Why I don’t bother with working mom guilt

I keep hearing about this guilt I’m supposed to feel because I’m a mom who works. Apparently I should beat myself up because I don’t get to see my toddler several hours in the day, that someone else is caring for him while I’m in the office or that I can’t seem to keep my home spotless.

Instead, I’m one of those moms who feel zero guilt when it comes to my toddler and working.

And it’s not because I’m a workaholic—I don’t work crazy hours or check my work email while on vacation. Sure, I enjoy what I do in the office, work hard, excel in my field and get along well with my coworkers, but seriously, if I won a gazillion dollars, I’d probably be outta there in a second (okay, maybe in two weeks). So while having a career is important for many moms, getting paid isn’t at the top of my fulfillment list.

Why then the lack of guilt when it comes to working instead of spending time with my toddler? Because I’m doing the best I can. When I’m with LO, I consciously have my parenting cap on (most of the time). I look for opportunities for him to learn and thrive, whether it’s through reading books, making crafts or exploring our natural surroundings. I make sure he knows he’s loved and cared for, both when it’s easy and when more patience is called for. When I’m not with him, I’m reading parenting books, blogging about parenting, or talking to my husband about how we can improve as parents. Almost everything I do caters to the well-being of my son.

In short, I think I’m a damn good mom.

You may have your own ways of wearing your parenting cap that’s different from mine, but if you’re like most moms I know, we all bust our asses doing what’s best for our kids. (Wow, I just said “damn” and “asses” in one blog post! Apologies to my nine-year-old niece who reads this blog.)

Sometimes guilt is confused with desire: it’s okay that I want to be home with my toddler instead of sitting in an office. As difficult as it felt to return to work after maternity leave, there was still no reason to feel guilty. The desire to spend more time with my baby shouldn’t make me feel guilty because I can’t. Some families have the option for one parent to stay at home; others don’t. I wish I could see my toddler more often, but that would mean a significant pay decrease which wouldn’t be prudent for us at this moment.

I also heard from a few moms who feel guilty for working whenever they come home and realize that they still have to unload the dishwasher, clean the toilet and pay the bills. Especially when everything in the house was spotless before kids, adjusting to a kid-infested house could take some getting used to. But seriously, we have kids. Maybe even a bunch of them. My home is hardly going to look anything like how it used to look, and even less than what I see in magazines or catalogs. I love the fact that I can now pull out the “we have a kid” card whenever I realize I haven’t watered the plants in three weeks or that there are crayon marks on the table. Those are the marks of a family blessed with a kid, not of  an incompetent mom.

Which brings me to my last point: we can’t do it all. We’re quite the conundrum—we’re supposed to be stay-at-home moms so our kids can spend time with us, but be working moms so they know women kick butt in the workforce too. We can’t miss out on any of our baby’s “firsts,” but we have to be the top performer in our department. We have to tend to our crying baby or fussy toddler even though the project is due in two hours. Too many expectations rest on our shoulders and we can’t bear every single one of them.

We’re moms—complete with flaws, ambitions, and the choices we make. So when that guilt starts creeping up again, pull out your “we have a kid” card and remind yourself that you’re doing your best.

Do you feel guilty for being a working mom? How do you handle and appease this guilt? Is there anything you can change about your situation to alleviate the guilt?

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23 thoughts on “Why I don’t bother with working mom guilt

  1. Could not have said this better myself! Love, love, love this post. I, too, am one of the working moms who don’t feel an ounce of guilt. In fact, I think I have the best of all worlds — I have a wonderful family AND a wonderful career and I do the best that I can to keep it all humming along. That’s not to say it’s not hard sometimes, but you can’t ask for more than that 🙂

  2. I’m a working mom. I need to work. I get burned out when I spend all day with the kids. It’s not because I don’t love them or because I don’t want to be with them: it’s just that I need the grown up interaction. I need to rejuvenate so that I can be a better mom. It’s just part of my personality, and that is all there is to it. Some people are born with that special gene where they can teach preschool all day, then come home and take care of their own family’s. I’m pretty sure I was not born with that gene, and if I lived that lifestyle, I would probably become a raging alcoholic. Or if not that, just a bad mom. 🙂

  3. I do have the opportunity to stay home with my daughter, but it’s not an easy job!! While, I love being at home, I don’t think I would feel guilty about working either. Ahh to have more adult conversations, to have hours in the day where you don’t have to deal with diapers, crying, etc. It sounds kind of nice to be honest. It’s nice to hear though that you don’t feel guilt. Plus you can appreciate coming home to your family that much more!

    • Erika, I used to work part-time so I would have some days working in the office and some days at home with my kiddo, and I agree that being a SAHM is NOT an easy job! Having a taste of both worlds, I can’t say either one was easier; they both had their own pros and cons. But I am one of those moms though who, if able to, would stay home with my toddler gladly.

  4. Hi, I know that I wrote a few posts on the subject of working vs staying at home. for me, it is not profitable and Yes, I would feel guilty leaving my baby with someone else, esp day care. But, that is me. I know ppl who stay home with their child, but aren’t good parents. some ppl say it is the quality and not the quantity. I don’t totally agree with this either, you have to have a bit of quantity, also. But, what works for me, may not work for you. I know that I could not put my all into work b/c I’d be thinking about my LO and what I might be missing. And, I would be waaaay too tired to come home and cook dinner and do the little bit of cleaning that I do. Yet, we have talked about me finding a “working from home,” opportunity when LO is a bit older. Guilt doesn’t serve anyone well. If you are doing the best that you can with your child/parenting, then, why feel guilty? It also negatively effects your relationship with your LO and others. You act in accordance to this emotion and not how you should. This can result in being much too permissive because you want to make up for the time that you don’t spend with the child. just my $0.02

  5. I agree with jamily5. *I* would feel guilty working because I know it’s not what’s best for our family. But by no means do I think someone else should feel guilty for doing what’s best for their family.

  6. I am one of those working moms that feels guilty. I do not think my guilt really stems from being away from my kids all day, it comes from not being able to make the choice. I know they are in great hands, and usually the time I do spend with them is very quality. I’ve known SAHPs who spend an awful lot of time with their toddlers in front of the TV. Of course this is not all or even most SAHPs, but I’ve known a few. My toddler spends the vast majority of his day in a social setting, learning to be in group activities, playing his little heart out both indoors and outdoors, completing crafts, learning crazy amounts of information, etc. His teachers enrich his life in ways that they have been trained to do either through experience or through education – neither of which I have much of when it comes to kids! I also am not under a delusion that I am the only one that can or should have an influence in raising my child. Afterall, what about all of the working dads out there? Aren’t they active parents even though they work all day? My guilt mostly surrounds the fact that I have absolutely no choice in the matter. I have to work because of financial reasons, and I make good money doing what I do. For me, the choice is key. If I had the ability to be a SAHM and chose not to, I wouldn’t feel guilty one bit.

    • I actually do have a pretty flexible schedule. I generally work 8-8:30 to 4:30 so I can pick up the kids by 5. I work 25 mins away from home. I also work from home on Mondays (without baby) and at my mom’s on Wednesday (with baby) for now. It definitely helps and I am thankful for it.

      Perhaps, though, maybe you are right. to mitigate the displeasure. And maybe the fact that I have no choice is even more of a reason to not feel the guilt. Just doing what I can. Thanks for your post and your comments!

  7. Here is the thing:
    I know both working and stay at home moms who provide a nurturing and healthy environment for their children. Conversely, I know moms that are in both groups who do not. I’m an older mom, so my perspective is a bit different. for me, a career does not validate me. I know how quickly children grow up. I don’t want to have any regrets: “I wish I had spent more time,” so for me, I stay at home. But, LO is only 4mo. when he gets to be a couple of years, I might look for “work at home options.l” We can decide to fall into a stereotype or not. And, you are right: We can’t have it all. We can try, but there are always sacrifices to be made. Maybe we sccrifice homemade fresh meals, maybe we sacrifice our time for one ofr the other, we sacrifice or Me time or marriage time, we sacrifice our expenses/luxuries. I do think that kids need a intentional nurturing environment, but that doesn’t mean that they get it, just because the mom stays at home. You have to know what type of person you are. Diapers, baby crying, listening to Sesame Street all day long, talking with my baby most of the day; those things don’t bother me. But, if they did, I’d have to do what is best for me and the baby. If I worked and then came home to make dinner and try to spend the remaining hours with the baby; I know that I would not be giving my best to my career, child or husband. I’d be too tired, too overwhelmed and everything would suffer. But, that is just me! If the woman doesn’t enjoy what she is doing, the baby or

  8. Boss won’t either.
    Since I/We would have to take pub transporr every day to and from work, transporting the child would be an even bigger issue. And, finding child care — nurturing child care — trustworthy child care is a feat within itself. Even if we found it and both of us were working, it would be a challenge to pay for it. It just doesn’t work for us. But, I do miss the money and worry about finances, even though I am being quite frugal.
    I am glad that I have the option to stay home with my little baby boy, but I do understand when Moms have to work.

  9. Great post! I sometimes feel that I have to justify my working to my SAHM friends. Then I feel guilty for not feeling guilty… which is just ridiculous!

  10. My feelings about it are complicated. I put my daughter in daycare when she was 3 months old and yes, I felt guilty. I felt like I was missing out on a key part of her life. At that time, I had no choice but to work because we couldn’t afford for me to be home. When I was pregnant with my son and my daughter was 1 1/2, we moved to Texas where the cost of living was less and I could afford to be home with the both of them. I was home for 3 years and then I returned to work. I don’t know that I feel guilty about being at work, but I sure do miss the all time I used to have with them, but my husband stays home with them now, so I feel better that at least one of us is home. And when I am home with them, I try to make my time with them quality time.

  11. Thanks for this post – I totally agree with everything you say and I am going to make a concerted effort to feel less guilty when I leave for the office. I’m doing this because I have to. I’d be a worse mum if I didn’t pay the mortgage and let my family starve.

  12. I go back and forth with the guilt. Most of the time, I feel no guilt at all. I know I have to work and most days, I’m a better mom because of it. The only time it eats me alive is when she’s not feeling well (which, fortunately, is not very often). My work is pretty flexible with letting me bring her in if she’s not too sick so that helps.

    When I’m having a guilty moment, I tell myself I’d feel worse if we were living in our car.

  13. Just found your blog – great post! I couldn’t agree more. My Little Chap is my primary concern but that doesn’t mean I don’t love having 2.5 days a week to do my own thing. After all – Daddy gets five and still gets to be considered a great parent. We both spend the rest of our time with our son doing just as you say, thinking of more ways to be better parents and do our best by him. I prefer to use any energy left (not much) feeling guilty for not making enough time for each other or ourselves!

    • (cont) efforts to get it right. Kind of like hitting “send” too soon. :}. I’m still trying figure out the balance. I love this trial run though…having a blast. The kiddo can write a tell-all book about my goofs in 18 years.

  14. I’m the opposite. I feel guilty because I stay home with my daughter. It wasn’t a choice for us. Her medical problems forced me to quit my job. And the guilt comes because I’ve always worked since I was 14. I guess some how I’ve let it validate me. I see my husband juggling multiple jobs to make up for my lost income. And I feel less of a person somehow because not only do I not bring in money for us to live on, but my house still isn’t spotless.

  15. This post is great…I started back at work three days a week about three months ago and was wondering what was wrong with me cause I don’t feel awful like the books say I should. I like going to work…it’s a pleasant break when I can be me and not mummy/Isaacs mummy. Thanks for putting the feelings into words so well!

  16. Well said! I’m pregnant and in my third trimester…and it definitely hasn’t been easy, working full time. This gives me an idea of what I can expect when baby actually comes. I’m usually so hard on myself, thinking I can do it all. Thanks for your insight!

  17. Thanks for this post. As a new mom, when my maternity leave ended, the first word used I to describe my feelings of going back to work was longing. I longed to be next to my little guy playing peekaboo…and even changing his diapers. I constantly need to remind myself that I can’t do it all,but I can do the best I know how.

    Love your blog! Totally a go to resource for a new momma like myself.

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