Today, I came home from work and immediately went to greet my beautiful baby, as usual. As my mother-in-law held her, my little one gave me a nice big smile and I held out my arms to her. She reached out and I grabbed her, but not two minutes later she started fussing and reaching for her grandma again. My heart sank a little. There was no mistaking the behavior. Grandma usually leaves after mom gets home, she’s smart enough to know that, and even if only for a few minutes, she didn’t want grandma to leave. Cue the working mom guilt.
Okay, let me stop for a second and make it clear that we feel extremely lucky to have a close family member available to watch our baby while we work. No complaining here. It is very comforting to know that she is safe and happy when I’m away. Still, as a mother, it can be difficult to leave your baby for work, no matter who is caring for them. And, nothing piles on the working mom guilt like a kid who prefers the company of their care taker over their mother, even if only for a minute.
What is working mom guilt?
Working mom guilt is bullshit, that’s what it is. Pardon my blunt, abrasive language, but there really is no other way to describe it. Whether or not you have to return to work or you want to return to work after having a baby, you shouldn’t be made to feel like a bad mom. Maybe there isn’t anyone actually trying to make you feel bad (I should hope your life is troll-free), but that doesn’t stop working moms from feeling guilty from time to time. And, guilty for what exactly?
Why We Work
Most moms return to work after maternity leave for one of two reasons: they have to return to work or they want to return to work.
Many families need a dual income if they want to stick to the lifestyle they had pre-baby, because there is just no way around it, babies are expensive. And, let’s not forget those champions who are doing this whole parenting thing solo. So, it shouldn’t be too difficult to understand that many moms don’t have a choice if they’d like to provide their child with things like food and clothing; you know, the important stuff.
The second camp includes those moms who return to work simply because they want to. GASP! I’m just going to make my stance on what should be a non-issue very clear: choosing to work when you don’t financially have to does not make you a bad mom. It’s okay if being a stay at home mom is not your “dream job”. There is nothing wrong with you if you do not feeling 100% fulfilled by the sole task of raising children. Some moms need to work to keep their sanity, and that’s a perfectly acceptable reason to head back to the office after your maternity leave.
Where does the guilt come from?
I can’t speak for all moms, of course, but for me, the guilt is internal. No one has made passive aggressive comments or intentionally tried to make me feel guilty for working, so I wasn’t exactly sure where it was coming from. It took some self-analyzing to realize it was my own issue, but why was it an issue at all?
Before I went back to work, I used to worry about leaving my daughter. I didn’t worry about her safety, I knew she was in good hands. I worried about what I would be missing out on. Would she say her first word while I was busy helping a client at work? Would she crawl for the first time while I was stuck in rush hour traffic? I lamented over these fears with my husband during the last weeks of my maternity leave, and he did his best to calm my nerves.
Working Mom Mood Swings
Much to my surprise, I really enjoyed my first few weeks back at work. After months in partial isolation with a newborn, it felt great to have actual adult conversations and think about something other than when the baby last ate or what color her poop should be. I didn’t feel guilty at all, I felt liberated. Fast forward a few months and freedom is the last thing on my mind. The working mom guilt has finally washed over me.
As my beautiful baby grows and develops, it has become harder and harder to walk out the front door each morning. When she was just a few months old, I didn’t miss out on much. All she did was eat, poop, and sleep. Now, with just a couple of months to go before she turns one, every day brings something new. She’s becoming her own little person with her own spunky personality, and I want to soak up every moment I possibly can.
Attempting To Find Balance
I returned to work because I had to and I wanted to. If we wanted to continue with the lifestyle we had grown accustomed to, I would need to be able to contribute financially. Aside from the monetary aspect, I’ve always wanted to work. Being a mother is a huge part of who I am now, but it’s not all I am. I want a career, one that has meaning, and one that I can be proud of. When I envision my life five years from now, I don’t plan on being a stay at home mom, I plan on being a work at home mom. That is how I hope to not only find a healthy balance, but to also create a fulfilling career.
How To Let Go Of Working Mom Guilt
But what about now? How do I deal with the working mom guilt that follows me out the door when I head off to work with my pumping gear in hand?
The secret to letting go of working mom guilt is to simply be present.
Spend the time you have with your little one in full focus. It may be tempting to plop them down in front of the tv after a long day of work, and on particularly rough days you may have to resort to that for sanity’s sake, but really you need to engage and be present. Read books together, go for a stroll, play at the park, sing songs together. It’s easier to let go of the guilt when you’re spending true quality time with your child when you can.
As a part-time working mom with a time consuming side hustle, I understand that it can be hard to disengage from work and other responsibilities. I can’t tell you how often I’ve wanted to put on Moana or Finding Dory just so I could get some writing done, and I’d be lying if I said that I never give in to that temptation. How else would I know all the Moana songs and nearly every line from Finding Dory? However, I make a conscious effort to close the laptop and put the phone away when we’re together. I sing songs while I feed her dinner, we play with her favorite toys, and we always read a book before bed.
And guess what? I still find time to work on my blog or write an article. It’s not the easiest thing to juggle, but it’s doable. When the baby goes down for a nap, or after she’s gone to bed for the night, that’s when mom’s “me time” starts. Although these days “me time” looks more like slaving away over my laptop than soaking in a bubble bath. Either way, it’s about finding balance. If you’re truly spending as much quality time as you can with your little one, then there is no need to feel guilty when it comes time to work. Give yourself some slack. We’re all just doing the best we can.
How do you balance work life and mom life? I’d love to hear your tips, in the comments section below!