On “Mommy Guilt”

A friend recently posted on Facebook about leaving her baby for the first time to go on a business trip, and how it was hard to decide whether to go on the trip or not. I commented that, in my experience, Mommy Guilt is freely available regardless of what choices we make.

In the midst of all my recent vacillation over whether to work at home or work full time or stay at home or whatever, I started to feel drawn to the idea of part-time work. It seemed like the perfect balance between the opportunity to stay at home and raise my kids during their early years, and the opportunity to keep my professional life on track. And then I was hit with this yesterday: The 5 Types of Part-Time Working Mom Guilt.


Now, of course I understand that Mommyish is a blog like I am, and headlines get pageviews, but the post nevertheless opened up a whole can of things I hadn’t even considered about working part-time. So, as I understand it, there is now:

  • Full-time Working Mom Guilt: “My kids are going to love the daycare lady more than they love me. I have to stay up till 1 a.m. finishing this product report and baking fresh cookies for Little One’s birthday tomorrow. I am missing out on key parts of my child’s life. Maybe I would be a better mom if I stayed at home.”
  • Full-time Stay-at-Home Mom Guilt: “I am depriving my children of a positive female role model who is independent and able to provide for her family. I am depriving my family of the money that a second income would bring. I am making my working-mom friends jealous when I post about our mid-day zoo outing on Facebook. I should never feel isolated or trapped or lonely since I am so lucky to be able to stay at home. Stay-at-home moms have higher rates of depression — maybe I would be happier and a better mom if I worked.”
  • Work-at-Home Mom Guilt: “Every second that I am addressing my clients’ needs, I feel like I should be with my kids. Every second that I am with my kids, I feel like I should be working. People might think all I do is work and let my kids raise themselves in the playpen. I should never hire a babysitter — I’m at home, after all! Maybe I would be a better mom if I worked outside the home, or stopped working altogether.”
  • And then the part-time working mom guilt alluded to above: “My co-workers are disadvantaged by my lack of constant availability. I’m not really advancing my career by working fewer than 40 hours a week. The income I’m bringing in isn’t enough. The time I do spend with my kids isn’t enough. Maybe I would be a better mom if…”

So, what’s a mom to do?

First, make sure you’re surrounding yourself with people who will be supportive of whatever decision you (and your partner if you have one — all of this is intensified in some ways for single moms) make for your family.

Second, remind yourself that this decision is just one of many you will have to make for your family. No amount of blog posts or books is going to tell you that you’ve found the One decision (trust me, I’ve looked!) and something that works in the now may need to be adjusted in the future. So, make the choice that works well for the situation you are in right now.

Third, for some, a decision to try out one of the “mom roles” doesn’t necessarily preclude you from changing roles. If you try working at home and absolutely hate it, perhaps there is a way to transition into a different role. But even if there isn’t:

Fourth and finally, can we all just make a pact to get rid of the guilt? Can we just reassure each other every time we talk that we are all doing the best we can with what we have, that as long as we are being mindful and caring about parenting our kids are going to be fine? And by “fine” we mean “not too messed up?” 🙂 Joking aside, the experiences that will shape our kids’ personalities and futures are by and large going to be things over which we have no control anyway.

Let’s agree that we’re all doing okay. And the kids are going to be alright.

What tips can you offer to combat Mommy Guilt?


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