A coworker of mine recently decided to go to part time. She has an infant son and said she wants to spend more time with him and that she just felt ragged and couldn't do it all.
I totally realize that this decision of hers has absolutely nothing to do with me and my mothering. But I immediately felt horrible. I am constantly plagued with guilt. Guilt that I am a working mother. Guilt that I don't feel guilty for being a working mother. I felt horrible. Why? Do people think I don't enjoy spending time with my kids?
So I agonized over this. Did I not spend enough time with my kids when they were babies? Here is what I remembered after re-evaluating their first few years.
I never felt ragged those first few years. That was the simpliest and easiest time for me. And I am fortunate enough to have known that and appreciated it. I gave everything up but my job. My life was so simple. I went to work, came home and was with Laci. I didn't run errands. I didn't go out with friends. I didn't coach or play soccer anymore. I wasn't in any church groups. I don't regret any of it. I knew at the time that those things weren't important and in time, they would come back. I remember watching Jeopardy at 7:30 after she went to bed and I knew that those days wouldn't last. She would eventually stay awake past 7:30 and my "free evenings" would be over. We're at that point now but it's the way it should be. I haven't watched Jeopardy in 4 years.
I remember when she was about 2 years old thinking about how simple our life was. Work and play with Laci. That was it. Spring and warm weather was the best. We would come home and go for a walk or to the park or pond or just play outside. I remember journaling about how boring our life was. We didn't go on play dates. We didn't go to fairs or the children's museum. We didn't do a lot of expensive activities. We were just together. Charlie usually didn't come home until later so it was just the two of us. It was just perfect.
Then Calvin came along and Laci got a little older. We still have a very simple life. There are a lot of times in the winter when we are all in our jammies at 7:30 chilling out. Charlie is still gone a lot and it is just the three of us now. In the summer we are outside nearly every evening. I love that our neighborhood is full of kids and we can all just play outside or go to the pool. Laci loves to go outside and just waits until someone comes out to play. It's so hard in the winter to have playdates and she is struggling being cooped up..
Now we are a little busier but not too much. The kids are gone so much, I don't want to overwhelm them. I try to have a lot of home time to just play. She has girl scouts twice a month and ballet once a week. We are fortunate that the school offers several things at school when she is normally in afterschool care. This month she has tennis twice a week and is done before I pick her up. I am going to wait another year or so before getting Calvin involved in anything. He is pretty socialized from daycare and doesn't need any more instruction.
My life is still pretty simple. I have slowly added a little "me" time. I run at lunch and know that without a lunchtime gym, running wouldn't be a priority. I am grateful. Charlie and I are in a small group at church that meets twice a month. The focus is families and marriage. I am in a book club that meets once a month. Like most women's book clubs, we discuss the book for a few minutes and then just chat. Between kids, I played soccer again for a few seasons. I would like to go back to playing soccer again someday. We don't have any sitters or family nearby so we do it all. Last week at book club, one of the ladies commented about how ragged she felt. She has a 6 month old and a 3 year old and is still adjusting to life with two kids. She said it is hard to balance work, kids and a social life. I realized that it is the social life that I cut out. I know how fortunate I am to be able to balance work and kids and have a very simple life. I know how fortunate I am to not feel ragged. I know that the best thing I did was simplify my life and cut out the unnecessary.
So the answer to the question "Did I do enough when the kids were babies? Do I do enough now?" is Yes. Yes I do. My kids are my priority and they know it. I don't feel jealous or bad but I feel very grateful and fortunate.