I was not at work again today. I should have been, but I was at home instead cleaning banana sick out of the deepest crevices of a high chair and washing a mountain of vomitty pyjamas. My baby daughter was ill and needed me to look after her and reassure her, yet I felt guilty for not being at work.
I am sure that I am not the only working parent who has felt bad about having to tell their employer that they can’t come in because their child is ill. I know that my priority lies with my children, of course, and I could never walk away from their little, bewildered, puke-covered faces when they need me to hug them and clean them up… But I have no idea how to stop feeling guilty every time I have to take a day off work to look after them.
Feeling guilty sucks…I have a sense of loyalty towards my employers and I pride myself on being reliable and hard-working but, at the end of the day, it is just a job. There was a time (before parenthood) when my career meant much more to me – I lived to work…and now I work to live and I have a job rather than a career because I would rather spend my evenings and weekends watching my daughters grow and having a life. I have no regrets about making the decision to step away from a career and apply for a job-job (apart from perhaps earning half the wages I used to earn). I think that, if I was still teaching, I would probably feel even more guilty about taking 2 days off. No-one at work is making me feel guilty, I am doing it all by myself… As Catrin would say, “But whyyyyyyy?”
A friend of mine speculated that mums are programmed to feel guilty. Maybe she is right. I feel guilty when my daughters fall and hurt themselves (like I possess the superpowers to catch them whenever they stumble); guilty when I have leave them with a childminder or at preschool when I go to work (like I am abandoning them, whereas they probably don’t miss me at all) and guilty whenever they are sad or disappointed (even though they are normal human emotions which we all feel from time to time). There is definitely an irrational switch which was turned on the moment I became a mum and it makes me feel the guilt and doubt myself sometimes, despite what my head is telling me. I have a feeling that I’m not the only one with the irrational switch stuck in the ‘on’ position, though…and that is a small comfort.