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…

About the writer


Jennifer Weedon Palazzo  is the creator/writer/and producer of Mom Cave TV, an online network of comedy shows for moms including Slummy Mummy, Double Leche, Blabbermom, and MomCave LIVE. When she’s not writing about the funny side of being a mom, Jennifer can be found eating Reese’s Cups while furiously bidding on vintage clothing on eBay. She lives in Manhattan with her husband, Evan, bandleader of The Hot Sardines and their son. Follow her on Twitter @MomCaveTV and visit


Kasandra 3 months ago

I have worked full-time and just couldn’t live with the guilt so I got a work from home job. That was only ever so slightly better. At least I could see them and they could see me. But like Hasita commented below, it is still hard when you’re busy and can’t tend to them when they want and need you. So now I’ve joined and I actually can work on my on schedule, like when they’re napping, before they get up, or after they’ve gone to bed. I have 6 kids from ages 23yrs old – 2yrs old and my oldest ones grew up so fast! I’ve radically reduced the mommy guilt and can still earn an income. Best decision I ever made!

Hasita 3 months ago

You gave such an accurate description of my day that you made me cry! People think work from home is easy. I dare anyone who says that to spend just an hour working when the kid is looking at you with those needy eyes. I’m dying again just saying it out loud. I’m sharing your thoughts with a lot of work from home mamas on Affimity.

michelle 6 months ago

I don’t have a choice, I Have to work full time. Before I had my daughter I didn’t realize how hard it would be not raising her myself. There are so many things that I have no control over while I’m at work. Schedule, eating, behavior and discipline. Because of this, the short amount of time I can spend with her during the week is usually filled with temper tantrums or awful behavior since she didn’t nap etc. My requests for doing things a certain way are ingored and since it’s my MIL it’s causing fights and problems in my marriage. My days at work are spent missing my daughter and feeling guilty that I’m not the one who’s raising her…the way I feel is right. I have been off with her for a week and her behavior has completely changed. She has been extra loving, sweet, caring, happy, and giggly. I wish I didn’t have to go back to work.

April G 8 months ago

I’m slowly getting some type of schedule down… having three, one in school. I feel like I’m being pulled in two directions. But I know what I’m building with thrive when the two littles aren’t at home. So I need to get this going to a base platform until then. I wish I could say it’d be different, but I need me and I need my future. They won’t be at home forever and I don’t want to regret the time I spent at home.

Kerri 1 year ago

I feel like I am juggling all the time. I love my daughters and try to balance the best of both worlds.

Vanessa 1 year ago

Thanks for a heart-felt and honest read! I only work one day a week as a nurse and I love that time. I also love having a nanny who comes to care for my son a few hours here and there! I LOVE that time to myself! I say you got to do what you love and bring your little one along as much as you can. They will grow up to do what they love too! :)

Austin Vegan Mama 1 year ago

No guilt here. I think it’s good for both of us.

Jaime Masiello Roche 1 year ago

This entire conversation has completely gone awry. It wasn’t about putting kids in daycare or even about the choice to work. It is about one woman and her feelings regarding her decision to work from home while raising children. She is emotionally torn questioning, or as I see it fearing, that she is doing harm by putting her own desires and wants ahead of her child’s needs. She doesn’t have to work. She wants to and this is where her guilt comes from. It’s simply fear that her decision to continue her career interferes with her ability to mother in the way she wants. My feeling is she already knows how to remedy the situation, she just not there yet. Often people write things like this to help them process their complex emotions. It’s therapeutic. Perhaps she is looking for sympathy but honestly I think she is looking for some way to understand why she has made a decision that she isn’t at peace with. Again she has the choice. If she didn’t she pribwbly wouldn’t have written it. There would be no question needed to be answered.

Now onto this ridiculous daycare/SAHM battle. Research in child development shows that daycare itself is not the problem, it’s the type of daycares. It’s the 5:1 ratio of infants to adults that creates environments not suitable for proper infant emotional development. One on one care in the early years helps children develop empathy. If you must work choose a daycare that is small or home based. Use family if you can. Infants should be interacted with often not just during diaper changes. They should be held and spoken to by the same caregiver each day. That’s how empathy develops. Those who have shifting caregivers may not make these important connections. The book Book For Love is a great resource for learning more about this.

Lisa L. 1 year ago

Yes! Yes! Yes! I have been there and done exactly that. At first, the working from home/telecommuting gig seems like the best of both worlds, the greatest thing since sliced bread…until you actually do it. Your attention is split. You’re never giving 100% to work or your child. Your focus is split and no one is getting the best of you, not even you. You’re pulled into so many different directions, it’s hard to know which way is up anymore and you can lose yourself in the mess. And when the husband comes home from his job, all you can think about is jetting out the door for some “me” time and even a errand run to the supermarket seems like a blessing.

I did that until my daughter was 18 months old. Then my position changed and I began going into the office again. I chose the daycare route and picked a very good daycare and she absolutely loved it. She socialized much more with other children than she would have being stuck home with me. She had a learning curriculum and educational playtime and free playtime. She ended up thriving, emotionally, mentally, academically and socially and that made me feel like I did the right thing, what was best for not only me but for her in the long run. The guilt subsided quite a bit despite some negative comments from one or two family members. I am also much more appreciative of the time I have with my daughter and am more productive at work. I feel almost human again.

Sadie 1 year ago

Honestly, here is where you are going wrong: GET CHILDCARE! Working from home does NOT mean that you don’t need childcare when you are working, otherwise you will land exactly where you are… half-assing it on both work and kid fronts. This is what propagates employers fears that when they let people work from home that they won’t be “really working” and it’s also what propagates “mommy guilt” because you are treating your kid(s) like they’re not as important when you’re trying to work.

Here’s my advice for what it’s worth: do yourself a favor and get childcare, and you’ll be able to focus on both 100% guilt-free. In fact, you’ll be able to enjoy each much more too. Find a schedule that works for you whether it’s 10 hours a week or 40, but get kid coverage for those hours! I have worked from home full-time for 7+ years, and I have two young (they were both babies) kids. I love my work, I love my kids. I’m doing both really damn well (I know I’m sounding crazy egotistical, but it’s true, and I’m really honestly not an egomaniac… I just feel really lucky and if it can help anyone else find a better work-kids fit, I’ll put myself out there).

My other plea is please don’t give working from home a bad name… both for other moms who it might really, really work for (and I know thousands in my line of work), and for companies who freak out at the possibility because they are afraid they’ll be getting someone who is trying to work and watch their kids at the same time. Please.

Nicole Bogan-Falos 1 year ago

It is definitely harder than most think

Rebecca Sandberg 1 year ago

I am a single parent, full time student, and part time work. I loathe daycare. That being said, I felt guilty during semester breaks as 3 weeks with kids in daycare doing.nothing seemed a.little unfit. So I send them half days. I get a moment to relax and clean and then we play all afternoon….. people do what works. I think our problem is our imagination of “perfect mom” and where we fall short. If you feel guilt examine it and become a better person

Liz 1 year ago

Thank you for ending this with questions. Thank you for not making up answers, as we all do every day. It’s a series of endless questions, this working motherhood thing. I suppose we should be grateful that we have the luxury of asking these questions instead of being forced into whatever our roles are…Somehow that doesn’t make it easier, though.

Kelly Weller 1 year ago

And what do you think single mothers are going to do? Use the system so they can stay home? Let’s be honest, just because it’s right for you-doesn’t mean it’s right for everyone. Perhaps you need a little time outta the house to remember what it’s like to interact with people respectfully and not judging all the time .

    Lisa L. 1 year ago

    Everyone in the end must do what is right for them and their families without judging someone else’s life and career choices.

    Sacrifices will be made along the way no matter what way you try and slice it unless you’re one of the small percentage whose spouse makes well into the six figures. Most of us don’t the get the luxury of no compromises and no sacrifices whatsoever. Life and parenthood doesn’t work that way.

Tiffany Graves 1 year ago

What I know of your life is that you think it is acceptable to belittle and insult women who choose to have a career even though they have young kids. That’s all I really need to know. I think it is low class and tasteless, and reeks of low self esteem.

Jes 1 year ago

Mommy guilt, there’s no way around it, as hard as we try, it’s just innate, I hate that. In some ways it makes sense because those feelings drive us to take care of our children, to provide more for them, which is good for their survival and enrichment, but of course there is the ugly side, the impact on us, and the feeling that no matter how much we do, is it really enough. Reading your post made me wish for one of those wonderful nannies that you have met, but just for you. Someone who can watch your son even for just a few hours a day, maybe a few days a week to give you enough time to focus solely on your work and yourself, then really enjoy the time you spend with him after your projects are done/deadlines met. Not sure if you have ruled this out already or feel bad hiring someone since you are home, but it sounds like it could be the best of both worlds for you and once a routine is established, your son would learn to respect your work time while being doting on by a caring nanny, and hopefully your colleagues/clients could respect your “work hours” that would be whatever time you have the nanny, nap time, and after his bedtime. Whatever you do though, I can relate to the feelings of guilt — they suck, but good for you for following your heart and continuing to do work that drives you.

Tiffany Graves 1 year ago

Yup. I worked because I enjoyed what I did for a living. Oh, the crime of it all! The humanity! Lock me up and throw away the key!

FWIW, my children are very happy, well adjusted children. I have a wonderful babysitter to thank for that.

And I am more than happy for that extra income. The amount that we were able to save up while I was working has helped to pay for services for my autistic son. If we hadn’t that extra income, he would not be doing nearly as well as he is now.

Jessica Vaughn-Martin 1 year ago

I have done both – stayed home while in grad school for 18 months and now work part time, and worked for 12 yrs full time. None is easy, none is THE right way. It is what works for you AND your family, at that time in your life. Some people are better parents when they have the opportunity to express their own adult ambition throigh education, career, etc. Some are best being home, many have no choice because they are lucky to provide a roof and food on the table. Do what works for you and your family. There is no award for making THE right choice, simply because it doesnt exist. I support moms, period..we all do the best we can in the moment.

Tiffany Graves 1 year ago

So, you not truing to offend someone, came on here and said that leaving your child with a qualified caregiver equated to abandonment. My, I would hate to see what you come out with when you ARE trying to offend someone!

Honestly, go back and read your posts. Most of the time, you sound like a raving lunatic. There is a lot to be said for staying home with your kids. But quit chastising everyone who has chosen differently than you. When I worked full time, I always said that I was a better mother because I felt like I got adequate time away from them to recharge and focus on them. Now that I am a SAHM, I absolutely know that to be true.

And don’t you even read the links you’re posting? Even the psychologist said that staying home wasn’t best if the mom wasn’t thriving in that role. Grow up and accept the fact that being a full time mom isn’t for all women.

Most doctors I know didn’t take time out of their educations or careers to have children. They couldn’t afford to. Are you suggesting that doctors shouldn’t have children because they can’t stay home with their kids?

Katie @ Cup of Tea 1 year ago

I can definitely relate to this. When I first became a mom, I started off as a full time mom. But I was still divided in my attention with housework, cooking, errands, etc. Now I work part time from home, and try my hardest to squeeze it all in during naps and evenings. I’m still distracted and divided. We can’t help it as moms – we’re just REALLY good at juggling a millions things at once :)

Katie Marchetti 1 year ago

You have zero empathy or respect for other peoples choices. How the hell are you teaching your kids any? Also being a mom isnt reading the books or listening to the experts. Its listening to yourself and trusting your decisions knowing your kid. I dont have time to worry about my kid resenting me I want to enjoy every minute I have with her now. My mom stayed home and I can think of ten reasons I resent her today. You are delusional if you think your kids will grow up not having any of that.

Andrea Mara 1 year ago

There’s no easy way is there! I think no matter what our set up, we’ll feel guilty. I think you’re doing an amazing job – your child has lots of attention from you. I don’t think children need 100% of our attention all the time – I think it’s absolutely OK for them to have a little TV while we get things done, or whatever works. If you have more than one child, you can’t give them all your undivided attention. If you’re a full-time SAHM, you can’t give them your full attention. And really, I think that’s perfectly fine. I’m not sure kids benefit from having a day that’s completely full of activities. With my three, sometimes I feel they need a break from me too :)

Helen Tesla 1 year ago

Zero guilt here. Our relationship is waaaaay better since we started spending time apart.

Christina Solis Thompson 1 year ago

After reading the article and then making my way through all of the comments. I’m pretty confused: Am I raising a psychopathic, bully, war-monger? or– is his Nana and Tia raising a psychopathic, bully, war monger while my husband and I are at work? OR are all the :psychopaths, war mongers, bullies and etc raised by DAY CARE CENTERS. Because if that’s the case we all need to call the authorities. If they can infiltrate their “training centers” we might..just might..have hope for the future.

Sara Lichtsinn 1 year ago

As a single mom, guilt is everywhere; as is with any parenting situation. I KNOW I have to work (and want to) but that leaves only 2-3 hrs a day during the work week to see my daughter. And in that time homework is done, dinner made, dishes, and shower. Throw in an extra load of guilt if she (or I) am having a bad day and it feels like all I do is yell during those few precious hours. I just try to make sure she knows that she is always loved – no matter what.

B Cooper Bray 1 year ago

Im so tired of this stay at home mom vs working mom struggle. I do both and im not perfect at either. Im always going to want to give more, be better at, contribute more etc. I do my best and give me baby girl all the love in the world. That should be enough for me….im thankful for what we have and tired of looking into the glass house of judgment and what other moms are doing better. Im learning to not be so sensitive to the judgment. .Isn’t that what we need to teach our children these days…self worth, esteem, confidence. How can we do that when we as Moms get offended by every little or intrusive comment someone else makes. Stop feeling guilty no matter which one you are. You Never stop being a mother no matter which one you are. NEITHER is easier and every family is going to have their own personal reasons for it. Some for financial reasons, some for special needs, some because of divorce , death of a spouse and others for reasons that only need to be between you and God. So the next time you feel guilty because you didnt have time to make the all organic meal or clean the house or do the mommy WOD. Remember you only feel that guilt because you love the hell out of your children and family and your doing everything you can to be the best super friggen Mom out there. Let that insire you not make you feel guilty. And surround yourself with others who inspire you not make you feel guilty.

Jaime Masiello Roche 1 year ago

“I don’t feel guilty at all. I love what I do and it makes me happy. I am providing a great life for my children. Why should I feel guilty for that?! I have a wonderful nanny that loves my children as her own.”

I was a nanny for years
Before having children. I loved them as well. people in fact questioned if they were mine when we were out at the park. I really did love them. With this said I didn’t love them 1/1,000,000 of how I love my own son. Would I have thrown myself in front of a bus for them, surely,
I would for any child but when parents say their nannies love their children like they are their own i actually get a shiver up my spine. No one will ever love them like you do. It’s great that you found a wonderful person to care for your children so they can have a “great life” as you say, but remember nannies are easily replaced (I was when they moved) Moms are def. not.


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