How the Feeling of Guilt Made Me Stronger
Looking Past the Opinions of Others to Foster Personal Growth
“Why are you tired? Doesn't your wife stay home?”
—Cindy, my husband’s prying coworker
My husband and I are both teachers...kind of. While he goes to school everyday, I have the privilege of staying home and teaching our nine-month-old daughter. While I do have a teaching certification, our daughter decided to come into this world before I could get my career going. After looking into various child-sitting options, we couldn't justify having someone watch our daughter while I taught someone else's kids. I'd be making maybe a hundred dollars a week after deducting daycare costs; it didn't make a whole lot of sense to us.
So here I am at home. I get to sleep in, drink wine all the time, and everyday is a vacation. Right? Hahahaha no. Not even close. I'm not about to go on about what it’s like to be a stay-at-home mom, though. Chances are, if you're reading this, you already know. However, there is an internal conflict that has been raging inside me since making the decision to stay home, and my husband’s wonderful coworker recently brought it to the forefront. Thanks, Cindy.
Thank you so much for bringing forth the guilty feeling I have everyday when my husband kisses me goodbye. Thank you for dredging up my long-time struggle with anxiety that I thought I finally had under control. Thank you for making me feel like crap when my husband gets out of bed in the middle of the night instead of me.
I write these statements with a strong sense of sarcasm, but also with a hint of sincerity. If it weren't for Cindy and her judgmental comment (I know, I know. I'm bitter and probably overreacting, but bear with me), I would not have been able to come to the following realizations:
Thank you, Cindy, for making me realize how incredibly lucky I am to have a husband who loves me and supports my decisions. We are a team and we came to the decision to have me stay home together. With that being said, not a day goes by that I don't feel guilty about him going to work while I get to stay home in my yoga pants and play with our daughter. I know from talking to other moms that I'm not alone in feeling this way. Being a stay-at-home mom is hard work, but it’s a job I love and I shouldn't feel guilty about that. Having way too much pizza for dinner is another story though, right? Nah.
Thank you also for bringing up a topic of much anxiety and conflict within me. While my husband goes to work, I am staying home not bringing in any source of substantial income. We are currently trying to pay off two Master’s degrees with my husband’s salary (we all know teachers go into this field for the money) and my earnings from taking surveys online while my daughter naps. It turns out my two cents is worth fifty cents if I'm lucky. We may be living paycheck to paycheck and this was once a source of anxiety for me, but it has since allowed me to think creatively about the way we spend our money. Less food is wasted as I try to come up with different dishes, and we buy what we need rather than buying everything we want. As our daughter becomes more aware, it will be easier for her to learn about fiscal responsibility when she sees it in action rather than me preaching about it and then seeing a mountain of Amazon Prime boxes delivered later. So while my anxiety is still there lurking, I have been able to tame it in various positive ways.
Finally, thank you for making me realize that your opinion means nothing to me anymore. It DOES. NOT. MATTER. That may seem harsh and I almost feel bad for writing that, but it's the truth. For too long I have been taking the comments of others way too seriously and basically making them into personal attacks (the irony of writing this article is not lost on me). Why should I be offended and feel horrible about Cindy’s comment when she has no idea of what is going on in my house? She has no idea that my daughter is currently cutting two teeth while simultaneously battling a nasty cold and ear infections in both ears. It pains my husband just as much as it does me to hear her scream in pain, and naturally he wants to do as much as he can to help even if that includes staying up with her to give me a break at night. Yes, he has to go to work the next day and I get to stay home. But should I feel horrible about this because some woman passed judgement on something she knows nothing about? Absolutely not and neither should you. If we take every comment directed our way personally and remain bitter about it, it will drive us crazy.
That is one of my many goals as a new mom and general human being—relax. Don't take the opinions of others so seriously because they mean nothing in the long run, and put your focus on the positives instead. From this point on, I’ll listen to your advice and heed it if needed, but anything else that might have once set off a wave of negative emotions will be greeted with a smile and nothing more.