I remember my mother telling me that being a parent involves a lot of guilt, whether it’s not breast feeding for long enough (if at all), not going to the right groups, or, as they get older, not going on such wonderful holidays as other children. Well I can add to all of that. The guilt of also having a career.
I read one of the popular parenting books a few years ago and within the first couple of chapters it became clear that the author felt very strongly that children shouldn’t be in childcare before the age of 4. Huge waves of guilt ensued. My eldest then was only 3 and already I had completely failed him?!
I was ambitious throughout school and university and enjoyed doing the extra bits and pieces where I could. I started my VTS and went on to have 3 children in quick succession. Suddenly I realised I didn’t have the time (or energy) to be quite so keen. I welcomed into my life this new world of Guilt and felt attacked by it on all sides. I was now unable to do those extra audits, CPD sessions or organising (let alone attending) the social nights out.
There was the heavy guilt of dropping the children at nursery at crazy o’clock knowing that they would probably be the last ones to be collected at the end of the day. There was also the mad dash to get there before nursery closed – an extra dollop of guilt towards work colleagues who were still there as I rushed off.
Don’t get me wrong; I can clearly remember the joy of eating my lunch in the canteen undisturbed when I went back to work after number one. There is also some freedom in having another purpose to who I am, earning my own money and being able to walk around unattached to an infant – but then there is the guilt for feeling like that too.
I have found that the children starting school has helped with the guilt slightly. It isn’t my fault that they have to be at school – I have the law to support me here, (as I have explained to the children vociferously). Although some other mothers have scuppered this by becoming teaching assistants at the school, so even this small bit of support waivers. ‘Mummy, why can’t you be a teacher?’ Well, darling, hmm…..during the summer holidays I think they may have a point.
But this is exactly where being a locum GP can come into its own – due to one word – flexibility. I can fit work around life, not the other way round. When at work, I work hard, I do my best for the patients, I keep up to date, but if one week I want to go to sports day – I can, without the guilt of asking colleagues to swap. Most days, I can start my sessions after school drop off and finish so that I can be back at the school gates at pick up. This has really helped with another portion of guilt – this time towards my husband. As he works full time too, expecting him to fit in school runs takes a toll on him just as much as me.
As the children get older, I fear the guilt doesn’t stop. The days of tearful nursery drop offs (me mainly) may be gone, but I am sure there will be lots of new ways in which I can let my children down, and never be as committed or quite as involved as I aspire to be at work. I am told the feeling of never doing anything 100% doesn’t leave, but I hope I am getting better at managing it.
Currently I am having a dilemma whether to go to a meeting which I really ought to attend or to make it to collect my children on time from school….probably best to stop writing now so I can let all that guilt set in for whichever I choose not to do.
This article was first published on Networklocum.com