Karima Lanfranco

When I initially discovered I was pregnant, one of the first new vocabulary terms I learned was “mommy guilt.”

“You’ll feel it all the time,” they said. “Just wait,” they said.

And, like clockwork, my mommy guilt was born the day of our first ultrasound, when I saw this little Peanut on the screen in front of me, and I wondered how much the Wendy’s Spicy Chicken Sandwich I ate for lunch had permanently damaged her.

Mommy guilt is real.

What I wasn’t expecting — and what no one warned me about — was the onset of “wife guilt.”20161227_125211_1482861154034

I opted to take all 12 weeks of my unpaid maternity leave from work (side note: I have now chosen to stay at home for an extra few months), and ever since I’ve been home, I’ve been also dealing with wife guilt. Not earning a paycheck anymore has caused a shift in balance. I feel as though I’m no longer equally contributing to “the cause.”

And since I’m home with the baby the majority of the time, I’m finding I experience wife guilt a lot more than mommy guilt.

Let me explain. Yesterday, for example, Isabella had a hard time napping during the day. I can usually squeeze in house chores within a few hours of the afternoon, but yesterday I didn’t have time — between the crying and the shushing and the rocking. So when my husband came home from work punctually at 6:15 p.m., I felt guilty for not having had a chance to clean up the house or do laundry.

Other days, I haven’t had time to cook dinner. And if I did, I’ve felt guilty for not preparing organic and delicious but also economical home-cooked meals from scratch.

At any given moment, I have at least two loads of laundry to do, and I feel guilty for asking my husband, who has been at work all day, to help with any chores when, in reality, the second I see him walk through the front door, all I want is to put my feet up for a few minutes.

I convince myself that I can feel him notice I haven’t made the bed or cleaned the bathroom floor or ironed the shirt he left for me to take care of before his meeting tomorrow. It’s actually very possible that he doesn’t notice at all, and if he does, he may not mind our less than perfect household.

But the insidious thing about guilt is that it convinces me that I haven’t done enough. It makes me fear that my efforts at being a good mother are slowly turning me into a terrible wife.

Giancarlo and I made the decision together for me to stay home, and on days when I’m thinking rationally, I feel in my heart that what I’m doing is best for my family at this time. Isabella will never be this little again, and right now I am going to soak up every minute I can get with her.

But I can’t deny that when my old payday rolls around every other Friday, and the bank account remains unchanged, it sucks. After six years of college, two master’s degrees, and a PhD on the way, I never thought I’d depend on a “sugar daddy.”

And then I think, if I were bringing home a paycheck, I would feel guilty about not seeing Isabella as much while having to put her in daycare.

Ugh. Lose-lose — no matter how I look at it.

It’s hard. I am in love with my husband, and I am in love with my daughter, and I am balancing a household while trying to stick to a (recently tighter) budget. It’s difficult to keep the house spotless, keep Isabella stain-free and have time to make a batch of homemade cookies.

I try to remind myself that nowhere in my wedding vows did I promise to have the shiniest sink or the most spotless windows. Giancarlo didn’t marry me because of my ability to scrub and polish floors (at least, I hope not). He knows I am trying my best — and he is trying his best, too.

I should focus on the fact that I’m extremely lucky I have the opportunity to be home with my baby, mostly because I’m so lucky to have a partner who supports my desire to do so.

As women, our ideas of perfection — whether as wives or moms or both — are deeply personal and are not inflicted by anyone other than ourselves. The truth is, we all feel a little guilty sometimes. Regardless of whether we’re stay-at-home moms or part-time shift worker moms or career moms, we’re all full-time moms.

We all live somewhere in the middle, somewhere in between, trying to make it through one day at a time. And on that note, I’m throwing Hamburger Helper in the skillet, all the clothes into the washer unsorted, and droplets of Febreze throughout the house. There. Perfect.

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