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No 'mom guilt,' but 'wife guilt' aplenty

Alicia Strnad Hoalcraft, Parenting Perspectives columnist

FARGO — I hear a lot about "mom guilt." It's the feeling that we're somehow not good enough for our kids or not doing enough for them.

I hear women talk about how they feel bad for leaving their kids at day care or for not having enough money to buy the outrageously overpriced "it toy" for Christmas. I hear them say they don't feel right leaving their kids to go have dinner with friends or see a movie with their spouse.

I can honestly say I don't have that issue. Yes, I always want to do more for my daughter and I strive to do my best for her. But I recognize that I am doing my best.

I don't feel bad that I can't be with her all the time. I know that the things I leave her for — like going to work — are important. And, most importantly, when I leave her, I know that she's with people who care for her and will take great care of her. (My daughter loves her day care and the staff there so much she regularly asks if she can have sleepovers there.)

I also genuinely feel like taking time to take care of myself is the best thing for my daughter. I'm not only modeling self-care for her, I'm doing what I need so I can be less stressed and more present when I'm with my daughter. This means when we're together — which is still a fair amount of the time — she gets the best version of me.

So I'm not about mom guilt.

But wife guilt? That's another story.

I frequently chastise myself for taking time away from my husband. I regularly work 50-plus hours a week, but while I know my daughter is always well cared for during these hours, I worry that my husband is lonely or overwhelmed without me.

And even though I know my husband is a perfectly capable adult who doesn't need me to do it, part of me still feels I'm not doing the "woman's work" of cooking and cleaning enough. (Even though I know he's grateful I don't cook much since I'm dreadful at it.)

Recently, the stress of work combined with the cold weather exacerbating my chronic pain conditions has led me to want to nap for a little bit in the evening when possible. I know my daughter looks forward to "mommy's nap time" because that means she gets a little screen time while her dad plays World of Warcraft. But I felt bad for not spending the evening with my husband or not doing something more productive around the house.

Then one night last week, my husband asked me, "Are you going to take a nap tonight?"

I paused for a moment, feeling bad about wanting to take one and leave him alone — again. "I'd like to," I said. "Unless you don't want me to?"

"No," he said. "I like when you take your naps. Then I can focus on my game."

And just like that, I felt a big chunk of wife guilt slide away. I wasn't abandoning him by not spending all evening with him — like me, he actually preferred to have some time to himself.

I'm not sure why it never occurred to me that, like our daughter, my husband might enjoy having a little time to himself in the evenings. In my haste to make myself feel bad, I overlooked something important: My husband wanted and needed some time to himself, too.

So, I'll keep taking my naps when I need them and keep letting my husband take his time to play WoW.

And in doing so, we'll try to demonstrate to our daughter that a good partnership includes focus on taking care of her, of each other and ourselves.

Alicia Strnad Hoalcraft

Alicia Strnad Hoalcraft is hub manager for Forum Design Center. She lives in Moorhead with her husband and their daughter, Calliope. She can be reached at astrnad@forumcomm.com.

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