Parenting and guilt go hand in hand. It’s almost a fact of life. So, imagine all the guilt working mothers can feel! If you have to work late one week, you may feel guilty. Also, if you spend half the evening on the phone with clients, you may feel guilt-ridden. If it seems that your toddler is the one who brings his caregiver to playdates, you may feel guilty/ if your toddler gets cold after cold (like every other two-year-old) but you still go to work, you may feel guilty. If your child sobs hysterically every morning when you leave for work, you may feel guilty.
Working Mom Guilt: Accepting the truth
First of all, it can be a relief just to acknowledge that you may always feel a little guilty working since you aren’t going to be the one taking care of your child’s day-to-day needs. At times you may feel sad or jealous. “Oh no, I’m missing out on her first playground experience” (or “buying his sneakers,” or “hearing her laugh”). At times the caregiver will do things that you wish you could do. At times your child may even seem to prefer your caregiver’s company. You may sometimes feel a tremendous pull on your heartstrings and worry about your decision to work.
Once again, I believe that if parents take care of their needs and generally feel happy about working, that positivity will filter down to their kids. When you leave for work in the morning, let your toddler see that you enjoy work. Instead of, “I wish I didn’t have to work. I would much rather stay home with you,” say, “I love you and will miss you. I’ll be thinking of you.” Don’t make the farewell into a long-drawn-out affair.
Once at work, many mothers say the key to better work and home life is to focus. You have your quality time at home with your toddler, now make work your focus time. When at work, be at work. However, if you find that you can’t seem to stop worrying about your toddler, don’t ignore your uneasiness. You may discover that you can’t concentrate on the reason that your experience of being a parent is bringing up some of your issues. Maybe you have difficulty saying good-bye and separating. Or there could be a legitimate reason for you.
What mothers have to say about this guilt?
“I was constantly distracted by calling home and scheduling classes for my two-year-old. Sometimes these panic attacks would just come on me and I would worry that my daughter was hurt. I had this nagging feeling that my caregiver wasn’t paying enough attention to her. Once I finally figured out that it just wasn’t guilt, but real concern, I changed caregivers.”
Going to work and having a child can call basic priorities into question. If you don’t make conscious choices about your work style, your toddler probably will pick up on your ambivalence and feel as torn as you. Perhaps your partner will cut down on his hours because his schedule is more flexible. Maybe you’ll feel fine climbing up the ladder. Honestly, you will work part-time or change your job.
Says one mother: “I felt so guilty because I was working very hard in this pressured ad agency. And even when I was home, even though I tried to be there for my son, I was always worrying about whether I would get my work done. I finally realized it was more important for me to have a less prestigious job and have a life outside. I now work full-time at an interesting job where the culture expects the day to end at six o’clock rather than midnight.”
One suggestion that may sound simple
Try not to compare your choices with other mothers’ choices. Many mothers say that they feel jealous and dissatisfied when they meet women who have decided to stay on the fast career path, just as many of these high rollers say that they feel selfish and guilty when they meet women on the mommy track. You need to make the choice that is right for you, not anyone else.
I know you care about your children. I’m a parent too. I’ve more tips about parenting smart kids to share with you. Start guiding your children to success!