I have two full-time jobs: my job outside of home and being a Mommy. I am a working mom. And I have been dealing with working-mom guilt for the past few weeks.
I went back to work when my son was three months old. After experiencing motherhood as a first time mom, it felt so good to be back at a place where I do know what I’m doing. I love teaching. And getting back into the classroom was almost like a stress-reliever from my other full-time job: being a mom. Going back to work also meant doing research and presenting at conferences.
I was so ready to get back into the groove.
The first time that I went away for work was a few months ago. I went to a conference in New York City to present my work when my son was eight months old. Having gone to several of these conferences before the baby, I once again felt that the conference was something I knew how to do. However, when I was actually away from my baby for this conference, I was starting to feel awful. Not only because I missed my son and my husband, but because I truly felt like a bad mother. I felt like I was being negligent. And while I did well in my work out there, I did not enjoy my work like before.
As my son has grown, now at ten months, I have come to realize that I am comfortable in my full-time job of mommy. Where before I was terrified to give my son a bath by myself, now it’s become a fun time to watch my little one splash away. I know when he’s hungry or sleepy depending on the way he cries. I know when he’s teething because he is much fussier than other days. I even know when he’s trying to get me to do what he wants, because he smiles really big and scrunches his nose in the most adorable manner. He breaks any will I have to say no.
I also know when he doesn’t want me to get ready to go to work. This is where I feel like a bad mother again.
Many decisions we make as moms are incredibly difficult. Whether to work outside the home or stay at home with the kiddos. Whether to affiliate with organized religion or not. Whether to send to school or home-school our children, just to name a few. I write this not to criticize any decision, but rather to remember that along with big decisions come feelings of guilt, regardless of the final decision. Mom guilt is this real thing, almost like a companion that follows me everywhere I go. Many moms feel the same way, regardless of the paths they’ve chosen regarding their motherhood.
I also recognize the incredible amount of privilege I have in the job I hold, the childcare I have, and the support I have. I usually work during the day, and not on weekends for the most part. Because of this, my job permits me to spend more time with my son than many other women. Many women don’t have a choice of whether or not to go back to work after a baby. The U.S. Bureau of Labor indicates that in 2016, both parents work in 61.1% of families, and in families of “other marital statuses,” 72.5% of mothers work to sustain their families. In order to support their children they must work. Other women would like to go back to work, but circumstances may not permit.
I think of these working moms and their differing situations, and want to say to you: YOU ARE AMAZING. YOU ARE A GREAT MOM. WHAT YOU DO TO CARE FOR YOUR FAMILY IS PRAISEWORTHY.
Additionally, I am so thankful that I have a husband who supports my work-life one hundred percent, and my mom who cares for my son while I work.
As I sit here typing my post, I have decided to embrace the feelings of sadness when I’m away from my son. I embrace them because even though I feel so bad leaving him to go to work, I know he’s in good hands with his grandma, and I’m going to work in a job that I absolutely love. I remember my son throughout the day as I teach my classes and work on my projects. And at the end of the day, when I go pick him up, I feel fulfilled. That is key, in my opinion. The feeling of fulfillment does not mean having it all, but rather doing the things that I am passionate about and putting my energy in that which is meaningful to my life.