If you read my blog enough, then you know I have two kids and I work full time. It might even assert I work more than full time, since a lot of my work takes me away from home as I travel to clients and support them throughout various stages of their projects. That means there are many school nights I’m not home and occasionally, I’m away on weekends as well. What you may not know is I have huge amounts of guilt. I feel guilt every single time I leave for another trip. I feel guilt when I drop Cooper off at preschool when I’m home, but have a ton of work to do and can’t manage him and my workload. I feel guilt when I miss a field trip at Shelby’s school. I feel guilty all the time and it’s the most miserable feeling.
But here’s the thing: my kids are very happy, healthy and well taken care of. They are surrounded by love and support every moment of their lives. They have two parents who love them and are very active in their lives. Even when I’m not home, I’m emailing teachers; calling to make arrangements for activities; or helping with homework (God Bless FaceTime and Skype). They have grandparents who pitch in on a regular basis. My in-laws regularly invite them over, so much so they have their own beds and a full set of supplies at their home. They have Aunties and Uncles they are close to and adore them. They have wonderful teachers, friends and a school where they thrive. Most of my guilt comes from other people who repeatedly question me about my work and my travel. There are lots of people, mostly other moms, who feel the need to judge and question me, my choices and my family’s dynamics.
As I type this I’m in Denmark. I was recently having dinner at the home of one of my colleagues. He and his friends host a regular supper club with three families in the neighborhood. As I sat with this slice of Danish society they asked me about my life and family. Never once did they posed the question “Are you sad to be away from your kids?” or “How do you do it?” or “Is it hard to be a mom and travel the way you do?” or “I’m sure your kids miss you, right?” … the kind of questions Americans ask me all the time. The room included a mother of two who is also a college professor and married to a doctor, as well a social worker with three kids who is married to an IT project manager. There is such a different perspective here in Europe. Nearly everyone woman I’ve ever met works and has children; and somehow the kids here are scared for life. In fact, European children seem stronger, more independent and better prepared to tackle life. I see kids all the time hopping on the bus and easily navigating the city without the help of an adult. This is a tribute to the wonderful parenting I see from my colleagues and other Europeans. They love and care for their children, but they also give them space to grow and experience life.
My dear friend Liz recently blogged about her choice to send her daughter to daycare a few days a week and it made me think about my own choices on how I raise my children. The key point she made was this: she knows she’s making the right choice for her family and that’s all that should matter. I agree. The rest of the world has no idea what’s best for me or what’s best for my family. I know. And when I hold onto this truth and push out the voices that tell me otherwise, the guilt starts to subside.
It’s time for me to let go of my guilt, let it float away. And I’m going to make an effort to be less judgmental of other mothers because the truth is this: I have no idea. I don’t know their story. I don’t know their struggles. I don’t know what’s best for them. Instead, I’ll give them a smile and small prayer that they have peace in their lives and sunshine in their hearts. Maybe you could do the same for me?