, I have SO much family here that I never feel guilty about doing fun Maija things because chances are, I'll be dragging my kids back home in the evening, kicking and screaming cause they don't want to leave Auntie So-and-So's house. Also, my kids are older, 13, 10, 10 and 6 so we force them to watch each other if we want to do something. :)

    Also, all of my "me time" is when I'm on work trips. I watch movies, shop, etc and get paid for it, so I never feel guilty about that either, cause who else is gonna buy them their next REI primaloft vest and Keen shoes?! (I noticed...and I likey!)

    Anyway, hope you figure it out. Thanks for making me feel better about living in a place like this!

  18. You've really got to back to the Catholic church - You've got this whole guilt thing down pat!!!! ;-)
    Love, Marg.

  19. A certain Mrs. F. and I would "escape" to the Y pool one night a week, then repare to the local Pizza parlor for refreshments and conversation...this was our outing for the week. Were we guilty? Not a bit..we loved the camaraderie of women like ourselves and savored every minute. You and Charlie are so gifted as parents, you take my breath away for all the great things you do - a credit to my swimming partner. She has always been a beacon for all of us.....Much love, Mrs. D.

  20. Don't get too excited, because the website is slightly shoddy, but here you go...

    I hope that helps?

  21. Mrs. D!!!

    YOU take MY breath away. Thank you for your comment. I love that visual of my mom sitting and enjoying the camaraderie of Maynard women. Oh, I'll bet you had some fun times!

  22. Yes, I feel guilty. It's why it's been 6 months since my last haircut, three months since I gave myself a facial or a pedi (can't afford to go somewhere to get them anymore), why I haven't even been to the dentist in over a year, and why my legs don't get shaved but once every few weeks anymore. I KNOW I need "me" time, but the pressure to stay at home and "do" overwhelms me. Laundry, cooking, shopping, cleaning, scrubbing, composting, feeding, more cooking, more really never ends. Going pee without little voices (or tears) on the other side of the door: Mommy!! You going pee-pee like big girl? Or (gasp!), having some intimate time with my hubby?


    I keep telling myself this is just a season. And someday when it's over, I'll miss it. So I truly do try to enjoy myself in the chaos. Most times I'm successful, but other times I'm surprised I still have hair on my head and know what my name is.

    Still...going to sign this off as anonymous, because I know some of my girl friends read your blog and I don't want them wondering if my legs are shaved next time I see them. :-S

  23. Guilt? hhmmm - I thought it was a side effect from having kids. Have felt guilty for something for the last 23 years. Seriously - there's mothers who don't feel guilty? who knew?

  24. And here lies the difference between a woman breadwinner and a male breadwinner (in general terms). You finish work and say "go take some time for yourself to yourself". An average man finishes work and says "now I want some time to do what I want to do". Obviously you really enjoy your job and your family.

    Yep - You have options - work less, blog less, see your kids less or stretch a day to longer than 24 hours. Love the advise about a healthy, happy Mum....but in most of these instances they are in the same situation as Charlie - not you.

    All I can tell you is that as they get older you can fit in exercise when they are also exercising (I swim 2k while they have swimming lessons).