There are few things in life you cannot escape. Even darkness and age (the fuel for our fear as we grow) are, in the land of light bulbs and botox, dodge-able.
“I couldn’t possibly love a person as much as I love you.” My mother said to me one time, on the longest beach in Truro, the safest place on earth. I didn’t get it then, but I feel it now, for both of my children.
The term working mother is tricky. Mothering is work. Working is not mothering. But it means more sometimes..
When I had my son is when I first put on guilt like a jacket. When I was with him, eyes burning from sleepless nights, and days dragging along in lonesome repetition, I felt how heavy it was.
Being at home with an infant is the most bizarre combination of totally exhilarating, totally exhausting and totally boring all at the same time. Nothing else in life is like that. Staring at the wonder of your small miracle takes about three seconds. And is endless too. The repetition of my responsibility, my task was like factory-like, but the most important work I will ever do.
So when I went back to work, when my son was sleeping through the night, and I was sort of sleeping through the night and sort of listening to see if he was sleeping through the night, I felt free. For one glorious afternoon.
And then the guilt came back to cloak me. When I was with him I felt guilty for being away from all of the self-important work I want to be sure I do before I die. And when I was away from him, and strolling the streets with out a stroller, I felt guilty for loving the freedom so much.
Eventually, though, I got over it a bit, and felt less overwhelmed by my guilt. I could go whole afternoons with out the struggle, settle into a conversation with out distraction, have a whole cup of coffee.
And then I had another one. And the transition has been easier because I have done this before. But the guilt is still there, I wear it.
People don’t believe this, but when a nursing mother hears a baby cry – even if it is not her baby, even if it is all the way across the room and not in her line of vision – she will express milk. What a cruel trick! You might be away from your own baby, but like a dog on a hydrant, God tags you for your absence. If mothers could only inflict that kind of guilt, we might.