Mom Guilt: but why though?
You know that feeling you get when you just know you're a terrible mother and you're certain your child is going to fail because you have no idea what you're doing and you're probably ruining their life? Ah, yes. The dreaded MOM GUILT. It's quite the mind fuck, isn't it?
Before my husband and I got married, we spent hours discussing how we would raise our children. My husband and I are two very different people with completely different upbringings. I'm Chinese-American, he's Russian-Australian. I grew up in the States with immigrant Chinese parents, he was born in Russia and moved between Australia and Russia after his parents divorced.
Since our son was born we've tried to incorporate the best of Western and Eastern cultural practices in to our parenting style. We have the American ideal of individual autonomy and independence to teach self-sufficiency, curiosity and success through overcoming failure. And we have the Eastern practices that teach respect of elders, discipline and community.
As a child of Chinese immigrants, I tend to identify more with the Eastern practice of identifying family as a community. In Eastern culture, every family member plays an important role in raising a child, including cousins, aunts, uncles and grandparents. As such, I have developed quite the village to help raise our kid and seek out help whenever possible.
Which brings us back to mom guilt. My mother-in-law and her husband live in Australia and were anxious to spend time with our son. They met up with us on recent trip to New Zealand and at the end of the trip, took our son home with them to Australia to spend the rest of the month. When I returned to the States without my son, people were surprised to hear I had agreed to spend so much time away from him. "Don't you feel guilty? Don't you think he'll miss you? Don't you miss him?"
In Eastern culture, it is important for the child to spend time with their elders, to learn traditions and to hear stories of the past. Western culture tries to tell us that we as parents aren't allowed to ask for help because we should be able to do it all and make it look good. But here's the thing, I'm a busy mom. I cook, clean, exercise, count macros and work a full time job as a physician assistant. I'm fortunate enough that my parents live 6 minutes away and are available for when I need a mental health break, which is pretty often, but my husband's family isn't quite that close. So when they ask to spend time with him, I'm happy to oblige, even if it means that he spends a month away from me on another continent.
So, to answer that question asked by my friends and family; YES! Of course I miss him. He's my baby. I miss him dearly. But NO, I don't have mom guilt for letting my son spend time with his grandparents in Australia. I know he is safe, I know he is loved. I know he is learning all sorts of things that I cannot teach him. I love my son enough to let him grow and develop away from me. I love him enough to give him the opportunity to get to know his grandparents on a deeper level. I love him enough to allow him to be exposed to as many languages and cultures as humanly possible. And I love him enough to give myself a mental break without feeling guilty.
A month without our baby allows my husband and I to just be a couple again. It allows us to reconnect with each other, to work on our marriage. It allows us to channel our energy into creating and setting new goals for our family. It lets us remember and reflect on who we were before we became his parents. Above all, his time away makes us better parents for when he returns. I appreciate and love a lot about Western culture, but when it comes to raising children, I'll take a pass on the mom guilt and stick with the "it takes a village" motto that I was brought up by.