Sacrificing My Time for Guilt
Sacrificing My Time for Guilt
Have you ever felt guilty for doing something you believed was considered deplorable? I erroneously believed the daily act I was committing was wrong based on the guilt and regret I felt right while committing the act. Four days a week, I intentionally put myself in a situation that caused me guilt and remorse; ironically, what I was doing was not bad at all! Every morning, my day started by waking children up to get them ready for school. I brew my little cup of sanity that helps me get through the day. Just as the aroma of fresh coffee begins to circulate the house, I hear the steps of tiny little feet slowly making their way into the kitchen. Their well-rested faces spark a bit of envy with in me, but those little smiles extinguish that spark almost instantly. The hectic mornings take a toll on my sleepless mind and body, but with a smile on my face, I continue. The kids are ready for school and ready to be dropped off. The small drive to school is always the most relaxing; it’s quiet and no one has enough energy to ask the million questions that are usually part of our daily routine. Their kisses goodbye and the way they happily greet friends leave me amazed at how quick they are growing. I return home to see the tired look on my husband’s face who is barely getting home from a 12-hour night shift. As much as the lack of sleep is killing me, I keep quiet because I know he is also exhausted. Maybe if I don’t reveal how much I struggle to get through my day, he can get some strength to help get him through his. Sometimes I feel like he does the same for me. He does his best to conceal how much graveyard shifts are hurting him, but it’s evident. The redness in his eyes erases the passion I used to see when I looked into his eyes; the inability to stay awake through conversations replaces the long conversations we use to have about what new things our children were learning; however, when I ask if he is ok enough to stay awake with the kids, he always puts a smile on his face. he constantly reminds me to start getting ready, or I’ll be late. As those innocent eyes begin to see me pacing back and forth searching for something to wear, they connect the dots and come to the conclusion that their mommy is about to leave the house. They ask me the same question every day and are never content with the identical response I always give them. With my basic jeans and tee shirt on, my hair gets thrown into a messy bun, and I head to the door. I kiss my little ones goodbye and immediately the tears begin to flow down their cheeks. I try not to look their way in hopes of not letting the guilt I feel consume me. As I walk through the door, I remind myself and try to justify the reasons why I need to get into my car and pull out the drive way. I’m sure you’re wondering what exactly the cause of those emotions were, and why it has such an impact on me emotionally; well, I’m a college student. The struggle I face daily trying to manage a full college schedule and raising my four children has never made me feel so guilty for doing something positive. I have spent many years as a stay at home mother to my children, but I always felt that desire for more. I wasn’t certain what “more” really was, but it was a mystery that I knew I was ready to investigate.
I began my college journey in 2008 when my son was 4 months old, and my oldest daughter was 3. The natural guilt I felt leaving a small infant was in a bizarre way tolerable, but the cries from my 3-year-old had the most impact. I limited myself to 1 or 2 classes a semester and eventually decided to take a few semesters off to reduce my struggle. As my husband and I brought another baby girl into this world in January of 2012, I decided that summer school was the semester this mommy was going to return to school. I quickly realized the emotional struggle had diminished and soon the overwhelming cost of a nanny was the new cause of my stress. With my husband’s support, I pushed on and learned to just roll with the punches and make the best of it. The joy we felt seeing our children grow and advance to new stages brought the notion that maybe we could handle one last baby to complete our family. Who could have foreseen that the tiniest little notion would grow into one of the hardest obstacles I would have to overcome.
In 2014, my 4th child was born prematurely. The pain I felt seeing my baby so helpless she could not even breathe on her own destroyed every inch of strength I thought I had. Being discharged from the hospital and leaving empty handed was a constant reminder of how delicate her health really was. Having to leave my child in the NICU was an unbearable pain. I had no doubt the nurses and doctors could properly care for my newborn, but, of course, they could never take care of her like I could; I’m her mother. The hours felt like days and the days felt like months. The heaviness in my heart and the growing black cloud lingering above my head seemed to move my entire life in slow motion. I was disconnected with the world. I was able to regain my connection through the 3 children I gave birth to who shared their strength with their mommy in her desperate time of need. Thankfully, my premie overcame her health issues was able to come home.
We all adjusted to the new addition very easily and quickly the desire to go back to school began to grow. I tested out my ability to handle a college class and four children in the spring semester of 2015. Surprisingly, I did great and really enjoyed the classroom setting. I began to look forward to attending my class, and I enjoyed the time spent communicating with actual adults. My stay at home mommy days were spent playing with toys and answering all the “why?” questions. After attending my first semester back in school, I realized how much I truly longed for some form of adult interaction. It gets lonely not having anyone around to talk to besides children. As the semester flew by, I decided to give summer school a try. It came and went by so quickly that I wished I would have enrolled myself in two classes instead of one. When final grades came in, the grades I received reassured me that I was able to increase my course load. Fall semester brought me the challenge of taking on 5 classes. Did I think I would survive? No, but I knew 4 sets of little eyes were watching and that meant failure was not an option.
As the semester began, the time I usually spent playing outside with my kids quickly turned into mommy needing quiet time to do homework. I struggled to find the balance between doing my work and helping my kids with their work. Unfortunately, I had to sacrifice sleep; I felt guilty telling my kids that mommy couldn’t play because I had too much homework to do. I used my free time during the day to help my kids with their homework, go to soccer practices, and go to volleyball games. I used the quiet night time to do my homework. I found myself going to bed sometimes at 3 am and having to get up at 6.30 am to start the day all over again. I wanted to yell from the rooftop and beg for help at the same time. A million questions would cross my mind during this time. Who could I call for help? Who would want to help me anyway? Should I ask my husband to help me more? How could I even ask my husband for help if he already works 12 hours at night then stays awake with the little ones while I’m attended my morning class? Do I even trust anyone to help with the kids? Even if I did, what if they say no? Just when I thought I was about to lose the last ounce of sanity I possessed, my oldest daughter reminded me why I’m putting myself through all this. I was sitting at the table trying to figure out what exactly deductive logic was and the loud voices of random chatter was slowly starting to get my attention. An argument broke out over a toy, and it was causing me to become more confused and lost. I felt my heart beating faster and the frustration of not understanding my homework growing into a rage that made me want to toss the book across the room. I heard the voice of my daughter ever so calmly tells her siblings “Guys be quiet. Mom is doing her work. She’s going to be a lawyer one day and has to do all of this work first.” The tears began to fill my eyes and slowly run down my cheeks. I made my way quickly to the bathroom with my head down to prevent them from seeing my emotions and at that moment all of my frustration was swept away by the sounds of her words replaying in my head. A whirlwind of emotions began to take hold of me. I was upset because I let my children see me close to my breaking point. At the same time, I was proud of the way my daughter was mature enough to try and help me with her siblings. Was I doing the right thing by going to school full time? I questioned everything I have ever done in my life in those 5 minutes I spent locked in the bathroom. I composed myself and washed the smeared make up off my face. I opened the bathroom door and saw all my kids standing there waiting for me to come out. Innocently, they never questioned why I got up so quickly and locked myself in the bathroom, and I’m glad they didn’t. I put all my stuff away that day and just sat there watching while they played together. I was able to view them in slow motion and see how important they truly are to me.
What I am doing right now will determine what kind of future I will provide for them. I’m sacrificing my time for guilt. I am giving up my time usually spent with them to go to school with the guilt feeling of not being with them, but I wouldn’t have it any other way. They are my future. I cannot encourage them to be the best and never give up if I can’t even follow my own advice. They believe in me as much as I believe in them. As much as they depend on me physically, emotionally and financially, in a way I depend on them as well. I need their smiles to remind me why I need to be persistent and never stop trying to accomplish my dreams. I need to hear their laughs to help erase the negative criticisms I hear from those who try to make me feel guilty for wanting a better future for my family. Lastly, I need their support to help give me strength when I feel like I have lost all my will power to continue. I know I am not alone in this journey. There are many students out there trying to find the balance between managing school and raising a family. We all struggle with life and decisions we are unsure are the right ones to make. If I could encourage just one person to continue fighting through their struggle and never stop believing in themselves with this story, then my struggle is worth sharing.