"But I don't WANT to go!" my three-year-old whines, clinging to my shirt.
I give her a hug and then gently disengage her. "But don't you want to see your friends? You always have fun there!" I try to convince her. Eventually, after much persuasion, she leaves with her daddy, who drops her off at daycare.
Instantly, I feel it: the guilt. I could let her stay home with me—I am on mat leave, after all. But the truth is, it's easier when it's just the baby and I. I enjoy my time alone with my youngest, yet I also feel like I'm copping out by sending my eldest off to daycare every day.
And that's just the latest iteration of the "mom guilt."
When my first baby was born, I felt guilty when I couldn't breastfeed her successfully (I've failed to give her the best start in life...why isn't my body doing what it's supposed to do?), and whenever I made a wrong decision out of inexperience or lack of knowledge.
Going back to work created a whole new set of guilt factors. When I was at work, I felt like I should be at home—but when I spent more time at home, I felt like I should be working. To lay it on even thicker, I felt guilty for not wanting to stay home full time (These early years are so precious...what kind of mother doesn't want to spend as much time as possible with her child?!).
The mom guilt returned with a vengeance when my second baby was born and nursing took up all of my time. (What if my eldest feels neglected? What if she doesn't love me as much anymore?).
And with both babies, I definitely felt it when they were newborns. I found those first few months of cluster feeding and mind-numbing sleep deprivation really hard. When so many people told me to "treasure that time," I'd wonder, Why am I not enjoying this? What's wrong with me?
Even now, I feel the mom guilt when, sometimes, I'd rather spend an hour reading a book or watching a grown-up movie than playing hide and seek or watching Baby Einstein for the umpteenth time.
I think I'll have to come to terms with the fact that the mom guilt is always going to be there. No matter how much I'm doing for my kids, I'll always feel like I could be doing more. But I'm doing the best I can to meet their needs and mine—so that has to count for something. Right?