Blogger of the Week: 7 Ways to Banish Working Mom Guilt

This week’s Blogger of the Week is Liz O’Donnell, whose site “Hello Ladies” is “designed for smart, busy women, written at the intersection of feminism and life.” It’s got lots of useful and interesting tidbits…like this one. Enjoy!

“I have so much guilt.” I hear it all the time from working mothers and it breaks my heart. I am mostly guilt free when it comes to being a working mother—a huge accomplishment considering I was raised Irish Catholic and guilt is part of my DNA! Providing for my family is a privilege and it’s okay that I enjoy it.

I had to remind myself of that recently. I was home for a few nights in between too many business trips in April when my daughter and I realized my husband could not attend her school performance. It had been okay that I wasn’t going to make the show—up until that realization. And then she begged me to cancel, told me I travel too much (true for April, I messed up), and that if I cared I would cancel my trip. It didn’t help that she knew I was headed to the Mom 2.0 Summit at the Phoenician Resort in Arizona and that the conference agenda was packed with fun. We both cried ourselves to sleep that night.

In the morning, I reminded myself and my daughter that my trip had been booked months before her school event (why can’t schools set their calendars before the school year starts???), that my company had spent money on my reservations and canceling would be irresponsible, that this was a work trip even if it was going to be awesome, that I had some other upcoming school events protected on my calendar, and that it was okay for us both to be sad about my missing the show but I was going. Then my husband rearranged things so he could attend her performance and we were all okay again (she more than me because I may not feel guilty but I do wish I could be in two places at once).

Recently, a woman I know posted on Facebook that she was drowning in working mom guilt. Her child really wanted her to chaperone a school trip but she had no paid time off at her new job. She was clearly distraught about what to do. After a few days and many supportive posts from friends (kids should see their parents as people, you’re showing your child women are earners, my mom worked and I’m okay), she shared the good news that work was giving her the flexibility to attend the event. She would make the time up by working longer days later that week. And the way she made it work? She asked! She had assumed she couldn’t attend the event before she even explored if it was a possibility.

Reflecting on the friend’s experience and my own, I thought about how working mothers can stop the guilt. Here are seven things to think about when working mom guilt comes knocking:

  • If you are the sole or primary breadwinner, focus on what your paycheck buys for your family. You don’t feel guilty about providing food, shelter, and clothing do you?
  • Could your family get by on just one salary? Maybe right now you can, but things happen. If both you and your partner are working, focus on the fact you have diversified your portfolio, so to speak, and you will be better able to weather any downturns or unexpected events, and, retirement.
  • If you miss a school event or game, focus on the fact you are teaching your child to sing, dance, act, play soccer, etc., for the joy of it, not just for the praise and attention. That’s a gift.
  • If you think you’re work is suffering as a result of your personal life, remember, as David Brooks recently reminded us, what will be listed on your eulogy is more important than what’s listed on your resume. Then figure out, like my friend on Facebook did, how you can make some adjustments.
  • If you feel guilty because you’re having fun being something other than “Mom,” think about what a great role model you are for your children. You are teaching them to pursue their own path, that women have choices, that life can be joyful. Sounds good to me!
  • If your guilt stems from wishing you were like those other moms, get the hell off of social media, stop comparing yourself to other women, and worry about what your children think of you, not what your neighbors think of you.
  • Speaking of social media, if you feel bad that you can’t do a craft or bake cookies worthy of Pinterest, if you didn’t move the elf, hide the eggs, or rent ponies for the birthday party, practice gratitude. Seriously, remember the mothers who are struggling—truly. Get out of your own head, be grateful for what you have, and extend a helping hand to a mother who needs it.

Still can’t shake the guilt? A recent study says quality time with your child is more important than quantity. Read it. As the Mogul, Mom & Maid manifesto says, “We have no time nor need for guilt.”

This post was first published on Hello Ladies on May 4, 2015.

Main image courtesy of breadwinningmama.com.

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2 Comments

  • Thanks for this post. I find we as moms often gives ourselves too many expectations to live up, and don’t focus on the positives but instead amplify the negatives.
    I too sometimes miss my child’s events, but I feel good knowing that I am modelling a woman is who independent and passionate about her career to my daughter, not at her expense, but in tandem with her importance.

  • Liz says:

    Thanks for commenting Joanna. Love the point about your needs in tandem with hers. Perspective is huge.

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