The G Word

Guilt. We all experience it as some point in time. And why is there so much guilt involved with parenting? Its hard enough as it is. Working moms can feel guilty being away from their kids. My stay at home mom (SAHM) friends sometimes feel guilty about not contributing financially to the family. Both sets of moms are tired.

When I went back to work after the birth of both of my children I went back full time. I only took 9 weeks off for maternity leave with my first, and oh how terrible it felt to leave my little tiny baby! No one prepares you, at any length of time, how difficult it is to suddenly leave that which was part of your body with someone else. Suddenly the world becomes much more terrifying. We left him with an in-home center, and although I know there are plenty of excellent providers, ours was not great. Many red flags in the first 2 weeks so much so that we pulled him out and never took him back. I still feel so guilty about that to this day.

The guilt and the sadness of working long hours on top of a long commute became too much, so I requested to cut down my hours to 4 days per week. I only did this for a few months because another co-worker went on maternity leave and I needed to cover her schedule. But that one day off made a difference in my sanity.

My daughter on the left and my son on the right, both sleeping in my arms

After my daughter was born I was with my current position, and I took the full 12 weeks allowed (oh and USA? We need to expand our maternity benefits to match other countries, 3 months is still so young to be leaving our babies). I still went back to work full-time, and we had changed our computer system while I was off. I was so overwhelmed with going back to work and adjusting to our new system, I was working well into the evenings from home and still feeling like I was missing out on time with my kids. So for the last 3 years I have been fortunate enough to work 4 days per week.

I realize not everyone has the luxury to cut down their hours at work, but for me the sacrifice of the income is worth the extra time while my children are so young. The majority of my patients are elderly and I often hear one of their regrets is working too much. I know when they are older I will have more time to spend working so I am trying my best to slow down now while I am able to keep them with me a bit.

Trying to write and my best girl wants to help

So how do I ease the guilt?

I do no claim to be any sort of expert in this area but I would like to share how I personally ease the working mom guilt as best as I can!

  1. Quality vs quantity! I notice both of my children do better even when I spend just a few minutes dedicated to just them each day (yes this means putting down the phone which is very very difficult for me!) Whether is playing with action figures with my son after dinner or actively watching my daughters favorite episodes of PJ Masks (for the 100th time) and being enthusiastic-they notice. At night we have a pretty structured bedtime routine including books and songs and back scratches for them both.
  2. Mom and kid dates! These don’t have be fancy, but I like to take one or both kids out of the house on the weekends. I feel like the change of scenery does us all a bit of good. I never go out for long because neither of my children has any attention span. But we like to go to the mall play places (I love the pretzel stands they keep close by-marketing genius!) or even just sitting at Panera with snacks or the park for 30 minutes before groceries. Keep it simple-kids don’t want the fancy things they just want you!
  3. Remembering why! I have to remind myself of how hard I worked to achieve my dreams of becoming a Physical Therapist. I wanted to help people, and I work hard during my working hours to do this. I explain to my kids why I am at work, what I do for a living, tell them funny stories about my day, so they don’t feel like I am just leaving them at school/daycare because I want to be away from them.
  4. Setting the example! So maybe its impossible to have it all, but hey we can surely try to have most of it? I discuss my job with my children and explain why I enjoy what I do and how other people benefit. They are curious creatures by nature and sometimes just really enjoy the conversation. And then they ask for snacks!
  5. Something’s gotta give! I have also learned very quickly not to feel bad about the things that don’t get done around my house. The dishes aren’t always put away immediately, the laundry piles up. But I remind myself my kids are fed, they are mostly happy, and if they are tucked safe and healthy into their beds at night, the dishes and laundry can wait one more day. Because sometimes just surviving the day-to-day is enough!
  6. Be kind to yourself! You’re doing the best you can! These days won’t last forever (that’s what people keep telling me at least). We are expected to do it all-and that’s impossible. I lose my temper quickly and feel terrible about it almost daily and then at night when my little girl grabs my hand and tells me she loves me I know I haven’t totally failed. Take some time out and remind yourself you’re doing what you are capable of, and that’s enough!