The Guilt and Shame Spiral

I’ve been struggling with a lot of guilt about being home and not trying to work up until my due date.

Even though it would have been a huge struggle.

Even though there were days, even in the third trimester, (many days) I didn’t want to leave the couch because I felt like I had the flu.

Even though I have my family’s support and we are lucky to be able to generally afford this time off.

Except the decision has ripple effects. It means Gabe gets home later, and is gone from the house way more (like 11 hours on the bad days) because of traffic, because Kamel is busy at work and sometimes can’t leave when he should, because you need 3 people in the car to use the carpool lanes and I’m not there. It means during the months we would normally be strapped financially because of payroll timing and bill timing, we are EXTRA STRAPPED because there is none of my income to assist. It means putting off things like haircuts and having long budget talks into the night to figure out how we can pay for all the things we need to pay for and get to the next pay period without incurring more debt. It means no saving for a house.

And I struggle with this because I feel like it is my fault. It’s my fault my kid is gone too much, and it’s my fault that we are having to have the big talks about the things we cannot actually do even when we said we would because we can’t afford them, and the talks about the things we need to put off buying for the baby – the things we would like but don’t need. My fault. If only I were working.

Except my situation sucked. It was not supportive. I would have had to take major pay cuts to go to all of these doctor appointments.

Except I am doing something – I’m pregnant and it is really hard. Not for everyone, but for me. I hurt and I feel awful, even right now, even right this second I feel so gross. And when I talked to friends of mine who also have kids (Hi Jo!) they reminded me: if women had a better support system, if men had babies, if women’s health was actually valued in this insane patriarchy bullshit society then I probably wouldn’t feel so guilty. I probably wouldn’t have reason to, first of all, but it also wouldn’t be so ingrained in me that I should be “pulling my weight” and “doing it all” and setting aside my health to “contribute to society.”

As Jo said last week to me: You are not making your family’s life harder, you’re making your family.

And as much as I do want to get back to work, this is important life shit happening right now. Important! And I don’t want to feel bad about taking care of me for a short period of time in my life. The rest of my life will be working and child wrangling and partnering and all the things. Right now it’s about taking a few months and letting myself be sick at home, pushing myself to go on walks and stay active, taking the time to rest when I need it, and then eventually having time home with an infant without a looming deadline of 6 weeks hanging over my head.

And these things are luxuries currently. LUXURIES. When I type them out they seem like “well of course” things. “Well of course a largely pregnant woman would want to stay home,” “Well of course parents need time home with their new babies, and women need time to recover and heal and breast feed and and and and…” But I feel guilty and like a massive burden at times because … this small amount of time in a person’s whole productive life is seen as too much. And that’s wrong.

So, I’m working on not feeling guilty, on not feeling like I’m making life harder on everyone else. I’m working on saying, “This is how it should be.” Because it should be. Regardless of economic status, regardless of familial support. We should be taking care of each other better especially in regards to some of the most basic life experiences, the most basic life challenges. I don’t want to see more rhetoric putting mothers on some ridiculous pedestal, I want to see legislature that supports women’s health holistically without guilt or shame.

10 thoughts on “The Guilt and Shame Spiral”

  1. It’s funny that you posted this today. My husband just asked me today if it might be possible to reduce my work week to 32 hours a week since I’m exhausted. I just hit the 30 week mark and I’m suddenly tired and feel huge and everything feels like a struggle. I feel like I’ve hit a wall and I just assumed I had to keep struggling for the next 10 weeks. It literally never occurred to me to try and fix the struggle. The LUXURIES of sleep and rest seem so far out of grasp and unreasonable to ask for…WTF man.

    1. Good for husband!! It took Kamel and my mom being like “WHY ARE YOU STILL WORKING” to finally call it a day 2 days before my due date. I generally felt fine, but was struggling to physically do my commute and get out the door and was so uncomfortable. It’s good we have people who look out for us when the world doesn’t.

  2. We have a significantly more supportive environment for parents here, and I still get guilt.
    Paid leave is 14 weeks (if you meet the conditions, which are not massively onerous), and if you’ve been in a job for 12 months before you go on leave, they have to hold it for you for 12 months (which is unpaid leave beyond 14 weeks, but at least you have a job to go back to).
    But my guilt is that I didn’t rush back to work.
    That I’m causing our family to go backwards financially by going back to study instead. That my 2 year old is in daycare 10 hours a day, 4 days a week, so I can enrich myself mentally (and hopefully find a decent job at the end of it).
    That I’m reliant on husbands income to maintain our lifestyle.
    That we cant afford to have a second child, because our house is actually too small (we can squeeze a basinette into our bedroom, but not a cot, and the 2nd bedroom is a small single), and to afford bigger would mean I would have to be at work full-time and longer-term, and not be taking maternity leave.

    Guilt sucks.

    Your friend is totally right. You are growing your family. You are doing it hard. Feeling bad that its hard is completely expected – but please, dont beat yourself up over it too much.

  3. I’m so glad Jo reminded you of all that. If I had my way, when creating an actual human, women shouldn’t have to do anything but chew and swallow their damn meals if they don’t feel up to it. (No, I didn’t have an enjoyable pregnancy.) I’m not saying all should be sequestered (unless you want to be) – just that when doing a job that quite literally no one else can do, you ought to be able to do JUST THAT JOB. It’s HUGE.

    And our society and how it fails us on almost every level when it comes to family and our rights… It’s just built to squeeze every last drop out of us and then drop us like a stale cookie.

    Basics like being with your family and getting rest should not be the luxuries we’re told they are.

    I’m so proud of you for making the decision to take this time. I couldn’t and while I don’t want to admit it, I regret that.

    1. It is huge, and it is devalued to this “it’s nature, you should just be able to handle it” status. And then motherhood is put on this epic epic pedestal where any woman who chooses to not become a mother is seen as selfish and wicked. WHY?! WHY would anyone who didn’t really want kids want to go through all of this bullshit with no support? First, the whole process sucks, and then it sucks even more because society basically wants you to ignore the fact that you’re pregnant and act as if everything is exactly as it was. And that’s not even talking about the lack of support young mothers have raising infants in this world of “mom’s are SO entitled with their STROLLERS and help needed OPENING DOORS, UGH!”

  4. Argh. In just about every country in the world except the US, there are better support systems for pregnant women than this. You shouldn’t have to feel guilty. You shouldn’t have to worry about this stuff, important as it is. A million hugs for you about all of this.

    Also, you’re not just putting yourself first – you’re putting FAE first, too. Right now, your health has a huge impact on her health, even though it’s (largely) invisible. That’s half your family. You + Fae? Half your family, now. Maybe this is one of the first steps you can take to show her that her health as a girl, as a one-day-woman, matters. This time and rest you’re giving her is a gift, and one she deserves.

  5. You know, I’m reading this in the UK, sat underneath a nursing one month old, and I am currently two months into my nine months of maternity leave (ten months once I add on my annual leave as well). It could have been twelve months but my husband is taking the last three months once I go back to work in March. It makes my heart ache that you feel so guilty for taking a little time before the baby comes to look after yourself. It makes me angry that the US is so anti-women. It makes me so grateful for the support and privileges that I have solely due to where I live.
    Enjoy the time if you can, Lauren, it’s so short in the scheme of things and sounds so needed.

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