Working Mom Guilt: The Lie we Tell Ourselves

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Yesterday morning was one of those mornings in our house. Isaiah woke up very cranky, very clingy, and way too early. Typically, he sleeps until I’m about ready for work. If he wakes up a few minutes early, he can normally entertain himself in his crib until I pick him up. But not this time. I was only half ready for the day, and he woke up a hot mess.

In his defense, he just had his one year checkup…4 shots and a finger prick. And I also tried to trim his nails and accidentally cut his finger. So, he’s had a long week.

So there I was, makeup half done, hair not brushed, coffee rapidly cooling in my mug…and my baby won’t let me put him down. I was torn between feeling so sad that I couldn’t just take a breather and give my baby the attention he was wanting from me, and feeling frustrated that I was about to be forced to choose between going to work disheveled and frazzled, or doing what I wanted to do to get ready and getting there late.

I’m an elementary school teacher, so late isn’t an option for me on a given day. Instead, I cuddled the baby as long as I could, ran out the door with my makeup still half done and my hair not brushed, and cried the whole way to work.

I felt so guilty that I couldn’t be there for him when I felt like he really needed his mama. In fact, he was literally crying out “mama!” when I handed him off to my mom on my way out the door. It was a gut-wrenching feeling that stuck with me most of the morning, and it’s left me pondering the idea of “mom guilt”.

Can we unpack that for a second? Mom Guilt. Women everywhere are forced to choose how they want to or need to provide for their families once they become mothers. This is unique to women (for the most part). When a couple has a baby, men are rarely questioned about their intentions for working from this point forward. Women have to take a stand and decide: will they continue their careers, and financially provide for their families? Will they forgo the degrees and certifications they earned to do what they believe is a higher calling and stay home?

Regardless of what a woman chooses, one thing unites all moms: we always feel like we should be doing more. Men do not suffer from this; ask my husband. He feels perfectly content with the idea of continuing his career and not being at home 24/7 to raise Isaiah. But he also never felt pressured to choose. It was always a given that he would keep working.

I know moms who tried staying at home and didn’t enjoy it. Now that they are working, they feel guilty that they could have stayed home but chose not to.

I know moms who stay at home, but beat themselves up for not being the “career women” they thought they were going to be. Or they never even finished their degrees and they feel like they are selling themselves short.

I know moms, like myself, who love the work they do, but go through each day feeling like their hearts are at home with their babies. This translates into mom guilt that we carry with us all day long, and work guilt because we wonder if we are the stellar employees we know we were before our passion was divided.

I have a message for all of us (because I need to hear it big time): we are doing enough.

We are juggling work, kids, and home in a way our husbands don’t even realize half of the time. Because we aren’t just managing everything. We are making sure our kids know they are loved 100% of the time. We are cooking meals to ensure that our babies get the vitamins they need each day. We are maintaining careers that pay the bills, no matter how many tears are shed on the way to work. We are reading the bedtime stories. We are giving the baths. We are fighting through our exhaustion to get some playtime in at the end of the workday. We are waking up every day and doing what needs to be done. Our babies don’t have to worry about whether or not Mom will take care of them. That’s a huge deal. 

No matter how guilty you are feeling, believe that it is all a lie. You have let a voice in your head convince you that you aren’t doing enough, and it just isn’t true. Now, that doesn’t make it easy by any means. But the work you are doing for your family is worth it. Tell that voice inside your head to shut up, and keep being a great mom.

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4 thoughts on “Working Mom Guilt: The Lie we Tell Ourselves

  1. I TOTALLY agree with you that since it is the societal norm for men to continue to work that they never feel the guilt. I am a working mom with a two year old and guilt myself very frequently. I honestly know I would not be happy as a SAHM and my career is a big part of my identity, but there are days where the guilt almost wins and I think about staying home.

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    1. I know exactly how that goes! I think long term a lot about how I will feel when the babies are school age. If I take a break from my career how will that set me back? It’s tough. But continuing to work means that we provide for our families outside of our homes, and that’s amazing that we can do that. 🙂

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  2. I have felt this exact same way ! I was a preschool teacher and my son was having such a hard time when I went back to work for a bit! I felt guilty that I was handing him over to his class screaming and then I would head down the hallway to my class to watch other kids. The worst part was that I could hear him from my classroom :(. I cried a lot those days ! Mom guilt comes in many shapes and we all have it . My mantra is “I am Enough ” so I love this !

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