Working Mom Guilt

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working-mom-guilt

I feel guilty. About working. About not working. About not feeling comfortable one way or the other. The working mom guilt? It’s brutal.

I thought that by being a stay-at-home/work-at-home hybrid, I’d have the best of both worlds. But instead, I feel like I’m half-assing each one. I barely have time to work and when I do, I feel like my son is getting the short end of the stick.

Before becoming a parent, I had lovely fantasies of how life would go. I’d be working on my laptop, writing a script or editing whatever film I was working on at the time. And my children would play quietly at my feet with Waldorf-inspired wooden toys that stimulated their imagination.

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The reality is more like, if I need to do some work that requires deep focus during my son’s waking moments, I let him watch an episode of Sesame Street or play an “educational” Disney Jr. game online.

I’ve had conference calls where the corporate entities on the other end would be horrified to see that I was still in my pajamas, cleaning up spilled mac and cheese in a puddle of geriatric cat pee. And that the only reason my son was quiet is that I promised him ice cream if he could be silent for thirty minutes.

At the playground in my neighborhood, I see mostly nannies. I’ve become friendly with some of them. And when we compare our daily schedules, it occurs to me that the nannies’ entire job is to give attention and care to the children. They pack the kids’ schedules with adventures, classes, and playdates. My son is lucky if we get to the park once a day. And while I’m there, try as I might not to, I usually have to answer an urgent email or two.

Before you get the wrong idea, it’s not like he sits in front of the TV for eight hours a day while I work. I never let him watch more than an hour of TV a day. Most days it’s a half-hour. I try to fit my work in during his naptime and after he goes to bed. I take him to the library, museum, park, etc. But on your average day, he also gets carted around to the bank, the post office, a coffee meeting. He’s not getting my full undivided attention.

I think I often hear reproach from others when maybe they don’t intend it. My husband with, “Oh, you finished editing that episode today? Did he take an extra long nap?”

Or my mother-in-law the other day. We were talking about where we may move and the possible commutes into New York City. When I said, “It would be tough if I worked full-time but since I don’t need to be in the city everyday, it could work out.” She shocked me by saying (innocently I suppose), “Wait. Don’t you work full time now?”

No. No, I don’t. I work for the length of a Little Einsteins episode, a mid-day nap, and for two hours between my son’s bedtime and mine. I felt defensive. Like her impression from spending time with us was that I was always on the computer.

I could stop. I could be a full-time stay-at-home-mom. My husband brings in the bulk of our income anyway. My son would certainly love to be my sole project in life. It would relieve me of this guilt.

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But I would lose me. I know it. I’ve been doing this acting/film-making thing since I started a theater group my freshman year of high school. It keeps me going. It motivates, excites, and sometimes infuriates me. Sometimes I’m resentful. My husband doesn’t have to make this choice. Whatever hours he works, I’ll be there as the primary care-giver. While he misses our son terribly when he works long hours and travels, society makes him feel like a “bad” father for doing so. He’s just providing for his family.

If I had to choose, of course I’d choose motherhood over career. My son is the most important thing in my life.

But does that mean he has to be the only important thing in my life?

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

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  1. 1

    says

    I can totally relate to this post. For me, it’s not working at home, but being a full-time online college student as well as a single mom. I work my tail off studying mostly when my son is taking a nap or after he’s gone to bed, but it’s not easy, and on occasion I have to do things while he’s up. He’ll be starting pre-school though, so that’ll help alleviate some of the pressure as I can work hard studying while he’s at school, but being a single parent and a full-time student, even entirely online, still has its fair share of stresses. It’s like at least two full time jobs at once. I manage it though, and my friends comment on how strong I am, even though there are times I feel just the opposite. Starting up my website has helped to reduce some of the stress though. Even though it takes even more of my time maintaining it, writing articles and posts and sharing experiences with others has actually been quite relaxing, so when I find myself overworked and overstressed, posting things to my website can be just what I need.

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    • 2

      Natalie says

      I just want to say good for you! I too did the single mom in college struggle. I went to class on campus, but I still had to study at night while he was asleep. Your child is still getting more of you than if you worked 40 hrs a week away from the home. PLUS you are securing a future for you and your child, ensuring a way to take care of you both. Most single moms don’t do that, they take whatever job they can to make ends meet while being away from their child. You’re doing good!

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  2. 7

    says

    Sorry.. Can’t do the stay at home thing, don’t want to do the stay at home thing.. God bless those that can. I’m preggo with my third and people keep asking if I’m staying home?! Why? Even if my kids didn’t get me 100% they sure is hell get my paycheck 100%.. Food, clothing, etc..

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  3. 11

    Kim says

    I am really struggling with this right now. I have been a stay at home mom for 4 years and only worked during nap time on our company website. Since October I took over all of the company books so I actually have to gi into the shop and work some days while oldest (5year old) is in school. My other two younger children come with me and play in their playroom at the shop which backs on to my office. They enjoy being there thankfully. I always feel that I am failing at something. If I take the day to play with the kids my work and house fall behind. If I work I feel the kids a house are neglected. Etc. My middle child will be starting kindergarten in Sept and I think I may put my youngest into daycare for two days a week maybe then I’ll be able to spread myself around better. It is a daily struggle though.

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