The Guilt

My cousin Liz and I went for a walk one day to the local playground with her two small children, Attila and Kris.

“So, how is the art stuff going?” she asked, as she simultaneously pushed a stroller, filled a sippy cup, and adjusted Attila’s hat to keep the sun out of his eyes.
I sighed. “Overwhelming as usual. I’ve been going to a billion networking events, gathering sponsors, writing proposals, keeping the books straight, coordinating venues, attempting to apply for grants, distributing flyers, dealing with website issues, answering technical questions, creating tons of promo graphics and copy, and that’s just the freaking film festival!”
“Well, what else is happening? I mean, school is over, so you can relax a bit, right?”

I chuckled at the thought of relaxation. “I’ve doing crazy amount of freelance graphic design and animation stuff, which means writing MORE proposals, and I’m still working full time at the architecture place, attempting to write short stories at least once a week, writing several online columns, and pitching around a couple cartoon series ideas at conventions. Oh, and I just signed up to be a writer on a short film like a moron, so we are shooting next week.”
“Don’t burn yourself out, cousin!”
“Eh, I’m happy. I wouldn’t have it any other way. My friends and I call it ‘the guilt’; when you feel guilty going to a movie or just ‘hanging around’ because you should be working.”
“‘The Guilt’? That’s just another way of saying that you’re a workaholic.”

“Yeah, well, what can I say, I write ad copy all day, ‘The Guilt’ spins a little better than ‘Workaholic’.”

“You know, I think it’s genetic. I used to act just like you when I was at the radio station, and I thought everything would change once I had kids. But believe it or not, it got worse.”
“This is not possible.”
“Oh, you haven’t experienced guilt until you have felt “Motherly Guilt”. That is the fear and anxiety that you will be the worst mother on the planet. And unlike a day job, this guilt does not go away. No paid vacation. No full dental. Just constant unrelenting guilt.”

“This sounds very unappealing.”
“So, yeah, instead of hanging out by the water cooler or running to Starbucks on my lunch breaks, I go crazy trying to balance Attila’s swimming lessons with bonding time with my inlaws, while trying to go to Gymboree with Kris, and inevitably at least one of them catches something from another kid, so then I have to deal with one sick kid and one kid that wants to play. Oh, and of course, then I wonder if it’s my fault that they’re sick, and if I am feeding them all the right organic foods, since I know this is the only time in their lives I am going to be able to make sure they eat right, but every day you find out that something else is bad for you and causes problems. At the end of the day I find myself wondering if I accidentally spent more time with Attila than Kris, and did I do enough learning exercises with them, and then I wonder if I did TOO many learning exercises with them because I don’t want to stifle their creativity, and then I wonder if I should be the one reading to them every night or if I should be encouraging them to read or if I am putting too much pressure on them.”

“You should be the spokesmodel for birth control.”
“The thing is, I do this because I love my kids, and I would do anything for them, I just wish it didn’t come with so much anxiety. Sometimes, the only thing that makes me feel better is YOU.”

“Wow…really?” I was touched.
“I mean, I must be going a good job, because your mom fed you McDonalds all of your life and she didn’t exactly read you bedtime stories you turned out okay.”
“Oh. Thanks. I think?”
“You’re welcome.”
I considered our conversation for a moment. “God, cousin, we’re both complete raving nutcases.”
“So, you wanna go get iced coffee from Dunkin’ Donuts? We should probably get Decaf.”
“Yup. That sounds like a good idea.”