For some weird reason, these two topics have been on my mind/coming up in conversations recently. So here is a brief discussion/rant. Enjoy, or stop reading now if you truly love the concept of man caves. And of mom guilt. Neither make sense to me.
Man Caves — why? So a man, presumably married and with one or more kids, needs this “special” getaway space filled with electronics and who knows what else. So…you want to pretend like you don’t have a family and return to your pimply teenager roots in your parents’ house playing video games. Alone. Got it. Yes, everyone needs some alone time and methods to rejuvenate, but I don’t think specially carving out a room (or entire floor) within a family home, just for this purpose, is necessary. It’s actually kind of insulting that so many men would love to spend hours alone in a room watching TV/sports, playing video games, and drinking (or perhaps with their equally childish man cave buddies), rather than building the family they committed to. The home is for family. There is the option of scheduling time with friends, going out for a beer, or doing some physical activity outdoors for goodness’ sake. If none of this sounds appealing and you’d rather just be alone in your cave while the rest of your family does their thing, perhaps you shouldn’t have gotten married or had kids. Man caves. Bah!
Sharp turn to mom guilt. I never really heard this term until I became a mom and spent countless hours (often in the middle of the night) on Google searching what to do, am I doing this right, is baby acting normally, baby was acting normally 5 seconds ago but now that she is doing this new thing is she still acting normally, etc. I remember reading the words “mom guilt” in so many places on the internet that I internalized this concept. I felt guilty for failing at breastfeeding (it happens, yo!). I felt guilty for gaining a little too much pregnancy weight. I felt guilty for having to go back to work when baby was a mere 12 weeks old, knowing full well that so many women have to go back to work after 6, 4, or even 2 weeks (only in America). I felt guilty that my kid was going to daycare. So much guilt all over the place!
But then, at some point in the haze there was a spark of enlightenment. This mom guilt business is seriously doing nobody any good. The idea of mom guilt seemed almost to be another way for women to keep competing against one another rather than lifting each other up. It’s like trying to do/make anything on Pinterest. Trying to live up to ridiculous expectations when you’re a new parent and juggling 250 other responsibilities is just not going to happen, and not worthwhile. So my kid goes to daycare, and sometimes eats processed goldfish snacks, and sometimes I forget to brush her teeth at night, and her ear piercings had to come out, and I couldn’t spend every waking second of the rest of my life with her bonding and cuddling. Yea, it’s all ok. We all fared much worse growing up, I think, but because of that we developed some grit.
As my friends and I learned during residency from our program director, we have to recharge the battery. (Was that the analogy? Or a gas tank? Whatever. The point is the same). We have one battery that’s running. It depletes with our work, with our relationships, with our commitments, with our stressors, with our giving constantly to others. But we have to do things and find ways of recharging that battery so that we can keep giving to all of these worthwhile and valuable aspects of our lives and not feel burnt out. As moms especially, we have to stop a little (a lot) with the guilt, find a balance between 24/7 coddling and never seeing our kids because of our jobs, and just do our best. Just keep replenishing the battery at regular intervals. And no, us women don’t need a dumb cave to do this with.
A final funny story: A dear friend of mine who is the mom of two and stayed home with her oldest for the first 2 years was telling me how sad and guilty she felt on his first day of daycare. The next day she texted me, saying she was at Target, strolling through the aisles, Starbucks in hand, and all feelings of guilt had suddenly disappeared. I love that story because it was so honest and true – it’s ok to do you sometimes.
For more, here’s a nice article in Forbes about releasing that “mom guilt.”