Tuesday, March 22, 2011

Oh, The Guilt Of The Working Mom - Nobody Told Me...

I've always been an over-achiever.  Straight A student, scholarships, sports... I would say pretty much anything I've put my mind to, I've succeeded at... at least to varying degrees.  So although before becoming a mom I had heard all about the struggle for balancing career and parenthood and the "having it all" lifestyle, nobody told me about the tremendous amount of guilt that also comes part and parcel.

There are days I just feel like a failure because at the end of the day, I just can't "do it all" without making some sacrifices.  My daughter has been home sick for the last 2 days and I want nothing more than to be there to nurture her back to health.  She woke up this morning just as I was heading out the door at 6:30am and she was clinging to me and I felt like total utter crap as I had to pull away and leave.  When I got home yesterday, she was sitting listlessly on the bed with a fever and all she wanted was to sit curled in my arms.  I want to be there for her terribly and I truly hate this feeling.  Even when I know she's in good hands at home, oh, the guilt when I can't take care of her myself.

Then there are the school plays, concerts, graduation ceremonies, etc. (I'm including the day care ones here) that get held during working hours and you know how badly your child will feel if he or she is one of the few without a parent in the audience.  But how do you tell work you're going to miss a 1/2 day because your 3 year old is performing in her day care concert?  Last spring my husband was able to make it but because I wasn't there, my daughter sat through the entire concert without uttering a word and with the saddest face you've ever seen (they took pictures - just to add insult to injury).  She was looking through the crowd for me as she entered the room... but I wasn't there.

How is it even remotely possible to give 100% to being a mom and 100% to your career?  It's not ... so in come the sacrifices.  The weighing of each situation to see which takes priority.  Who will be most upset or who loses out the most this time around?  But each time you take a risk - a risk that your child is ultimately going to pay long term because you were unavailable too many times, or a risk that your work will be pissed off because you've missed to many hours due to child-related responsibilities.  I know I'm not alone in this - just check out this article from the Cincinnati Enquirer about parents juggling the choice of staying home with a sick child or sending them to school sick in order not to miss work... Obviously having an understanding employer goes a long way in making this struggle easier, but even still, I totally understand that at the end of the day, all employers have a business to run.  And then there's whether you love or hate your job - when you love what you do, it makes those decisions that much more agonizing! 

Last week there was a segment on Fox News talking about how women actually have more guilt over working than men.  It's true, I don't think my husband feels the same way.  I think that as a mom, we are the ones who are expected to be there for our children.  Probably because we have been the primary caregiver for so long throughout history.  Should we be taking a lesson from our husbands???

I know there is so much out there on the "to work" or "not to work" debate and the effect the decision can have on our children.  I think most of the research, however, shows that children of working moms turn out just fine... (i.e. article in Family Education).  This does help in removing some of the guilt I carry around.  I do think a lot depends on the type of woman you are - if you know you would not be a good mom if you were home full time, then that helps you feel less guilty working.  If you think you can do with less (if working is about money) and be happier at home, then that works for that situation.  Your children benefit when as a mom, you're also doing what makes you happy.  I do feel it is essential that we don't lose our sense of self when we become a parent.  By maintaining our identity as women, we can be stronger role models to our kids.

Personally, I love to work and to be challenged - I don't think I could stay home full time and be fulfilled.  However, I wish, oh I wish, that I could work just a little bit less so I can have a few extra hours with my children every day.  Even just enough to alleviate that feeling of being rushed so much of the time.  I think if I had my dream situation, it would be to work 9 to 3, 4 days a week.  But I think I would even take either 4 days at my current hours, or 5 days at 9 to 3 and be ecstatic.  Who knows, maybe one day that will happen.  The question remains however, will that be enough to alleviate all of my guilt?  I'm not sure, but I think it would go a long way in that direction! So in the meantime, here's a video I found providing some tips on dealing with working mom guilt!


  1. Thank you for sharing! I just needed to know that I wasn't alone in feeling this way.

  2. That's actually my motivation in writing this blog... if any other mother feels differently, I think she's lying! In this day and age, it's impossible not to have a ton of competing priorities which inevitably leads to guilt. And it sure does feel better knowing you are not alone. Thanks for your comment - I really appreciate it.

  3. Yes! I feel the exact same way. I would not survive as a SAHM but I feel I work too much. Thanks for this post

  4. Also, in the video, where she says "nap when they nap", it's pretty disappointing. I mean, if you hope to get anything accomplished in your day, is a nap really possible?

  5. I never got the nap in when they napped! I was so overtired and I would lie there with half an ear open waiting for the cry that I couldn't fall asleep. As you said, the time was much better spent getting things done... like a load of the laundry piled high or getting a meal on the table LOL.