Priorities, expectations and guilt

I have recently found out that a very good and dear friend of mine, who recently became a mum of a beautiful baby, have regarded me as “a mum who’s doing it all” and how she has unnecessarily comparing her current life to mine.

Obviously, I immediately corrected her then and there, but I thought I would write it down here so that she has this page available for when that thought comes back; or for any new mothers out there who are struggling with adjusting to their newfound role in their lives (i.e. humancow, lost sense of self, sleep deprived, plus others). I also do not want to feed into the misplaced expectations on mothers to do it all, at the same time. She just can’t do it all 🙂

Firstly, I would like to reiterate that I did go through the same phase. You only have to read back to my earlier posts to be reminded 🙂 and I would like to say that it is a normal phase. It is difficult being a mum for the first time: you are being “reduced” to a human-cow, who prior to the arrival of the baby, was a capable and perhaps even a high-achiever person. Your days consisted on wiping poop and vomit, leaky boobs, being extraordinarily tired, and isolated. Your friends are all still at work, being their own person, living their own life. While you? You are doing the same thing over and over again, all day everyday, alone, solely responsible for the livelihood of the burrito-baby. It’s hard. Add to all that, the newly found thing that is mothers’ guilt *sigh* Mothers’ guilt is the worst to deal with. I still suffer from the worst care of mothers’ guilt; my MIL tells me that it will never actually go away, you just learn to deal with it better.

Secondly, I am not doing it all, at the same time. I have also had this role for more than 5 years now, and with any role, like in your workplace, you pick up tricks and shortcuts to make your work easier and faster. You also learn to prioritise and perhaps even delegate 🙂 Here are my top 3 priorities at the moment, and I focus of these three above all else:

Priority #1: healthy home-cooked meals

It is at the top of my list that my children eat well. Knowing that I can prepare the children healthy meals makes me happy; so I do prioritise cooking, food prep and meal plans in my days. So what do I do?

  • I make up weekly meal plans, shop for them and cook in bulk for the days I work (4 nights)
  • I prepare what I can for the little man’s lunch boxes on the weekends, including having frozen lunches for days that I don’t have anything fresh to pack (veg slices, savoury and sweet muffins, sandwiches, scrolls, biscuits, muesli bars etc)
  • Though I love grocery shopping, it just does not fit in my schedule, so I do “Click and Collect” from Woollies. This way, I can put it my order online, it takes only about 10 minutes, then pick them all up on my day off with my little lady. A total of about 15-20 minutes for grocery, instead of average of 1+ hour.

Associated mothers’ guilt: missing out on specials at the grocery shops, because if I did do it in person, I am likely to pick up marked down items, instead of paying full price. Bulk cooking also take up almost an entire afternoon, so I am missing out on some family time on Sundays. However, knowing that they eat healthy, that I have control over their food intake and being able to prepare food in accordance to the mister’s dietary requirements give me a lot of personal satisfaction, so I do it.

Priority #2: a career of my own.

Now that I am done with maternity leave and the children are older, this year is the year I start focusing on my own career. This means working 4 days a week, sending the little lady to daycare and my little man to Before and After school care on the days I work.  This priority also means that I have to further my education, albeit slowly, taking more time away from the kids while I study.

Associated mothers’ guilt: long days for both kids, especially the little man, resulting in cranky, tired and sensitive kids at the end of the day, requiring extra tender loving care from parents, who had an equally long day but still expected to parent. Add to this, comments like “oh my, you are making them have long days?”, “why don’t you just not work as long?” “poor kids, they must be so tired by the time you’re ready to pick them up” #unhelpfulcomments

Yes, I can work shorter days. Yes, I can take more days off and spend more time with them at home. But, I want to build my career too, I think it would be good for them to see that I can, and to be honest, I like having my own thing, my own achievements. I am super ready to be my own person again now, instead of just being someone’s mum, and someone’s wife. Though we have unconsciously agree that I would be the main carer of the kids while the mister be the main bacon-bringer, I still would like to contribute to the team.

So what happens at night as I lay in bed after a challenging dinner/bath/bedtime because they’re overtired after a long day and I am probably not as patient as I could be if I didn’t have an equally long day? I am consumed with the overwhelming feeling of the mothers guilt and questioning whether I really am being selfish for wanting to have a career of my own, and whether having a career is worth it while the kids suffer.

Priority #3: a clean house and work chores get done.

I think this one is because I am a clean freak and slightly OCD in cleanliness. I am sure the kids wouldn’t know otherwise if the house wasn’t as clean or tidy, but I care. A lot.

Associated mothers’ guilt: more time away from the kids to clean and getting my chores done instead of being on the floor playing with them more. Even then, I feel like the house is never clean enough, there’s always more laundry to wash, the ironing basket is constantly full and the yard (at least the front) is a mess. Yes, I can get the cleaners in again, but “I do not want to spend the money on something I can do myself, I would rather spend it on something else”.

Obviously there are many more on my priority list, but these three at the top at the moment. Exercising and having more date nights with the mister makes up the top five, but the other three have to be done first, so I very rarely get to organise date nights but I am so much better with exercising 🙂

Thirdly, I had to lower my expectations. I simply cannot achieve everything I want to do, at the same time, to the degree of perfection that I want. It is just impossible. I either have to have someone else do them for me, or they just don’t get done if they’re not high on my priority list. I think this was the second hardest to deal with (after the aforementioned mothers’ guilt). Nowadays, when something is good enough, it is good enough.

On top of all the mothers’ guilt inducing things mentioned above, I do not get to spend anywhere near enough quality time with the mister, I do not spend time with my girlfriends enough, I do not exercise enough, I do not think or do anything about my appearance enough, I do not read enough (and when I do, they’re not the educational, philosophical, life changing books, I read silly romance books) and so on and so on. However, knowing that my top three priorities are met at some level, I am okay. I have to, or I drive myself insane, and I know that being insane would not be good for the kids. So I have to be okay, not just for myself, but for them.

To my sister in God, who I have lots of love for, you are doing incredibly well in times of adjustments and new challenges. Things will get a lot easier, please don’t impose unnecessary expectations on yourself. You do what works for you, in the period that works for you, to a level that is “good enough” for you ❤

2 thoughts on “Priorities, expectations and guilt

  1. Hufflestitch says:

    This times a million and one ❤❤❤ I am still finding my balance and lowering my expectations is key. I cannot operate to the same level in the workplace doing 3 days a week as I did before with fulltime hours. I also have to accept that I cannot just randomly stay back extra time because I have Otto to get from daycare. This has been, and continues to be, a struggle. I pride myself on the quality of my work and ability to jump in and help out when needed.

    I also struggle with the guilt that some days I LOVE being at work. My brain enjoys the challenge and some days the ability to go to the bathroom alone is just bliss. At the same time, I miss my little guy a lot!

    Then throw in wife guilt, because due to different work schedules and a rotating shift roster, some days see us high fiving at the door and we barely get time for a 10 minute conversation. I also feel guilty when we just sit and watch netflix because we are so exhausted, conversation is too hard.

    If I had to name priorities it would be
    1. Buy a house
    2. Healthy meals
    3. Find myself again

    If you ever find a way to never need sleep, we could probably do it all 😂

    • theunicornmum says:

      Sorry I haven’t replied sooner, and to answer your last line, no I have not and very confident that I never will Thank you also for sharing your top 3, your third one really resonates with me. 5 years on and I have yet to find myself again, although I know that I’m trying to find the old pre-children me, who I will never be able to find. Who am I now? I don’t know yet, but I sure hope I find her soon love to you!

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