My Work Stress Is Not My Kids’ Problem

I’ve always said that being a work-at-home mom (WAHM) is sort of the best of both worlds and the worst of both worlds. It allows me to spend more time with my twins (a plus), however, it also means that I’m constantly being pulled in a million different directions. Thanks to some serious time management though, I’ve been able to find ways to get everything done without totally losing my mind. There’s just one problem: It’s all worthless when we’re traveling to see family or the boys don’t have school or our sitter has to take time off. That was pretty much my entire August. And of course, as these things go, I happened to have a ton of work during those weeks when my time was extremely limited.

I know, I know, I should have just said no, but those of us who work for ourselves can’t always afford to turn down assignments. I also seem to think that I should be able to swing it all, so I say yes, accepting that I’ll just have a stressful few days ahead.

Luckily, I managed to get it all done so, you know, pat on the back for me. Unfortunately though, my sweet little boys paid the price. If I wasn’t able to finish an assignment while their sitter was here or while they were napping, I would turn on the television and let them watch for a good hour and a half while I worked. It’s not the norm, but for that week or so, it was necessary. I’ll be honest though: I really don’t have any guilt about using the TV as a babysitter. Not at all.

No, the crappy thing was that if my little boys dared ask for my attention, I would snap at them. “Not now!” or “Pick a show! Just pick a show!” or “Watch your cup, it’s spilling!” I’d bark. Even if I wasn’t feeling short-fused, I’d still turn them down when they asked, “Will you play with me, Mommy?” It broke my heart, but I didn’t feel like I had a choice.

For the few days this was going on, I felt like lowly, despicable scum. And then after my work was turned in and I could breathe, I just felt like the worst mother in the universe, which is even more shameful than lowly, despicable scum.

Yes, I had deadlines to meet and I owed it to those I work for to get it all done. (I’m a woman of my word with a work ethic–I deliver.) Still, that doesn’t mean my kids should suffer for it. It’s not their fault that some pieces were taking a little longer than I had hoped. It’s not their fault that Mommy took on more than she should have. They’re too young to even understand it. They just know Mommy isn’t being so nice.

When I’m with my boys, it should be their time. They deserve that. Their time with their Mommy and my time with them is precious. And it’s only going to get more scarce as they get older. Obviously, it’s not all going to be perfect quality time spent crafting and making cookies–even my planned “special time” with them tends to be fraught with crying and destruction and brothers hitting each other. I’m sure some of that time will be spent watching “Paw Patrol” together on the couch. Except it’s still my time with my adorable little monsters and I really don’t want to sacrifice it.

So I’ve already started making changes. Now, I’ll set my alarm early and work before the boys even wake up. Or I’ll apologize to the hubby and disappear to do an interview or wrap up an article. My husband understands — it’s better that I infringe on our time than on our children’s time. This weekend, I passed on a last-minute essay I was supposed to turn in because my son was sick and needed 100 percent of my attention.

Now my boys are back at school anyway. We’re back to our routine. Suddenly, I have a lot of time. A lot of time to notice that it’s kind of quiet around here. A lot of time to notice that they’re off doing stuff and I’m not there to see it. Still, I’m able to work and exercise and run errands which is making me feel more in balance, and less frazzled. I can agree to a last-minute assignment and even have lunch with a friend. Yes, I’m happier to get this part of my life back. But I miss my boys like crazy. Even though they’ve been out-of-control lately and a total handful, I miss them. Nothing is more important to me than my babies. Nothing is more valuable than my time with them. I just need to remember that.