Poppy Montgomery's Blog: Is This Normal? I Feel Guilty!
Please give a warm welcome to our newest celebrity blogger, Poppy Montgomery!
Best known for starring as Samantha Spade on Without a Trace, she’ll be back as Det. Carrie Wells on the second season of Unforgettable, returning to CBS next summer.
In addition to her acting work, Montgomery is also producing a show, Sworn to Silence, for Lifetime.
Montgomery is mom to son Jackson Phillip Deveraux, 4½, with her ex, actor Adam Kaufman.
In her first blog, the actress tackles the topic every parent can relate to: guilt!
Is this normal? Is this my fault? I FEEL GUILTY!
The questions I am most frequently asked as a (now) single, working parent seem to be about BALANCE. How do I find balance? How do I juggle work, parenting, dating, love … LIFE … how do I prioritize in an attempt to “have it all?”
The very simple truth is … I don’t. That’s not to say that I don’t try. I do. I try every day. But I rarely succeed. Occasionally of course there are fleeting moments of pure, magical sanity that creep into both parent and child concurrently and those moments are the sweetest, but mostly I am wondering just like lots of other parents I know: “Am I doing this right?” “Is this normal?” “Is this my fault?” “I FEEL GUILTY!”
I love my son — my wild, irreverent, strong-minded, funny, loving beautiful baby boy more than anything in the world. As challenging and as frustrating as he can be, he is my life’s blood.
I love my work. Demanding, creative, fun, exhausting, exhilarating work. As challenging and frustrating as it can be, my work is also my life’s blood.
I would not be a good parent without my work and, conversely, I would not be fulfilled by my work without my son. Finding a guilt-free balance between the two sometimes seems like an impossible task.
I dream of being the ultimate mother and career woman — one who is able to prioritize time with the precision of a skilled surgeon. Look amazing, eat right, stay in shape and zip around on nothing more than a grilled chicken salad and a protein shake…
Add to that cooking endless organic treats for my perfectly dressed, highly intelligent, well-spoken, well-behaved child whilst juggling charity dinners, “parent share” at his school and acting full-time on my show Unforgettable whilst producing two other shows with numerous other projects in the air.
All this with a smile on my face and always on time … I am not that woman!
In all honesty, I’d sell my soul before I’d attempt to bake an organic treat. I’d rather eat a burger and fries than a chicken salad. Ninety percent of the time, my son is dressed in a Spider-Man costume that doesn’t smell so great because he won’t take it off to let me wash it. I seem to be late for everything.
I am in awe of the parents who seem to never raise their voices in anger, who reason and gently negotiate with their child no matter how bad the tantrum. When mine hurls himself to the ground red-faced and screaming in a crowded restaurant because I’ve said no to his request for a caffeinated, sugar-filled soda at 6 p.m., I long to be one of those parents.
Instead I find myself wrestling him off the ground, trying to get him out of there while hissing ridiculous threats that are impossible (if not illegal) to inflict … e.g. “If you stick your finger in my eye one more time I’m going to chop it off.” He knows I won’t and so of course he doesn’t stop.
I have tried (and would like) to portray myself as a cope-with-all-that-is-thrown-at-me, tough, resilient, breast-beating career woman with a soft side. The parent who can come home after a 12-hour work day, bake cookies and come up with super creative art projects. No! That is not me.
And I feel guilty about it every day. I feel guilty that I am not giving my all to my son. I feel guilty that I am not giving my all to my work. And yet, I am. In the best possible way I know how. Why are we parents so critical of ourselves? What is it with the guilt?
Why does he freak out when he gets a single drop of water on his shirt and demand a full change of wardrobe no matter where we are? I ask myself “Is this my fault? Is this normal?” And again, the guilt creeps in!
Why has he been wearing the same Spider-Man costume for a month without a break? It smells but he’s adamant that I not wash it. I don’t want to stifle his creativity and sometimes I have to let my little superhero do his thing, but will he be dressing as a dirty, nylon-clad Spider-Man for the rest of his life? I ask myself “Is this my fault? Is this normal?” Guilt, damn guilt!
This week he has decided, “I will not wear any t-shirts that have letters on them, I just want plain ones, Mama.” Plain ones only? Oh man! I rush to the Gap and buy plain white t-shirts … dozens of them. I always have to have back-ups in case we get the dreaded drop of water on one and need to change shirts immediately. Is he obsessive compulsive? Is this just another phase? And yet again, I ask myself “Is this my fault? Is this normal?” Why do I feel guilty?!
Why can’t I simply force him into t-shirts with letters on, secretly wash his vile Spider-Man suit, let him carry on like a madman when a drip of water lands …. stifle his creativity? Take away his independence? In reality he is just a typical naughty little boy! What is it with the over compensation/guilt that plagues parents?
Why does he suddenly prefer to pee in public rather than in the bathroom? I ask him. His answer? “I like to feel fresh air on my pee-nus.” I don’t really have a clever response for that. Ahhhh! I ask myself, “is this my fault? Is this normal?” You got it! Guilt! Again, in reality he is a self-indulgent little boy doing something fairly anti-social that a little girl couldn’t (without some difficulty) and more than likely, wouldn’t, do! So why the guilt???
There are days when my boy can be a messy, unrelenting, confusing, selfish, button-pushing, rude, demanding little monster … however, that’s not to say that I would not lay my life down for him, or that he doesn’t give me the greatest of joy or make me roar with laughter, ache with love or bulge with pride. That’s just to say that no one is perfect. Not them. Not us.
So how do I balance parenting, work, career, love and life? How do I prioritize in a futile attempt to have it all?
I fly by the seat of my pants … I attempt to prioritize as I go by trusting my instincts and my gut. I rely on my friends and family and try to express my need for support. I try to remember that it’s okay — good, even — to carve out tiny moments just for myself and I try to give myself permission to simplify.
I allow myself the freedom to cut out what I am not good at (cooking, making the beds) and embrace what I am good at (reading stories, snuggling). I remind myself that most of the time I’m doing my best and try to remind myself that quality is more important than quantity — though I am yet to be convinced of this!
I try to remind myself that ALL parents, whether working, stay at home, single, divorced, married — all of us — attempt to do what’s best for our children and I try to remind myself that no one is perfect (especially not me).
I also try to remind myself that imperfection is what makes the world interesting — imperfections are what makes us unique — though this could be construed as justification for not matching up to expectation … I’m still working on this one!
I try to remind myself that I am not alone and that there is no such thing as normal. I also remind myself that I am human and have faults — justification again? — but most importantly, I try to let go the guilt. Guilt — an emotional desert that plagues parents and achieves nothing.
— Poppy Montgomery
More from Poppy on PEOPLE.com:
- Poppy Montgomery: Motherhood ‘More Challenging’ Than Acting
- Poppy Montgomery: Jackson Is ‘Leaping Off of Tall Buildings’