Skip to main content
Part of complete coverage on
 

Mom's confession: 'They're growing up and I'm missing it'

By Erin Hill, Special to CNN
November 12, 2013 -- Updated 1959 GMT (0359 HKT)
Erin Hill works full time at a digital media company. Her daughter attends second grade at the public school near their home and goes to an after-school program at the YMCA. Her son, who is 5, attends a full-time preschool.
Erin Hill works full time at a digital media company. Her daughter attends second grade at the public school near their home and goes to an after-school program at the YMCA. Her son, who is 5, attends a full-time preschool.
HIDE CAPTION
'The guilt keeps coming'
'The guilt keeps coming'
'The guilt keeps coming'
'The guilt keeps coming'
'The guilt keeps coming'
<<
<
1
2
3
4
5
>
>>
STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • Erin Hill was a stay-at-home mom until her kids were 2 and 4
  • She got a full-time job when her marriage ended
  • Hill: "The years that followed were a blur of exhaustion, anxiety and guilt"
  • Got a parenting confession to share? Send it to iReport

Editor's note: Erin Hill works for a digital media company and lives in Northwest Houston, Texas, with her son and daughter. She first shared a version of this essay on CNN iReport, when she was feeling guilty about sending her kids to camp all day.

(CNN) -- Every morning, while I open granola bars and pass them to my children in the back seat, I feel a familiar pang of guilt reminding me that a good mother would have made them scrambled eggs and toast. A good mother would have the time and the money to structure their day in a way that fosters healthy growth and development. Maybe we would meet a friend for playtime at the museum and lunch? That's what I would do if I were a good mother.

Sometimes my son wakes up in a pee-soaked bed and I just wipe him down with a wet wipe because giving him a shower will take five precious minutes I just don't have. There are other shortcuts I've taken in the interest of time: Sending my daughter to school in my socks because she doesn't have any that are clean; digging a toy out from under the seat of the car for show-and-tell because I forgot to pack one.

The same script plays in my head every morning: "It's just temporary. We just need to get through this week, this month, the summer, this school year," and then: "They won't wait for you. Their childhood is now and they are not getting what they need. You aren't giving them what they need. They need you, and you're not there."

I always wanted to be a stay-at-home mom, and most of what I know about parenting and young children I learned in college, where I earned a bachelor's degree in human development. Working full-time while my kids burned the hours in a day care was on my list of things that "I will never do." I had worked in day care centers. I have seen the runny noses and tired eyes of a kid getting picked up from day care after a nine-hour day.

"Why have kids if you don't want to raise them?" I often judgmentally wondered to myself about those parents. "Can't you see how much they need you?" I had other "never will dos" and "will dos" rigidly etched onto my brain -- a guide I'd created to build the perfect childhood for my babies.

Moms increasingly becoming breadwinners
A tale of two working women
Sandberg: Women must toughen up

For the most part, I was able to stick to the plan for the first couple of years. Aside from being a little too broke in the very beginning to afford an SUV or a Gymboree membership, my early mommy years were just as I hoped they would be.

Soon, my husband made more money and mommy life got even better. My kids went to part-time preschool for a few hours in the morning and spent the afternoons riding their trikes in the street of a nice quiet neighborhood filled with kids and other stay-at-home moms. They helped me shop for organic groceries that I would bring home to make a dinner from scratch. I taught them to swim in our pool, taught my daughter to read and my son to count. My mommy life was perfect. There were definitely tantrums and messes, but I was very happy with most of the pieces of my life.

In all this perfection, I failed to notice that for my (then) husband, things weren't so perfect. When our babies were 2 and 4, he decided he'd had enough. He asked for a divorce and moved into an apartment in the city. Suddenly I found myself jobless and alone with two small children in a big, beautiful house with a "For Sale" sign in the front yard. Their father is still present in their lives, but this was not how things were supposed to go.

The years that followed were a blur of exhaustion, anxiety and guilt. I moved those children three times in two years. Slowly, I was building a career that would give us pieces of our lives back, but it was a hard time for all of us. Tears would run down my cheeks each time I watched my daughter bravely march into a new school and again at the end of the day when my son would squeal and run to me after a nine-hour stretch at day care. Their resilience was absolutely dumbfounding. They adapted to each change with a strength that I will never fully understand.

Play dates with neighborhood friends were few and far between. Our dinners now were mostly from the drive-through in the car on the way home, just in time to get in bed only to start all over again in the morning. There were days I gave a dose of Tylenol and crossed my fingers that the tail end of a fever wouldn't come back at school. It was certainly a far cry from homemade chicken noodle soup, ice cream, and a movie marathon that the same fever would have required just the year before.

Stay in touch!
Don't miss out on the conversation we're having at CNN Living. Follow us on Twitter and Facebook for the latest stories and tell us what's influencing your life.

Our journey has not ended yet, but now that we've settled, the ride is less bumpy. We have lived in the same house for two years. We have a network of friends and we're back in our old neighborhood. My kids have a lot of people who love and care for them. I finally earn enough money to live in a nice neighborhood and send my kids to good schools. We have a routine and we all feel like we're on solid ground. My house feels like a happy home.

But the guilt keeps coming because this is ground I never wanted them to stand on. I wanted them to have a daddy who comes home and wrestles with them or takes them out for doughnuts to give their mommy a break. I wanted them to walk home from school to find their mom in the house and snacks on the counter. I wanted to read to the class on Friday afternoons and volunteer to host Girl Scout meetings. I didn't want to have my face buried in my iPhone while pretending to watch "My Little Pony: Friendship is Magic" with my daughter. I didn't want be a stranger to the other moms at school, and I didn't want to throw chicken nuggets at them when I just didn't have it in me to make dinner.

What I don't yet know is whether I am mourning my loss or theirs. I know I have to make peace with my choices, with our fate and with the childhood that they will experience, but I'm not there yet.

Do you have a parenting confession to share? Send your personal essay to CNN iReport and it could be featured on CNN Parents.

ADVERTISEMENT
Part of complete coverage on
cnn, parents, parenting, logo
Get the latest kid-related buzz, confessions from imperfect parents and the download on the digital life of families here at CNN Parents.
December 23, 2014 -- Updated 1749 GMT (0149 HKT)
While most parents think about having a 'sex talk' with their children, not as many think about talking about technology, and that is a big mistake, experts say.
December 23, 2014 -- Updated 1353 GMT (2153 HKT)
Parents are too ambivalent about their kids' "privacy" online, writes Dr. Jodi Gold--they're either spying fruitlessly or afraid to shape their child's online footprint.
December 22, 2014 -- Updated 1355 GMT (2155 HKT)
Is there an unspoken rule in Hollywood that celebrity parents can only pick unusual names for their kids?
December 22, 2014 -- Updated 2250 GMT (0650 HKT)
The premise is simple: You can eat one marshmallow now or, if you can wait, you get to eat two marshmallows later.
December 19, 2014 -- Updated 1243 GMT (2043 HKT)
While most children wait and hope Santa visits them at home on Christmas Eve, this year dozens of Denver-area children went directly to the big man's arctic home turf.
December 17, 2014 -- Updated 2225 GMT (0625 HKT)
Almost 300 students who had been rejected by Johns Hopkins University received a joyous shock over the weekend when the prestigious Baltimore school said they'd been admitted after all -- but they hadn't.
December 16, 2014 -- Updated 2209 GMT (0609 HKT)
There is no way around the topic of nakedness in front of your children without getting personal and slightly uncomfortable.
December 16, 2014 -- Updated 1155 GMT (1955 HKT)
Teens might be shedding their rebellious reputations: A survey says they're doing fewer drugs, drinking and smoking less. But E-cigarette use is up.
December 15, 2014 -- Updated 1453 GMT (2253 HKT)
Carol Costello asks whether American culture sends a message to girls that it's not cool to study math and science fields.
December 9, 2014 -- Updated 1744 GMT (0144 HKT)
It's that special time of year, when Christmas and Hanukkah toy sellers try to put children in a box.
December 10, 2014 -- Updated 0059 GMT (0859 HKT)
Foodies and travelers: They're adventurous, they have discerning tastes and they love to discover a little-known jewel. Here's how to shop for them.
CNN iReport asked families with children with developmental and physical disabilities to share what their lives are like.
December 8, 2014 -- Updated 1200 GMT (2000 HKT)
Don't know what to get parents who are always on the move or kids who seem to have everything? This is just the list for you.
December 10, 2014 -- Updated 0445 GMT (1245 HKT)
You probably know LOL and OMG -- but what about IWSN, CU46 or IPN. It's all about KPC -- "keeping parents clueless."
December 3, 2014 -- Updated 1417 GMT (2217 HKT)
Out of control parties, sex and alcohol are some of the dangers kids might get into when left alone overnight. But some are mature enough to handle it. How do you know?
December 2, 2014 -- Updated 1658 GMT (0058 HKT)
Across the country and around the world, synthetic drugs are tearing holes in families.
December 2, 2014 -- Updated 1642 GMT (0042 HKT)
There's no place like home for the holidays -- and for one little girl in Cleveland, it's the only place.
Girl Scout cookie sales are entering the 21st century. For the first time ever, Girl Scout cookies will be sold online through a national platform called Digital Cookie. This breaks the organization's ban on e-sales of Thin Mints and Samoas.
December 1, 2014 -- Updated 1419 GMT (2219 HKT)
Author/actor B.J. Novak
B.J. Novak is catering to kids. His first children's book tops the New York Times list of best selling children's picture books. But here's the catch: it actually doesn't have any pictures.
November 25, 2014 -- Updated 0020 GMT (0820 HKT)
Hundreds of students walked out of their Oklahoma high school Monday to protest the school's response to the alleged bullying of three classmates who say they were raped by the same person.
November 26, 2014 -- Updated 1310 GMT (2110 HKT)
If it hasn't happened already, it likely will at some point: the moment you don't like one of your child's friends. What do you do?
November 21, 2014 -- Updated 2220 GMT (0620 HKT)
November is National Adoption Awareness Month. CNN's Michaela Pereira grew up in a family of five adopted girls in Canada and eventually reunited with her biological half-sister.
November 18, 2014 -- Updated 1735 GMT (0135 HKT)
If you think 'my teen would never sext,' you might be mistaken. Recent studies suggest it's more common than many parents might want to admit.
ADVERTISEMENT