Coping with Guilt

I’ve been thinking a lot about this whole parenting thing for the past couple of days.

I’ve realized that even after over two years of doing it, I’m still not really used to this whole single mom thing. I sometimes wonder if I ever will be.

I’ve been thinking about the fact that my measure of what makes someone a “good” parent is based largely on my “before separation life”. The yardstick I use is that of a stay-at-home, homeschooling mom. The expectations I have for my performance are based on unrealistic standards. Hell – I couldn’t meet those standards even when I WAS a stay-at-home, homeschooling mom.

My core belief system hasn’t changed. I believe in treating my girls like independent human beings. I take the time to talk to them, rather than dictate. I encourage curiosity, critical thinking, and learning. I ask for respect, kindness and compassion in return. I work hard to help them believe in and love themselves.

None of those things have changed. It’s just that the path to getting there has altered. That doesn’t make me any less of a parent…it just makes me a different parent than I used to be. I went from stay-at-home mom to working single mom. That’s a huge change, no matter how you look at it. I can’t expect to still be able to crank out craft projects and home cooking every night after I’ve worked a full day at the office. I’m doing good if I can heat up leftovers and get everyone into bed before I collapse for the night.

But leftovers and a cluttered home do not a bad parent make.

I still have time for hugs and kisses and snuggles. I still have time for heart-to-heart talks. I still have time for “mommy-daughter sleepovers”, nacho & movie night, and girl’s days out. I just pray that these are the things they remember…and not that they wish that they could still spend all day, every day with mommy.

The guilt that I feel comes largely from the fact that I wasn’t able to make my marriage work. There were so many reasons for that…some of them firmly my responsibility. Yet other factors were completely in the hands of others. I think that there will always be a part of me that believes that giving up and walking away was the ultimate selfish act. That I should have found a way, for the sake of my precious girls, to make it work – no matter what. Because they would be so much happier if we were all one big happy family.

This is the place where I feel like I put my happiness ahead of theirs.

And that particular guilt will continue to haunt me for a long time to come.

11 Responses

  1. If you had stayed in your marriage, you would have been miserable. You may have been crippled by early onset illness from all the stress. Neither of those are conducive to being at our best for raising children.

    Having lived in a home where my own stay-at-home-mom remained in a marriage that was falling apart around her, I can honestly say that this is not a better alternative by any means. I know why she stayed and I realize she only had our best interests at heart, but I didn’t flourish in that environment despite the homecooked meals. It wasn’t a happy place to grow up.

    So don’t be too hard on yourself. I didn’t know you before you left your marriage, but I’m assuming you’ve done a lot of growing in the last couple of years. That wisdom, strength and self-respect is something your daughters will model after. That’s worth more than all the crafts and homeschool lesson you could pull together combined. They will thank you later 🙂

  2. If you had stayed in the marriage,what honestly would have happened with your depression?
    When you were in the deep throes of depression was that good for your kids?

    I have a feeling (as a stranger!) that things may have become far worse in this area if you were living in an unhappy marriage for the sake of the kids.But hey, that’s just an outsider looking in without really knowing you!

    I think the work versus stay at home parenting will always be a difficult debate/issue for so many of us.
    There isn’t an easy answer or or perfect solution.So many parents in the world are stuck in this dilemma….

  3. I agree with Maven – an unhappy mom is not a good mom – she can’t be. You must fill up your cup before you can start filling others. Your girls will be fine and honestly, maybe even better off because being a child a single mom makes you stronger, more independent and self-reliant – all good things!

  4. I was the same as you, my friend. I went from stay-at-home mom to working, single mom too. It IS difficult not to measure against that. Especially when I see my daughters’ friends’ mothers who are still doing it. And they’re able to make the time to help with things that I’m not.

    I’ll get over it. I’ve decided not to use that excuse anymore. I may not be the mom I once was but I will make the best of what we’ve got!

    Thank you!

  5. Honestly I do not feel guilty about not making my marriage work – I tried, it wasn’t meant to be.

    I do on the odd occasion feel guilty about the consequences of that choice though.

    Kids are very simple – they need love, security and a safe place!

  6. I often wondered how parents did all the things that parents did with their kids. I worked 2 jobs and quite frankly I had no time to do anything that was very special with them. Heck, my step-daughter would draw pictures of me at the stove because that is where I spent a large chunk of my time when I wasn’t working. I often thought that I clearly wasn’t getting the hang of parenting because I was more often just meeting their needs than anything else.

    And now that I work two jobs again, it is all I can do to carve out time to visit the kids. Sometimes, that visiting time is going to church with them which isn’t exactly individual time but it is all the time I have.

  7. I think what you gave your girls is a role model to be proud of: a woman who is not boxed in by the title Mom, but who is a whole woman and realizes her self-worth and happiness are important…just as their’s are

    You didn’t take one damn thing away from them. You gave them more than they might ever know.

  8. Crockpot and seal-a-meal are my life savors. I have 3 crockpots (I know, extreme) so I take 1 weekend and run all 3 crockpots both days. Then I divide everything into a meal serving and throw into the freezer. This allows me to only have to “cook” every couple of months. I write down all the meals on a greaseboard with the quantities, and subtract when I take something out. Pull it from the freezer in the morning and throw it in the fridge to thaw while you are working, after work throw it in the microwave along with a veggie if needed, and you have a nice hot meal, no guilt. The girls can help on your cooking days, wash, peel or cut (depending on age). Bottom line, it is the quality of time you spend with your girls that they will remember. You’re a great mom from what I see in your posts, keep up great job.

  9. I don’t think you should feel guilty over your divorce – of course, I don’t know the intricacies of it, but I think it is something you should be proud of, in a way, that you came out better and stronger on the other side.

  10. […] a lot of us struggle with it. As a single mom, that guilt is multiplied ten-fold. But I’ve written about that before. Not so long ago, either. It’s a biggie for me, I […]

  11. Hi I’m new here to your blog so I don’t really know details (I must go back and read the archives when I get a chance) but I know that for one you shouldn’t feel guilty. But I know easier said than done. I often feel guilty, too. I feel guilty that maybe I didn’t try hard enough (even though I honestly did give it my all) I feel guilty that because of my selfish choices my daughter is not going to have a “normal” family with a mom AND a dad. But if you’re marriage wasn’t working than its sometimes better to be apart. In order to have happy children they must first have happy parents.

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