I work from home with my two young girls, like a fool.
I wake up early and try to get as much writing and work done as I can before they wake up. Unsurprisingly, the more work I have to do, the earlier they “just happen” to wake up. This is the Universal Law of Broken Dreams — the more you lean in to your life’s purpose, the more your children will lean into not giving a crap about your stupid life’s purpose.
One would think I wouldn’t carry around much guilt. I mean, I’m here. I’m home. Right?
But I do. Not all the time, but enough that it gets on my nerves.
There are times in the day when I must work, respond to important emails and meet deadlines. Unsurprisingly, this is exactly the time of day they beg to go to the park, bring me books thicker than “Harry Potter” for some light afternoon reading and ask me to play hide-and-seek. And I have to be honest, they really lack creativity in the hiding department.
I have to remind them that, for an hour or so, mommy has to work and they must play by themselves while I get some things done, and that we will do some activity together when I am all finished.
Yet my heart still breaks.
My generation’s intense take on involved parenting has already seeped into my bones, and nothing I ever do is good enough. But I know, intellectually, the privilege of motherhood means to love unconditionally, fostering an environment that facilitates their growth in mind, body and spirit. It doesn’t mean my life revolves around the beck-and-call of a tiny person who refuses to eat her perfectly toasted grilled cheese because it’s “too brown.” She knows nothing of a proper grilled cheese!
And now the data back me up.
Most of our grandmothers and mothers loved their children just as we do; they just didn’t get weird about it. They kicked us out of the house to play outdoors and, as we banged on the sliding glass door begging for some water, she told us to turn on the hose and flipped the blinds down on our faces. She sparked her Parliament Light, cracked a Tab and flipped through a Good Housekeeping magazine. Say what you want, but these women knew how to prioritize their “me” time in a way I deeply respect.
Women weren’t typically so alone and isolated as we are now. There was a greater “village” vibe as kids roamed the neighborhood like nomads. Many of us remember being told to be home before the streetlights turned on, peddling with pure panic in our eyes as the first hum and flicker began to light up the night sky.
We had more freedom, and so did they, because our parents didn’t fear kidnappings like we do now. When you aren’t battered with a constantly humming “the end is nigh” newsfeed, you tend to lighten up a bit. Despite the fact that all data show it’s never been safer to be a child, I consider all my neighbors predators until they prove otherwise. Thanks to the multiple near kidnappings in Omaha last week, I’ve put industrial-strength Velcro on my girls’ bodies and attached them to myself while we all get stuck on the slide together.
But the data just don’t support our paranoia. It reveals that the extra time modern women spend with their children showed zero correlation to more positive outcomes for those children. In fact, it could be said it’s having a more negative effect. It’s quality time that counts. Not the obsessive, exhausted, can’t-even-put-on-a-proper-bra-until-noon time.
In other words, there’s good news for us guilt-ridden stay-at-home moms, work-at-home moms, working moms and about-to-lose-our-s*$&%-at-any-moment moms: We’re doing great! The guilt is a waste of time when, quite frankly, our energy would be better spent relaxing, flipping through a Good Housekeeping.
We’re not perfect, but parenting never was. And it never will be.
Anna Lind Thomas is a humor writer and mom to daughters Lucy and Poppy and English bulldog Bruno, wife to Rob Thomas and founder of HaHas for HooHas. She writes for momaha.com.