Why I’m trying to let go of the mommy guilt & focus on myself & my marriage

Tomorrow I am dropping off my son Julian at his first day of preschool. He’s not even 3 yet – he’ll be 2 until the end of November. Sigh.

Although my heart wants to home school or unschool Ava, I’m not giving in and instead am leaving her in public school for kindergarten (in a class of 25 kids) this year. Sigh.

Why am I doing these things and going against my heart instead of following it? Because my head tells me they are the right things to do – for now.

I’ve spent the past five-plus years of my life pouring myself into my kids. They have been my world. Although intellectually I knew having balance in my life was important, I always seemed to neglect the idea. Instead of taking care myself or my marriage (things that would have required a good deal of effort), I distracted myself with my children. That’s not to say I regret putting my kids first because I don’t, but I wish that I would’ve found a way to make myself and my marriage a priority during this time too. My mental health has suffered. My marriage has suffered.

Many of you know I was diagnosed with generalized anxiety disorder earlier this year. I’ve been going to individual therapy for months, as well as on a low dose of Zoloft. My husband Jody and I have also been going to couple’s therapy off and on for a few months. We both have a lot of work to do, and while I’ve doubted in the past whether or not we can make it, I’m feeling more confident that we can. It’s not going to be easy, but the things worth fighting for never are.

All of this to say that I’ve decided, after talking to my psychiatrist and doing some serious soul searching, that it’s time for me to stop focusing only on my children and time for me to focus on myself too. That means Ava will stay in public school this year and Julian will attend preschool (the same Waldorf home-based preschool Ava attended) one day a week. It will give me a little time to myself. I know the temptation to catch up on housework or waste the day away sitting on the computer will be great, but I hope to use some of that time every Wednesday to nurture myself (as well as volunteer in Ava’s classroom for two hours every other week – see, I can’t give up focusing on my kids that easily).

While this might not be exactly what I wanted or envisioned, it is what I believe will work best for us – for now. I will try to put my mommy guilt aside and focus instead on getting myself healthy and my marriage to a better place – both of which will benefit myself AND my children in the long run.

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40 thoughts on “Why I’m trying to let go of the mommy guilt & focus on myself & my marriage

  1. *hugs*

    Taking care of yourself is always important, and never needs to be apologized for.

    Remember that it’s living in an anti-family, anti-woman, anti-person culture that confines us to these crappy choices to begin with. In this culture, there can be no ideal, much less perfect. So, you do what you need to do, and know that it’s good enough.

    Good luck on letting go of the guilt. People will keep trying to give it back; just stamp it at the door with “return to sender” and get on with your life.

  2. The worst part of mommy guilt is the feeling that you ought to *know* the right answer to the riddle of how to focus 100% of yourself on your kids, 100% on your husband and another 100% on yourself. It can’t be done, not even when we’re perfect. I’ve been too much kid-focussed lately and my husband is pushing me to blog and work with my photos – things I love – in the hope (I think) that when I’m enjoying being me more, I’ll be nicer to have around. Not that he said those things aloud.

    Take care of yourself and good luck shifting your path.

  3. It’s great you can recognise and are able to change. Discussions like this make us all more reflective and may lead us into action as well.
    All the best.

  4. This post hits close to home for me. I’ve many times questioned my decision to homeschool my kids, mostly as a function of not functioning as well as a mother as I feel I ought to. I’m glad you’ve come to a decision that will work for you and for your family and especially glad that you recognize nothing has to be forever and if somehow it’s not working, you can change it.

  5. Good luck to you with your change! This is something I need to work on too. I just got on a list for an adult volleyball league, and am trying to find a way to trade childcare with another mom for 1/2 day a week. Taking time for ourselves is hard, but we will enjoy life more and be better parents to our kids, in the long run. Thanks for sharing your process.

  6. I really think you’re making a great choice. Our lives parallel in many ways, this being one of them. Having both of my kids out of the house 2 full school days per week is amazing for getting me back to who I know I am deep down underneath the layers of “mama”, which is all I have known for the past 5+ years.

  7. Good for you!!!!!

    As you well know, we ALL have those moments….long ones in fact :p. We both really poured a ton into the 1st two and one of the gifts of the 3rd child for us was that we hit the point where if we poured any more into the little people we realized that there would be nothing left. We found it was pretty easy to go all day EVERY DAY without so much as TOUCHING each other. We’d end the week and be like “hey! did we even kiss once this week!?” Not good for our marriage.

    A huge, huge change we made was in sleep. It helps that our kids are exhausted early…so they go to bed early. We’re really fortunate in that most nights we have a couple of hours to ourselves. Which is totally awesome.

    Next, we make every attempt possible to cuddle in bed as we fall asleep. For a long time we felt like we couldn’t push the kids out because they needed to co-sleep. Now we have a strict no one between Mom and Dad rule at the beginning of the night. Of course, it gets broken because we have 3 kids….but we try hard to reconnect before sleep (SLEEP…nothing deeper to read here!)

    We also try and have physical contact in the morning too. That’s harder, but we find that it’s easier to like each other if we’ve touched each other that day.

    You’ll note that our big fights happen at times of separation – conferences, trials, D&D. We really are much happier both personally and in our marriage if we make an effort to touch each other every day.

    I’d love to hear how you spend your Wednesdays!! I just had 1.75hr with NO KIDS. I stared at the computer for an hour and a half. Damn! Oh – and I hear you on school guilt. Sigh.

  8. I think that is very wise. My favorite saying since I’ve had kids is, “always put your own oxygen mask on first”.

    Because, if you aren’t XX (fill in the blank: sleeping, eating, mentally and physically healthy, etc.), then your kids aren’t going to benefit from your time with them.

  9. Seriously, I could have written this post myself. I am possibly enrolling my daughter in full day K for exactly the same reasons. I have my 3 year old son in preschool one morning a week as well. The only difference is I have a 6 month old at home too. My husband and I did counseling over a year ago and both agree that it was the best investment ever! Keep with it – if you have a good counselor and are both willing to work at making things better, the future can be amazing!
    Best of luck.

  10. I think you are making the right decision. A happy mama means happy kids and usually a happy hubby too.

    One thing I have learned over the last few months is how very low I had put my needs as a priority. If I had a friend who was in the situation I was, I would have told her to take care of herself, make time for her, etc.

    It is ironic sometimes how we have more compassion for a friend, or tell a friend to take care of herself, but we don’t do that for ourselves.

    I’m glad you are continuing on that path for yourself and family.

    Hugs!!

  11. Good for you! Wow.. I can’t tell you how proud of you I am.

    Being a mom can make it hard to remember that we were a woman/wife first. That is such an important part of who we are, however many of us forget that when we have children.

    I am so glad that you are your husband are working on the relationship for you both and your kids!

    Good luck, you are being thought about!

  12. Great! Isn’t it wonderful how we can come to know what is best by really looking at the options and figuring out what is best..you know your family, yourself and the dynamics. Feel good about the decision and enjoy taking care of you!

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  14. I truly believe that one of the best gifts you can give your kids are healthy parents, which means taking care of yourself and your marriage.

  15. This is a great post. I am in the same boat right now (trying to reestablish my own identity, work on my marriage, and be a good mom). It’s hard work and it is so easy to feel guilty. What I have found is that my 5 year old is happier now that she is establishing her own sense of autonomy. I wish you the best of luck on your journey.

  16. This is what happens when you’re a woman. Woman have to juggle work, or not working, being a mom, or not being a mom, being a wife or choosing to not get married. Then, there is the guilt. Ah, the guilt of it all. I, too, struggle with putting my husband first (and this is my second one). I have to remind myself that it’s okay to leave the kids with a sitter and go out. (We haven’t done it yet.) Sometimes, I also have to remember that I have to take my husband’s side of things. No, it’s not always about the kids.

    Anyway, I’m glad you wrote about this. And also, thank you for encouraging me as well. :)

  17. Great post, and I am very pleased that you are taking the time to nurture yourself.

    What I found really interesting is that homeschooling has helped me nurture myself *more* than if my kids were in public school. We are free from the rushing around, squeezing everything into one or two free days or a few hours in the afternoon, scrambling to get everything done that we need to do etc. Homeschooling lets us set our own schedule, so if we all need a day to relax, then we can have it. If I need some time to myself, it is easier to find that time when our evenings are more relaxed. I go out alone every Wednesday night for a knitting group. I get to do that because we have the time to do all the other junk during the day around our homeschooling schedule. The one day a week that my daughter goes to school is by far the craziest, most frustrating and hectic day of the week. There just isn’t enough time to do everything even though she is gone for 7 hours!

  18. I know how hard it is to write about this, but it’s so important to share these stories. Speaking the truth, even if it means we have to show our vulnerability and admit that we’re not perfect, is the only way we’re ever going to change the unrealistic expectations that we place on ourselves!

  19. No need for guilt! Raising children can and does take a lot out of our marriages…but finding ways to put tiny bits back into our marriage doesn’t have to take a lot out of our kids! Ava and Julian have both had years of very attentive and loving parenting and will carry that love and attention with them as they move forward and grow.

    Kudos to you for recognizing that your hubby, you, and your marriage needed some attention. Working out problems takes guts, love, strength, character, humility, and honesty…things that I know you are chocked full of, Amy :)

  20. That sounds like a great thing to be doing. It is so easy to lose ourselves in our children. A little time for you will probably help you be more present when you are with the kids.

  21. I think that it’s good for our children to see us taking care of ourselves and nurturing our marriages. Of course there has to be balance in all things. And there are times when the needs of our children are very urgent. But it’s also true that our children learn by watching us, and I want them to learn that it’s OK and even good to take care of yourself. And sometimes it even makes us better parents, because we’re not falling apart at the seams.

  22. I am such a believer in taking care of yourself and your marriage as you navigate the journey with your children. I have seen so many couples give up and take the easy road, divorce. Kudos to you for taking the high road and working on you AND your marriage. You will be better for it, your husband and marriage will be better for it, and YOUR CHILDREN will be better for it. (Emphasis added because of your guilt :) ). I have been a children’s psychiatrist for 15 years and one of the things that messes with children the most is mommy and daddy getting a divorce.

  23. Good for you, Amy! I find myself in a similar situation. My health and the health of my marriage is suffering and I need to find a way to pull myself out of this funk I am in. Send some of those positive vibes my way, okay?! :o/

  24. Repeat after me:

    “I’m a better mom and wife if I take care of me.”

    Repeat often and as needed throughout your day.

    It’s taken me 12 years to figure this out. Renew thyself. Your kids and your husband deserve it.

    Now leave the volunteering during your me time to someone else. Quit now. Do it. Trust me.

    Don’t schedule appointments during this time, don’t do any have tos. Just simply recharge.

    “I’m a better mom and wife if I take care of me.”

    “I’m a better mom and wife if I take care of me.”

    “I’m a better mom and wife if I take care of me.”

  25. Amy.

    The guilt is hard, but I am in complete agreement with lilbet. You are a better mom for making your own (and your marriage’s) wellbeing a priority.

    Meditation has been found to be really, really effective with anxiety disorders – if you want any info, let me know.

    I am thinking about you!! xx

  26. I felt the same way when my older kids were young. I killed myself trying to homeschool, work, etc. Then I gave in and put them in Waldorf school and daycare, then practically killed myself working to pay for it. Their father wanted them to go to public school, which I fought til the bitter end. Turns out they love it, and are doing well. They educate the other kids on all kinds of topics: eating organic food, vegan diets, why candy is bad for you, ETC… So, know that your kids are probably doing the same. You have spent all of your energy putting love and care into your kids, now it is time to recharge those batteries! Your kids are full of your love and energy, and now they go forth and share that with the world! :)
    Pat yourself on the back MAMA! GOOD JOB!

  27. Beautiful post! Moms are so often made to feel guilty for taking care of themselves, but I truly believe that it will make you a better mother to your very lucky kids. Good for you!

  28. I commend you for your decision! I will be in the same place next year and I worry about it even now. However, you are very right, the things worth fighting for are NEVER easy and focusing on your husband and your marriage focuses on your children more than you can alone! Good call! I struggle with this myself and my marriage is also struggline. I have five under seven and it is very difficult to find balance, but just reading your post tonight is another reminder to me and it is so very evident that our children will never be the children we hope for them to be if we do not put our marriages first! I am from a divorced home and I wish I would have witnessed the ‘never quit on family no matter how hard it is’ mentality! You can’t get along with anyone if you can’t get along with yourself and your spouse! Ok I rambled a lot but I am so impressed with your post I couldn’t resist!

  29. Do what you know you need to do and let the guilt go. I know that’s a lot easier said than done and this advice is coming from someone who didn’t do this herself. I neglected my marriage and came close to losing it several years ago. Fortunately we got a second chance and it’s better than I ever dreamed possible. Schedule time with your husband and I highly recommend that you both read “His Needs, Her Needs”.

  30. No one way works for everyone. The important part is that you are deliberate about your decisions that give you and your family true peace and joy. And if the choices you make don’t work for you….make new ones. We are too hard on ourselves as women and mothers, and often too hard on other mothers around us. There has got to be a balance between just going with the flow of consumerism and keeping up with the Joneses, and the hypercritical nature of being the “BEST” at everything. You are important, and your marriage needs to be strengthened to have healthy kids and a healthy life. You’ll be married after the kids are gone! Many blessings to you!

  31. It’s amazing to me that I dreamed about this whole thing, the husband, the kids…. my whole life leading up to it. And then it happens and it’s so challenging to keep all the balls in the air. I sometimes ask myself- is this what I day dreamed about as a little girl. Jees…if I only knew!What was I thinking?

    I know my daily choices hinder my marriage. I know I have to make an effort. I don’t want to wake up one day and things are too far gone. Marriages do have breaking points.

    Anyway, I am trying to balance it all. Like everyone else. It is obvious by the responses to your post that more people (which I suspected)are in the same boat.

    Thank you for your courage and your honesty. Big exhale…I’m not the only one!

    Good luck with the new changes…baby steps for mama!

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