The mom guilt is real, unjustified and toxic but it’s real. One can find so many articles along the lines of “Life before mom”, “How I used to be before I became a mother”, “Mourning the woman who once was”. They are the most beautiful articles about how moms devote all of themselves to their kids. Some even include a “Letter to my husband from the old me”. These heartfelt posts often bring me to tears. It’s like watching a beautiful movie and putting yourself in someone else’s shoes, but I mostly cry because I somehow wish that I could relate.
Yes, I feel guilty for not having lost the woman I was to become “Mommy”. I have never ever felt that I am missing a version of myself now that I am Mom. I don’t feel that I have lost any of the connection to my husband because I pay more attention to my child like most other moms do. I read these articles and I feel that I should be living up to this Super Mom status.
There are memes out there about moms whose kids are walking around in brand new clothes and they haven’t bought themselves new underwear since the two-year-old was born. Not to even mention the popular memes about moms who are unable to go to the bathroom without an audience of kids.
I admire the moms who give their all to their kids.
I am not that mom. Sometimes I seriously envy those moms.
Then there are moms who aspire to spend more time taking care of themselves. They want to allocate more time to Me Time and put more time and effort into their relationship with their husband or partner.
My husband and I have consciously chosen to put the importance of our relationship where it is, in the very best interest of our family as a unit, and our child.
Kids don’t want perfect parents, they want happy parents. We believe that our partnership is not the result of our child, but that our child is the result of our partnership. We don’t always put our child first. We put our family needs first and naturally our child thrives.
We feel that we also need to look after ourselves properly in order to look after our child to the very best of our ability.
We cannot pour from empty cups. We invest time in looking after ourselves as individuals too. In the aeroplane, we have to secure our own oxygen masks first before helping children and other people.
But, we are not in an aeroplane down here. We have many, many critics who don’t necessarily agree with our lifestyle.
People don’t like it when you leave your 10-week-old baby at home with a 24h nanny and her grandmother so you can go overseas for 10 days. They don’t like it because they don’t know what’s going on. They don’t know what the hell has happened and what the circumstances are. They don’t like it because that’s not what they would have done, regardless of what happened.
The fact remains that none of our parenting decisions are ever going to be approved by everyone. Parenting decisions are tough as it is. We don’t need to make it any more difficult by thinking that our decisions require anyone else’s approval.
It was on our first trip overseas when Poppet was 10 weeks old that we decided that we will aspire to travel, alone, once a year. Last year we managed to do it for the second year. Who knows what we will manage this year. We have already gone away for a three-night romantic getaway in January.
The guilt doesn’t seem to go away though. Am I doing something wrong? It doesn’t feel wrong to me. What works for us is not necessarily going to work for another family but because we are conditioned by society the kind of things that we do don’t exactly put us in the conventional “great parents” box.
I must admit that our circumstances are quite exceptional, but they don’t have to be to make the changes we want. We have an extensive support system that allows us to travel alone occasionally and go out on our own. We have worked around and planned our lives to create some of our support system. Poppet’s nanny is a trained nanny. She has been educated with child minding courses, CPR, and cooking classes. She is currently studying for her learner’s license and this year she will learn to swim at a swimming school. We have uplifted her from a domestic worker to a qualified child minder. It is an aspiration of mine to uplift her to an Au Pair. But most importantly she loves and adores our child and the feeling is mutual. She supports our family and we support her – that’s all that is required to begin with.
My mom is an unbelievable blessing in our lives. She will spend any time that we give her to spend with HER Poppet as she likes to call her. We have one grandparent and our recipe is working for us.
Most of our date night adventures and getaways I don’t share because I often feel this stupid and unjustified mom-guilt, even with the many other things that we do.
Secondly, I have this absurd feeling of not wanting to ‘Rub it in’ for those who don’t have the support to do the kind of things that we do to maintain the lifestyle. This is so stupid, I know, but I also know bloggers out there who don’t feel comfortable writing an uplifting story about their domestic workers because the international readers who don’t live this kind of lifestyle may perceive the message as “rich” or “entitled”. We seriously shouldn’t even be thinking of these things. When we publish an article, we are always going to be vulnerable to the perception of the reader, despite it coming from a place of love. If you have an inspiring story about a moment shared with your domestic worker or any other topic, and the purpose of publishing it is an attempt to inspire one mom, I would love to read it.
Going out for date night and every other little thing that we do to keep us sane, to maintain the relationship we want and to manifest a huge part of our happiness is not always about romance, for anyone. It’s not even about one thing in isolation, ever. It’s not about sex, or candle lit dinners or whatever we imagine our relationships need. It’s creating the time for the two of us. Alone. It’s about the communication, in our case. By creating the time for the ‘us’ as a unit we manage to maintain our relationship and by doing that, everything that we ‘need’ naturally remains in a state of harmony.
Just a few things that we do to manifest our lifestyle:
Sometimes we go where WE want to go
Before kids, we didn’t eat at Spur and we didn’t seek out restaurant or parks with jungle gyms and kids running around.
There is in our opinion no such thing as a child-unfriendly restaurant. There are no restaurants where child abuse is encouraged. Although frowned upon, there is in fact no physical harm done in taking a formula fed newborn baby into a wine tasting room.
If we want to go to a place that serves excellent food but no chicken nuggets or doesn’t have crayons and other kids, we just go.
We take our own crayons and toys. Our child doesn’t ordinarily eat chicken nuggets and we simply don’t need a kiddies menu – she eats with me and if my salad or steak or whatever fails on the day she will happily eat chips or some form of potato. She plays with other kids all the time so on the day that we’re going out as a family only to a place that we want to go to she doesn’t need a friend there. She’s there with us. And, more often than not, there is a likeminded family there.
We create date night on spur of the moment even without a baby sitter
Our date nights don’t have to be fancy or expensive and certainly don’t need to live up to any expectations. When the baby is sleeping, we often create a date night, have a braai or enjoy a romantic dinner on the balcony. Sometimes we play a board game. We treat our DIY date night as something a little more special than our usual dinner time.
But, our normal dinner also means that we set the table every night and eat and talk at the table with no interruptions.
We trained our baby to sleep through the night
This means that we are rested and we are sharing the best version of ourselves. We have a routine and our daughter is asleep by the time we have dinner. We work as a team. One of us does bath and bed time while the other gets the supper ready. Occasionally we do bath time and cooking together. Our baby’s sleeping pattern allows us to do this. Plus, the way we support each other in everything we do. You can find our Sleeping Through the Night Recipe here.
We create fun things to do together
Whenever I can find or think of something fun to do then I’ll suggest it and so will my husband. We believe that this is like the kind of maintenance one does to a house so its value increases instead of waking up one day and the place is dilapidated.
This one time I gave my husband the task of deciding what I will be wearing for the week. This was so much fun and we had such a laugh. I must warn you, it’s very daunting, especially when you’re going out to see clients and you won’t be telling people “Please excuse my outfit, I didn’t put this together.” I wrote about this experience and you can find the post here.
Not all the ideas work out well. This one time I suggested that we spend some time figuring out a blue tooth selfie stick together before we went out. He was keen. I thought it was quite funny trying to master the stick, my husband not so much, he got more annoyed with the thing (and me as a result) so the time wasn’t right or it was just a bad idea.
My husband and I both work from home so when we have the occasional opportunity that we are both at the ‘office’ for lunch, I might suggest that we pop down to the garden for a quick picnic. Without the baby around. We just take our lunch outside and the pure change of scenery encourages a different vibe, you know. It takes some extra effort because you have to pack it in a basket and cart everything outside. The effort could seem impractical but hey, all relationships take some work because the small things make up the big things. And, dropping things down the stairs or a tiny bit of chaos will promise a good laugh.
If you look online you will find loads of fun things to do.
Communicating the same message in a different way
When I ask my husband “How was your day?” he gives me quite a detailed response. But, if I start the conversation by asking it a bit differently: “What was difficult for you today?” it creates a sense of openness and the communication is on a different level.
There are so many different ways to say the same thing and this works well in any relationship, for me. When my sister was a teenager and living with me part-time I found that this was an easier way for her to communicate, open up and express her feelings. After school, I would ask things like: “What did your best friend do today that made you laugh?” It opens up a channel of communication for them to share, if they want to. She would tell me a story that she might not have even thought to tell if I had asked: “Did you have a nice day at school?”
We Create Time to Communicate
This is not always easy. Trust me. I mean, parenting is fun but not easy and we need to pick our battles. We don’t always get all these things right. In our case there is loads of time to communicate even when there is ‘no time’. When we are getting ready in the morning, for example. The nanny is here, the baby is safe and taken care of. But, even if one has a domestic worker, one could ‘let go’ of the baby for the quick time it takes to get ready in the morning or any other time. When my husband gets out of the shower and I am busy with my makeup, we discuss the small things that need and want to be communicated without any interruption. “Did you see the email from the school, babe?” and “How are you really feeling this morning, what are you looking forward to today?”
This gives us a little bit of extra time during the day, the small moments where we are killing two birds with one stone and the baby is not around to interrupt us every two seconds. It’s tough sometimes, I tell you. There have been times when she has moaned outside our bedroom door. We don’t always exclude her from getting-ready time. But sometimes, we need to realize the true value of us in the family unit. She is already learning to respect that mom and dad have their own time just like mom and daughter have their time and dad and daughter have their outings, etc. But it’s tough sometimes. It’s real tough teaching/showing a child by your example that they can’t always have everything their way. At 17 months old, she doesn’t even come to me (her dad or the nanny) when we’re in the toilet, she takes that time to spend with the available care taker and occasionally she will insist on the unavailable person and then we assess those situations individually. It’s not a rigid rule that requires any discipline whatsoever, it’s just a message of boundaries and respect that we have chosen to teach in the concept of personal space and privacy. We believe that this might help equip her with her decision making ability with her own personal boundaries.
When I am alone with her she does of course join me on my bathroom break or on weekends I could be in the shower and dad on the toilet while she plays in the room, but that doesn’t make it the norm. It’s a balance and she knows. When she’s older this balance becomes easier as she might have a favourite story to watch or activity to do for those brief moments. When my sister was a little girl she would ask/tell me when she wanted to spend that time with me instead of on her own and then those times often became very special chatting and bonding times when I least expected it.
We continue to do the things we did before we had a child
This is probably the most important one and this one is the easiest one to stick to with each other’s support only.
There are too many things to list here but for some it may be work, fitness, reading or a certain hobby.
I love working, I’ve always loved it. When I was 15 years old I started working in a restaurant. I also worked in the corporate environment in the Plumbing Industry in Marketing and Business Development.
I’ve incorporated the skills I’ve learnt over the years into the job I do now. Personally, I won’t feel fulfilled if I couldn’t be working. I tried being a full time stay at home mom but that wasn’t bringing me the joy and stimulation I need. It is therefore in my interest and that of my family that I continue to work.
I used to read a lot before I had a child. I feel guilty when I read about other moms who haven’t had the time to finish a book in forever because they spend all their time on the kids.
I still read a lot, but I guess I read differently. I read many articles and the reading style has changed with the internet and social media making articles so quickly and easily available. Back in the day I used to read more real books because data loaded much slower and there was less information and trending topics available in real time. I still read (and finish) real books because I prefer a real book to reading on a screen but I certainly don’t read any less. In fact, I read more.
Fitness is not very high on my list of values but we all know that it’s important for our overall well-being so I incorporated it with something else that I love. I loved playing netball at school so I created a Poppet Patch Action Netball team and we play once a week. This is also my night off.
I think that when one wants to add something to the mix that you want to make time for it’s much easier doing so when you combine it with something you love. If I was into listening to pod casts then that would potentially help me to go for a walk everyday and listen while I walk.
I loved spending time on my own. I still go for lunch alone sometimes. I prefer to shop alone. On a weekend, my husband will happily take the baby for a couple of hours while I go spend time by myself. I communicate my needs. And the same the other way around. But, sometimes I have to consciously make an appointment with myself. It takes work because it will always appear that there is something else that is more important than me. When I then get to a stage of feeling completely exhausted and depleted it quickly becomes clear that I haven’t cared for myself properly.
I guess I’ve spoken more about the things that my husband and I do together to maintain our relationship and lifestyle. I also think that the kind of support that one gets from your partner plays a big role in how one grows from the woman you once were into the woman and mother you have become. For us, it’s about the communication, compromise and the willingness to put the effort into looking after ourselves as individuals to give our best versions of ourselves to each other.
What I have done is that I simply adapted my lifestyle and brought the woman I once was with me into motherhood. I cannot say that I have given anything up or that I have sacrificed a version of myself to give everything to my child and for that I feel the utmost guilt sometimes.
The mom guilt is real, either way, so if there is a mom out there who would like to bring some balance back into the mix, please feel free to read this poor screen shot of an article below. I think it’s a bit extreme, but it might make you feel a little bit less guilty for investing time in yourself and your partnership. With or without a nanny and regardless of your support system.
I take short breaks, every day
There is so much noise on the Internet and on social media. But, the biggest noise of all comes from the thoughts that we create in our minds as parents.
I make time to silence the noise, even if it’s for two minutes at a time. It can be done by focusing on your breathing alone. One can say that I meditate every day but for purposes of explanation, I stop, I breathe, I surrender and I take in the beauty of the present moment.
I keep a Gratitude Journal
Every day I physically write down what I’m grateful for. Ten things when I wake up and 10 before I go to bed. This helps me so much with anxiety. When I have been expressing my gratitude for my daughter’s school, her teacher and the people taking care of her in the morning then it naturally makes me cope better if I’m running a bit late on our way to school or any other stupid little thing. It shifts my focus to the positives and all the fun we’re having, instead of focusing on the stress.
We go on date night often. We like to try different things but sometimes we get caught up as creatures of habit in the convenience of going to our local spot, Monte Casino.
I don’t always share the where and the how and I feel unjustified guilt for many things. Like I said, I feel like I’m rubbing it in.
I want to say that if you aspire to spend more time alone or invest more time in your relationship the hardest part in manifesting these things for yourself is the mom guilt.
Guilt is the most toxic emotion. We make it up in our minds. You see the Super Moms who are totally exhausted and depleted and you feel that you’re doing something wrong because you are in fact guilty of investing in yourself and your partnership.
Let it go. You’re not guilty. Your child is happy. Your child is safe. Your child is thriving in the best version of your family unit. Your child has his oxygen mask because you have yours.
For the single parents, the oxygen mask metaphor applies to everyone. I cannot emphasize how much I admire and respect you. Please don’t let your mom-guilt or dad-guilt get the better of you and convince you that you don’t deserve date nights.
For our most recent date night we went to The Raj Indian Restaurant. We went to the one in the Michelangelo Towers in Sandton instead of their convenient location at Monte.
By driving a tiny bit further away we got a completely different result out of the entire evening. It was darn hot and it was overcast. It felt like we were in a completely different place. Due to the weather and the high rise buildings, my husband and I both compared the vibe to Hong Kong, at the same time, it was uncanny. We were never in Hong Kong together. We ended up sharing a whole lot of stories about some of the same places we have traveled to before we met each other. Some of my stories that I would never have thought to share before.
We liked the atmosphere of The Raj in Michelangelo. We sat inside where it’s intimate and has a ‘warm’ feel to it. I preferred the inside seating as the location is in the mall and for a romantic time I prefer inside where it’s not loud and the volume of the music is just perfectly conducive to pleasant conversation and a lovely evening.
The staff were all friendly and knowledgeable (my husband of course asked 20 questions about a Tandoor oven after tasting my amazing starter).
The Chicken Tikka starter (from the Tandoor oven) was my husband’s highlight of our meal and we shared a delicious Lindt Eruption for dessert.
For different locations of The Raj you can visit http://www.rajrestaurant.com/
I’m super keen to hear about your favourite date night spots and some of the things you do for yourself and your partnership as well as the things you aspire to do.
With Love and Gratitude,
*This is not a Sponsored blog post but we were sent a voucher to redeem at any of The Raj restaurants. We used it for our most recent date night and it covered the total amount of our bill.