All career moms feel working mom guilt at some point during their motherhood journey.
Maybe for you it’s when you’re first leaving your baby after maternity leave.
Maybe it’s when another mom asks how you can handle being away from your infant all day.
Or maybe it’s when you learn your baby did something new and you weren’t there to see it, when you can’t attend a school event in the middle of the day, or when you’re unable to personally pick up a sick child from daycare.
I know I’ve felt working mom guilt for multiple of those instances. In fact, if I listed every time I felt guilty we’d be here all day.
Working mom guilt is an unfortunate reality we have to face and deal with. So to finally put an end to this shame once and for all – let’s explore why we feel guilty, if our feelings are warranted, and what we can do about it.
What is Mom Guilt?
Let’s make one thing clear right off the bat – ALL moms feel guilt at some point. It’s not limited to just working moms.
I don’t care if you work, stay at home, feed your children only organic non-GMO foods, eat at McDonald’s every day, sign them up for toddler tutoring, use baby sitting on occasion or what. ALL moms feels guilt at some point.
We’re constantly questioning our decisions wondering if we’re doing the right thing. If we are doing what’s best for our children. Are you teaching them enough? Feeding them the right things? Providing them with opportunities to grow?
It’s that nagging feeling that you aren’t spending enough time with your children, and it’s not just selective for career moms. If you work outside of the home, you worry about the hours you’re away. But if you stay-at-home (or even work at home), your concern may be how much time you spend on your phone, computer, or cleaning the house and away from your children.
Mom guilt is very real. It is also very normal and common.
Should Working Moms Feel Guilty?
No. Working moms should absolutely not feel guilty or apologize for their career status. So why do we?
Part of the reason we experience working mom guilt is because we define ourselves as “working moms” to begin with. We’re all just moms, working or not doesn’t change that.
The fact of calling ourselves “working moms” brings up an endless number of ways we compare ourselves against other moms, and in particular moms who don’t work.
When we concentrate on our working status, it automatically brings to light the amount of time we spend working. It makes us feel like we’re coming up short in other ways. It can make you feel like you’re not spending enough time with your kids, not doing enough cleaning at home, not participating enough in your church or community, not carving out enough time for self care, or not doing enough to maintain a relationship with your partner.
Fortunately, in most cases all of these feelings are just in your head. No one else is thinking about them.
If your children are happy and feel loved – rest assured you are nailing this motherhood gig.
There’s no ‘right way’ when it comes to raising children and in fact, that’s our mantra here at The Moms At Odds!
All moms have unique, individual personalities and needs. And all children have unique, individual personalities and needs. What is best for one family may not be best for another. Just because you have a career, doesn’t mean you should feel guilty for it.
Moms have been leaving their children for centuries – nursemaids, wet nurses, nannies, and boarding school are all found in history. And while the concept of mom guilt isn’t necessarily new, it is vastly intensified in today’s world as we are more connected than ever before.
How Do I Get over the Guilt of My Working Mom Status?
Unfortunately, working mom guilt isn’t something you can just snap out of on a whim.
I can tell you not to feel guilty until I’m blue in the face, that you are doing a great job as a mother and that your children will turn out perfect. All of these are true.
You’ve got to believe these things for yourself. You have to learn how to cope and reach that level of understanding.
To get there, I want you to think about why you are working in the first place.
Why Do Mothers Work?
Mothers work for many, many reasons. Think about your situation in particular, consider the reasons why you are working.
Here are some of the most common reasons why mothers work:
- Money. Either you need the income to meet your family’s basic needs, you support your partner/family who is unable to work, or you like the extra cash to support your lifestyle.
- Career Satisfaction. Your job is rewarding and makes you feel like you are making a difference. You are contributing to the greater good and having a positive impact.
- Social Interaction. Maybe you have friends at work who you enjoy spending time with. Or maybe you just enjoy having the opportunity for adult interaction.
- Your Sanity. It is not uncommon for women to feel overwhelmed by staying at home. Getting out of the house to work can provide some much-needed relief.
For me, it’s all of the above. The fact of the matter is I work because I enjoy it. It challenges me, interests me, and gives me my own identity that’s separate from ‘mother’ or ‘wife’.
For all of the above reasons, I strongly believe that working makes me a better mom. I love having the means to take my family on vacations and other excursions. I enjoy interacting with coworkers and other people at my job. My career allows me to make a difference in people’s lives on a daily basis and it also gives me time away from my family to recharge. It gives me the time to miss and appreciate them.
But those are my personal reasons. They may not be right for you. Figure out why you are working and how it is best for your individual family.
Tips to Cope with Working Mom Guilt
Even the most confident and self-assured working moms feel working mom guilt. Here are some thinking points to help you end that working mom guilt once and for all.
- Remember that by working you’re allowing your child to grow and become independent. Your kids don’t miss you as much as you think they do. Give them the space to grow, develop relationships, and think on their own.
- Delegating is healthy and helps spread the love. Accept you won’t be there for every event. Allow your partner, other family members, friends, and/or other moms to help share in caring for your children. You can never have too many people love and support your child.
- Embrace what you love about working. See the ‘why do mothers work?’ section above!
- Pity the Debbie downers. There’s always going to be that woman who tries to bring you down, don’t let her get under your skin. Instead, feel bad for her. Those women thrive on critiquing other women – how sad is that? The best mothers support other women.
- Be thankful. Instead of feeling overwhelmed by what you don’t have, concentrate on what you do have. Be thankful for your job, your family, your children, your partner, and/or your community.
- Talk about it. Like we’ve said, all moms experience mom guilt. Talking about it takes away its power. Confide in other moms and be prepared to sympathize when they discuss their own insecurities.
- Make time. Try to make the best out of the structure a working schedule provides. Carve out special time for walks, making cupcakes, or other bonding activities for you and your children.
- Remember, it’s normal. No matter what, sometimes that working mom guilt is going to hit you. Remembering that it’s a normal emotion can help validate your feelings.
Working Mom Guilt Depression
We can’t discuss working mom guilt and being overwhelmed without mentioning the topic of depression. While mom guilt is expected, depression is a completely separate issue that needs to be addressed.
This comprehensive clinical review found that as many as 1 in 6 women may experience a depressive episode within 3 months of having a baby. Peak prevalence of postpartum depression is 2-6 months following delivery. It’s more common than most mothers realize.
Of course just because you’ve passed the threshold for postpartum depression doesn’t mean that you’re in the clear. Sadness or guilt can turn into depression and affect your life in real ways. Depression can even come out of nowhere.
Depression can affect your relationship with your family, partner, children, and coworkers. It can affect your job performance, your self-esteem, and even your child’s development.
There are many signs to look out for, here are just a few:
- If you feel sad or overwhelmed more often than happy
- You have lost interest in activities that were once enjoyable
- If you think about harming yourself or your baby
- You are having problems sleeping (either restless or sleeping too much)
- If you are suffering from eating disorders
- You feel tired or have little energy.
The good news is that depression is treatable. There is absolutely no shame in being treated for depression. In fact, know that by seeking help you are doing the absolute best thing for yourself and your family.
If you don’t have a trusted psychologist or therapist already, speaking with your primary care provider can get you pointed in the right direction.
Let’s End on a High Note
Now that we’ve covered everything – from why we experience working mom guilt to how to end it and even the dark side of feeling overwhelmed – let’s end with some inspiration.
These are some of my absolute favorite working mom guilt quotes that help me get through the day. I even have some on my whiteboard in my office for positive affirmation!
“Loving my job doesn’t make me any less of a mom.”
“I can love my children and love my job.”
“Guilt is something all moms feel, whether they work outside the home or not.”
“Being a working mom doesn’t mean my family isn’t my first priority.”
“I am there for my kids when they need me (and I won’t let anyone convince me otherwise).”
You got this, mama! Know that feeling working mom guilt is very real and all too common. It’s how we deal with the guilt that matters.