10 Things Working Mothers Don’t Want To Hear

working-mother Image via Shutterstock

I went back to work almost four years ago. I was a stay-at-home mother up until that point and got plenty of praise for that decision from family and random old ladies at the grocery store but it would seem there are few that cheer my life as a working mother. Sure, there is the typical pandering from some- “Wow, you are like a super hero with all you do!”- but I am a smart girl. I know the subtext is often “There is no way you are doing all of this right and you are CHEATING YOUR BABIES OUT OF A MOTHER”.

These detractors plus a whole host of other daily hurdles can make life rough for a working mom. There are ever-present obstacles for me and my brethren because we are beholden not just to our children, but our employers as well. That juggling act (trying to please the people you love the most while also trying to please the people who make paying your mortgage possible) can be difficult beyond description but I am going to try to shed some light. Please take the tour with me to see the 10 things no working mother wants to hear:

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1. “I could NEVER leave my babies at daycare!” It may be true- you may really feel that you could NEVER leave your babies at daycare but some of us are without a choice. And this phrase also reeks of “I’M A BETTER MOTHER THAN YOU!” So yeah, STFU before letting this one escape your lips.

2. “It would be nice if you could spend more time in the classroom- I know your daughter would love it!” My daughter’s kindergarten teacher was awesome and I know she said this because she deeply cared for my child. However, I volunteered PLENTY in her class that year- at every class party and a random day here and there. Parental involvement at school is a thing now. Not that I have anything against it, but it makes me feel awful that I can’t be there all the time. I wish we could just throttle back and make school a place mostly for kids and teachers. Or at least back the fuck off the working moms understanding that we need to save our time off for when our kids have a fleck of booger in their eye and Dr. Daycare says “IT’S PINK EYE STAY AWAY FOR 24 HOURS!”

3. “Mrs. Williams? You need to come pick up Mini Williams- he has a fever.” Which brings me to the phone call no working mother wants to receive. It seems that whenever it comes, my husband is ensconced in a meeting and unreachable and I am in the middle of a shit-storm and have to abandon my desk and fly to daycare to rescue my kid. Don’t get me wrong, I am not angry with my child nor do I blame him for being sick but I cannot help the panicky downward spiral of “What if this is a bad virus and the fever hangs on for five days and ZOMG I’M GOING TO LOSE MY JOB!” No illness is simple as a working mother- you have to think 10 steps ahead and have a game plan. It sucks.

4. “Can’t you at least be an assistant coach this season?” Um, no. I can’t. I barely have time to make dinner, help with homework and spend “quality time” with my kids on weekday evenings. I definitely don’t have time to guide your Speshul Snoflach away from nose-picking and on to making contact with the ball.

5. “I think next session, we will do the lessons at 4pm instead of 5:30pm!” Ugh, why are so many lessons and practices for kids held at hours that few working parents could possibly adhere to? I know it’s probably better for the kids to do things earlier in the day but all it does is make me feel more alienated for not being able to be anywhere before 5:30 or 6:00.

6. “Wow, that’s a nice purse/hair-cut/bracelet…wish I could afford it.” This might seem innocent but when said by certain people, it is definitely code for “SEE??? You work to buy yourself nice things, not just to help your family scrape by!” I wish I had the life that so many assume that I do as a dual-income household. It sounds pretty baller.

7. “Maybe he would be less hyper if he got to spend more time with you.” This one hurts and I’ve actually had someone say this to me. Suggesting that my kids would be somehow better off I were around more is like a knife straight in my heart because then I start to wonder if it might be true.

8. “Couldn’t you just work part-time? You are gone so much!” A little known fact among people who have never searched for daycare is that part-time hardly costs less than full-time. Why would a daycare provider, who has to adhere to a certain headcount, accept your part-time kid when they could make the full amount for a full-time kid? I did pursue part-time work initially but once I added up the cost of two small children in daycare part-time I quickly realized I would have to work full-time to turn a real profit.

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9. “HOW DO YOU DO IT??” This one might seem like a compliment but in my experience, it is usually something of a challenge. As in, “Go ahead and make me believe that your family is not living in a shitty filth hole and eating Ramen on top of a pile of dirty laundry every night.”

10. “Don’t you MISS the kids when you are at work?” Of-fucking-course I do, genius. Does it bother you enough thinking of that to help me pay my bills? No? Then please, stop talking.

Related post: You Know You’re the Mom in the Office When…

This post first appeared on Mommyish. Read more here.


The Scary Mommy Community is built on support. If your comment doesn't add to the conversation in a positive or constructive way, please rethink submitting it. Basically? Don't be a dick, please.

    • 2

      Gabriella says

      Awesome. RE: #6 though… paying bills is never why I decided not to leave my career. With my career I feel like a whole person. It gives me a sense of self besides just “wife” and “mother” which I absolutely have to have if I want to be good at this mom thing. Everyone is different, but I have always known I have to have an adult self and the ability to keep my intellect in use to stay sane and happy as a mother or wife. It gives me a sense of accomplishment to know that the career I worked my ass off for (as evidenced by student loans) before marriage and kids isn’t just a disposable thing to scrap afterwards. And having that adult interaction every day in a field that is interesting to me keeps things alive between my husband and I. Is it a sacrifice to work full-time as a mother? I don’t know. No more than the sacrifices which get made to stop working. Anyhow, I haven’t regretted it for a single day.

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      • 4

        Rebecca says

        I agree. NEVER apologize for working! And God forbid you choose to work because you WANT to work. Yeesh…but, ya. Most of this is very true indeed!!! AND, lets not forget we still have to come home after work and do all the other stuff, too…

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      • 6

        Fran says

        Amen Jenna’s Mommy – Scary Mommy is scary, and likes to complain. She also failed to mention anything about the conversations that led up to the comments made to her, such as, I am so glad mini-me can return to daycare tomorrow because the toxic waste company finally finished cleaning up the black mold. An appropriate response to that conversation might well be, “do you really have to send them to daycare?”. Scary might have also forgot to finish the statements made to her, like “instead of daycare centers, I know many working moms who are happy with the home sitters they hire”. But you will not get the sympathy (pity) you are looking for if you tell the entire story. All 10 are disturbing, particularly 4 and 5. Scary Mom obviously does not realize that when she enrolls her children in sports programs, scouts or various clubs that it is actually other parents who volunteer and run these programs, and yes Scary – most of these volunteer parents also work. It is absolutely hysterical that she is outraged that she was asked to help with these programs. Scary Working Mom was no doubt Scary stay-at-home Mom, Scary single lady, scary college student and will eventually complete the cycle by being scary old lady. She likes to complain, is self-absorbed and craves attention.

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        • 7

          Rachel says

          Amen to that. Someone else is spending a HUGE amount of time with your child which means that essentially, they are raising them. I’m a single mom who works all hours when my child is sleeping (sacrifice for sure) so I can be there for all the first words, first steps, etc.

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        • 8

          WAHM says

          Wow… First off, you haven’t even gotten to know this site and it’s owner/contributor setup before you start bashing.

          Jill Smokler is “Scary Mommy”, or rather the owner of this website.

          This article in particular was written by someone else. Check out the author bio box.

          Second, I really, really, really hope that your children are perfect. And your home is perfect. And your marriage is perfect. And your self-esteem, self-worth, and self-confidence are all perfectly through the roof.

          Because otherwise, you’re nothing but a fucking ninny who has nothing better to do than bash others who don’t feel the same way you do.

          And yes, I said fucking. You ninny.

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          • 9


            YOU WIN. Best response I’ve ever read here. Clearly this commenter is new here, and/or has not read the disclaimer.

            I read someone suggest the other day that the title of the blog should be “Sarcastic Mommy”, for the benefit of the humor-impaired. Starting to think they might be right. :-/

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      • 12


        With what time?

        Personally, I prefer to respect that different families have different schedules, commitments, and needs, and arrange accordingly. Obviously, not all programs will serve all family’s needs. I have had to decline to join programs with my kids that required a parental time commitment. Not because I’m a working mom, but because I live with PTSD and certain “volunteer opportunities” that include spending time in very loud and crowded environments are unhealthy for me.

        I don’t throw a snit (and neither is this author), over not being able to be involved in those programs. They simply don’t suit my family’s needs, and that’s fine. Being pressured to volunteer when it’s impractical, more than mildly inconvenient, or impossible, now THAT is annoying.

        Many working parents support the team in other ways. When my kids were in Little League, the parents who weren’t able to volunteer extra hours found other ways to contribute, by donating snacks or even hosting a team party. By working together, those of us who were able to commit time and effort cleaning up the fields and running the snack bar, and those who were able to contribute donations or other support made things work.

        Bottom line; it’s not a competition. We’re all doing our best, and things work out for the kids when we’re all willing to respect the differences and find ways that our cogs and wheels fit together.

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    • 24


      What a load of crap. My own mother worked full time, and she was a GREAT mom. I never went without enough to eat or clothes that fit decently.
      I’ve been a SAHM, both by choice and circumstance, and now that I’m divorced, I’m a working single mom. Nothing about parenting is easy, but you choose the lifestyle (or have it chosen for you by your circumstances), and you do the best you can with what you’ve got. If your kids are fed, clothed, reasonably clean, and have a warm place to sleep, you’re a GREAT mom. Idc if you stay home, go to work, join the military… whatever. You’re providing for your kids’ needs. That’s what matters.

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      • 29

        Carrie says

        No one said subs were useless! I don’t think they think your being there is useless, and I’m sure all teachers appreciate the subs that come in for them when they can’t make it. The point was it takes a lot of prep for a teacher to miss work, if it’s something they are planning ahead of time. All the things they leave to try to make it easier for you as a sub, and minimize the impact on the students.

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      • 30

        Maureen says

        I’m a sub as well, I didn’t interpret that to mean teachers find us to be useless at all. I know how much work goes in to prepping for a day out of the classroom – not fun!

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      • 31

        Stevie says

        No where did she say that subs were the problem. I think that you misinterpreted that comment. Could it be that you are a “glass half empty” type of person and that is why perhaps you are still a substitute teacher. you need a positive attitude if you are going to be dealing with children.

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    • 36

      Emily A. says

      UGH! YES! I ran out of sick days last year and had to beg to be allowed to use personal days retroactively for my OWN conjunctivitis. It was awful. Not to mention what another person said about having to choose other people’s kids over your own. Not to mention all the assholes on the first day joking about how glad they were to send their kids back… I was crying because I had left my 5 month old in daycare that day. She was fine, I was not.

      Our society seriously sucks for mothers. We are NOT family-friendly, and don’t let anyone tell you we are.

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    • 38

      historychick says

      What about: “But you’re a teacher! You could/should homeschool”. It’s even better when they follow it with “I could never send my kids to public school.” Thank you for telling me I’m a failure as a mom because I work AND that my choice of career is somehow disgraceful.

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    • 39

      Sabrina says

      Teacher here, too. It’s a juggling act trying to care for everyone else’s and your own. I sacrifice a lot to mother other people’s children all day (all you Title I teachers hear me on that!) And yes, being out is worse than being there sick. It requires more planning than usual, and IF you don’t get a sub with a clue, you end up having to back track 3 days to undo the incorrect content taught or behaviors gone wild… And what about we add to the above list -heaven forbid- you wake up at the wee hours or snag an hour after work to exercise. Or worse, you go on a small vacation, WITHOUT your children. Gasp, the horror of it all. I’ve done both working mom and SAHM. Neither is easy, but hard for different reasons. If you’ve not one both, you have no clue how the other manages.

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      • 40

        Fran says

        You are not “mothering” other people’s children. You are a paid professional. How can you equate going to work and collecting a paycheck as being a “sacrifice”. If you don’t want to work, don’t work and stay at home with your children. If you have to work for financial reasons, be grateful you have a job to go to.

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        • 41

          Lex says

          For some students, their teachers are more of a support system then their own families. Every comment I have read from what you have said Fran has been so negative. Just because someone sounds their opinions about their situation does not mean they are ungrateful. Working with any children is not a walk in the park. Every family does not teach or interact with their children the same way. Some are not taught basic respect or manners at home.

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    • 42

      Jessica says

      Last year, my daughter’s teacher missed approximately 22 entire school days during the year. She also left early many times as well. I understand children get sick and life happens but that’s excessive. A typical person would be fired for missing even half that many days.

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    • 43

      Stephanie says

      I have too. One mom said “you can’t do it at all and do it well.” Turns out she doesn’t even really do one– she has an au pair and a full time housekeeper. I guess she feels she needs to be there every day to do stuff like harassing the first grade teacher about not picking her kid as the lead in the class play.

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    • 45

      Fran says

      It’s seems your upset about your financial situation. Is it possible that person who said “I can’t believe you came back so soon” might have been expressing concern about your well-being? No, you’re probably right, much better to re-direct your frustration with your financial situation and turn a thoughtful inquiry into a paranoid personal attack.

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      • 46

        Kristi says

        Do you think making others feel like they are being negative or ungrateful makes you positive? It doesn’t.. sounds like you are the one not happy with your own life. Quit trying to make others feel bad about theirs. This website is supposed to be a place for mothers to lift each other up, not tear each other down. But, don’t get mad, I’m just concerned about your well-being.

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      • 47

        kris says

        Let me guess Fran, you must be one of those snitty little country club mommys who is hardly ever with your kids. You sure have a lot of negative opinions about anyone who dares vent. Ya know what, mothers in this day and age are treated pretty shitty by other mothers frequently. And it’s healthy to vent once in a while. But heaven forbid we don’t all conform to your rose glasses view of mothering. Most mothers are just doing the best the can, however that looks for them. If you cannot handle other people’s viewpoints, perhaps you should stop reading (and negatively commenting on) the comments section here. Go pat yourself on the back for being so much more superior to all the mothers on here and leave us alone!

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  1. 54


    “But your gusband is the man of the house, why work when he is SUPPOSED TO bring home the money for bills!”
    How did that not make it? Im sorry my dude works hard and sometimes its nice to say “hey hun felt like grabbing you a six pack!” And it come out of my pocket. Or just have that extra sitting around in case things go bad or i want my hair done. This isnt the 50s anymore!

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    • 56

      Emily says

      Yes! Comments like these make my public schoolteacher husband feel terrible. I couldn’t be prouder of the work he does as a teacher, and I like my job and am happy to support our family as a team, but every single couple we’re friends with makes enough for the wife to stay home. I know it bothers him that we don’t have that option. Anytime someone says to me, “But don’t you want to stay home?” I want to say, “No, what I want is for the genius I married to get paid anything like commensurate with his three college degrees, and for our society to value the work he does.”

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      • 58


        Ugh that would drive me nuts, too…
        As to people who can work and have one stay home, yeah it’s possible. When I was first married, we lived on $300 a week. When we bought our house, he was making $400. I took in daycare kids and averaged around $50-100 a week until our first was born. That was our life for years. We made due.

        But. We went without a lot of things. We drove used cars and risked breakdowns. As our kids got older, thankfully, his raises made it possible for me to keep staying at home, but kids are expensive! And it wasn’t always easy to find money for everything they needed. Staying home is a sacrifice for some people. It’s not always easy.

        Neither is being a working parent. I love how Moms get all this flack for working, like “you should sacrifice and make do with less so you can be home”… Yeah, what about Dad? Should he give up HIS job and spend more time with his family, too??

        These days I’m a single working mom. And we still make sacrifices. And we make do. And I admire moms who were able to handle working and raising their shorties and providing. We’re ALL good moms. And we all make the sacrifices and choices that best fit our family’s needs.

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    • 59

      Debbie says

      I like my response to that one.. my husband is more talented with little kids than me (I admit this was a pleasant surprise) and I earn more money than him. That generally puts the people who ask that kind of question in a tailspin. (The reality is he has a state job that has fabulous benefits but mediocre pay. I rarely go into that level of detail, though.)

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