Potty training and the working mom guilt


ig life update! The kid is starting to use the potty and can go a day without a diaper. What a saving relief! Occasionally she would also use the toilet at the nursery and loves putting on her pink underwear. With an on-going sleep regression, these are little signs telling me that better days are coming.

We have, however, a little disadvantage at home. Both mom and dad are working full time and despite having 4 full days a week when the kid is with one or both parents, we’re still having difficulty following through the potty training. This is one of those parenting stages when the working mom guilt hits hard. I sometimes wish I’m home 24/7 to help my daughter learn how to use the toilet.

Potty training is not easy, certainly not as easy as a 3-day thing some life-hackers claim online. You have to be 100% focused on the subtle signs that your kid needs to go the loo. (Ermm…Instagram). A little pee on the carpet is not really a problem but a #2 can be quite messy. Potty training is asking your child about a million times a day whether she needs to sit on her “potje” or making sure she doesn’t accidentally poop when she lets out a stinking fart. Over and over again, to the irritation of both kid and mom.

What’s most tasking for me is changing underwear, pants AND bed sheets all the time. It wasn’t such a headache when we started in the summer because we could dry clothes outside. But when rainy days rolled in (it can go on for weeks in the Netherlands), I’m constantly worrying that there wouldn’t be enough bed linens and pants for the next round of accidents. We don’t own a dryer.

Sometimes she would go on a whole weekend without a diaper (except at nights) but then she goes to the nursery on Monday. I couldn’t really count on the teachers to prioritize my kid’s toilet training, that’s too much to ask from two people caring for 7 toddlers. So they still put her on diapers at the nursery, which she sometimes remove herself. But that creates confusion.

So yes, I’m finding potty training difficult. Not broken nights difficult but quite close, if only for the working mom guilt. You see I’m your average Filipina mother who needs to work to put food on the table, pay the mortgage and support her parents. Literally, I can’t afford the preferred part-time work life of many Dutch women nor do have the luxury of a rich husband (or the desire) to be a full-time homemaker. In the face of potty training, things which I’ve otherwise regarded as personal victories, have turned into disadvantages.

A colleague told me that she started potty training her son at 1.5 years old, and that they co-sleep until he was 8! I might not wait that long but I wish I was that mother who had a lot of time in her hand. I wish that I didn’t have to go work in the morning and let my daughter sleep for as long as she wants. I wish I could snuggle beside her all night and not worry about losing sleep, or waking up early the next day. I wish I could reserve all my energy solely for her, without needing to divide my time between work and household chores. I wish I was that mother who can give all without burning out and who don’t need “me-time, like the generation of women who raised me.

But I’m at peace with my choice. I believe that by being a full-time working mother, I’m setting a balanced picture for my daughter. About how a woman should protect her independence, how she must make her own choices, how she should not be confined to child care and household chores once she chose to become a mother. I’m convinced that I am a better mother when my world doesn’t only revolve around child, house and husband.

When we decided to become pregnant, my husband and I made a commitment to share the parenting roles as equally as it should be. We divided the night shifts, the cooking, the free days, some of the household chores. While I still feel that majority of tasks still fall on my shoulder, my husband is more patient, which is perhaps my biggest handicap. So far our parenting style had been a true partnership in the sense that he fills in the areas where I’m lacking and I do the same for him.

I imagine all the single mothers who have to juggle work and child care. They are the definition of true heroes, those women who selflessly raise the next generation without asking the society for anything in return. As someone who can only philosophize on potty training, I’m certainly not capable of such sacrifices. But like any mother out there, working or not, we’re all just trying to do the best we can.