“Mama, you stay home with me today?”
Ugh, the words that have launched a thousand mom tears. Especially when, instead of saying “me,” they insert the danged adorable pet name you call them.
If there was ever a horrible subset of mom guilt, working mom guilt is it.
Because you have this kid that will scream her head off that she got the green spoon instead of the purple one and make you rejoice that you’ll get 8 hours at work to calm yourself down, but then they come at you with those big eyes asking you to stay and love them.
Kidding. Kind of. But they are totally jerking your heart around.
There are dozens of reasons to feel guilty about working. Missing in-school concerts, 3rd party childcare, late for school pick-ups, not being the class mom, can’t make parent-teacher conference, not spending all day at the zoo/park/museum/pool, work trips, and the list goes on. The truth is that work and family compete for time. They always will.
That doesn’t mean, however, that you should let yourself wallow in guilt and think you’re a bad mom. Is your husband a bad dad because he works? No, he’s a provider. And so are you and you deserve to be as free from guilt as him.
If you work, you’ve probably gone over in your head a million times why you are working. You may know in your brain that it’s the right thing, but your heart may struggle with it at times. We all go through this–more than once. Here are a few phrases you can tell yourself in those moments your heart feels heavy with guilt.
I work because I love them and they know that.
To get real open here, my father got laid off when I was a kid and refused to get another job. He got mixed up in some pyramid scheme and thought that getting a job beneath his stature would drive off clients that were yet to materialize. From 7th grade on, I knew my dad didn’t care enough about us to work. On the flip side, I knew my mom loved us because she worked her butt off to make sure we were taken care of. Good parents want the best for their kids. Sometimes, that means not being with them so you can give them a bright future. Your kids see that and love you right back for it.
I am raising my family.
I hate the phrase, “I didn’t have kids so someone else could raise them.” First of all, it’s incredibly rude. Second, it’s quite a leap to say that putting your child in daycare means you raise your kid any less than when parents send their kids to school. Even if a mom doesn’t work, she can’t do everything. Someone will inevitably put a band-aid on her kid without her being there. Or tell them to stop throwing sand at kids on the playground. So yes, someone else may sing songs with them during the day, but you’re still providing a loving environment for that to happen. You are your child’s greatest teacher and you are raising them.
I am making the world a better place.
Being in the workforce does a lot of good. You’re taking care of your own, being a good example to your children, and helping pave the way for current and future working moms. Being there and telling your story influences what the workforce will be like for our kids when they get to that point.
I am not going to resent providing for my family.
Sometimes a work situation isn’t the best. It may not be your dream job, you may not like your boss, or you may not like being gone so many hours and have a too-long commute. But, we are SO lucky to be able to work and provide for our families. I think of the thousands of people in refugee camps who can’t do much other than wait. Or people physically or mentally unable to work. We get to receive an income, we get to pay bills that give our children a warm bed at night, we get to give them lives that millions hope to have. I am not going to resent those blessings.
If someone has a problem with me working, it’s their problem, not mine.
There are a lot of loud opinions in regards to working moms. The dumb stuff that is said can drive me up.the.wall! I have to remind myself all the time that whatever causes them to feel threatened by a working mom has to do with them, not me.
It’s good for my kids to have a life outside of me.
One of my favorite things about daycare is to get there and not have my 2-year-old notice. Then I can watch her running around, interacting with the other kids, laughing, riding bikes, and yelling her little guts out. All without crying for me to fix it when things don’t work out right. It gives me a glimpse into the wonderfully strong, confident, independent girl she is. I love it. Also, I’m a classic first-time-mom with her and can hold her back at times because I’m worried she’ll get hurt. She does so much on her own without me there to slow her down.
I am not inferior or superior to any other mom. I’m doing my best to be my kids’ mom.
You know what brings a lot of guilt? Comparison. So stop. You’re not less than other moms you think make it to everything (they don’t, by the way). You’re not better than other moms, and you wouldn’t think that way if you weren’t insecure about your own mothering. Our fellow moms can be our biggest allies, so see them as that and don’t compare.
Quality is more important than quantity.
There are good parents and bad parents. Neither of which are determined by employment status. A parent who gets three hours of focused time with their kids communicates a lot more love than a parent distracted by social media every 10 minutes for 7 hours. Now, if you are only seeing your kid an hour a week, you may want to look at your calendar and see what you can change, but that’s not most of us. Make the time you have count!
It’s okay to love my job
And you don’t need anyone’s permission.
It’s okay to be sad about it sometimes.
We don’t always have to love working. On my kids’ cutest, sweetest mornings or when they’re not feeling well, I hate that I have to go to work. My new position starts in two weeks, and while I’m very excited for it, I already dread that I will be gone an extra 2 hours every day. Today I’m actually a bit emotional about it. It’s important that we acknowledge the conflict and sadness we feel, otherwise we’ll end up resentful. Being sad about it doesn’t make you any less of a mom, woman, or force of good in the world. It just means you love your kids and wish you had a little more time with them.
These are things I routinely tell myself whenever I feel a pang of guilt. Those reminders really do help and get my thoughts back on track. What else do you tell yourself when it hits?
Let’s acknowledge that the guilt is real, be kinder to ourselves, and keep tackling that working mom life–one cute toddler question at a time.
Also, I put together a little printable for you in case you need this at your desk 🙂 Thanks to one of my readers who suggested it!