Screw Working Mom Guilt! My Kids Benefit From My Career

Working mom guilt is for the birds. Including the one I flip behind my back to anyone who suggests I work too much. Here’s why.

While cooking dinner the other night, I overheard my children playing house. Our four-year-old was the mom. “Mom, come watch me play this game!” my son yelled from the other room.

“I can’t watch you play. I have to work all day, and into the night, and then in the morning,” came my daughter’s reply.

She then continued to push a baby stroller around the house with an air of ultimate self-importance.

I know what you’re thinking: All the years I spent building a career while my children were babies had come back to haunt me in one single instant.

Only you would be wrong. I rolled my eyes and flipped her the bird behind her back.

I’m a working mom, and not only do I not feel guilty about the time I spend away from my children, I believe they benefit greatly from it in many ways.

Their daycare providers are amazing.

Tony and Diane have been a huge part of our kids’ lives and an endless source of support for us. It takes a village and they are the part of the village that tells us if our children’s behavior, illness, and actions are within the normal range or something to be concerned about. They’re the part that shows up at our kids’ little league games, that drops off birthday presents on our doorstep, and supports all of my children’s passions.

Daycare has also given our youngest two children the opportunity to develop strong relationships with other kids. Our daughter is headed to school this year and because of the time she has spent in daycare I no longer worry about our shy kid struggling socially. She’ll miss her daycare besties of course, but has all of the tools she needs to make additional friends.

My career is important.

I mean, I’m not curing cancer or anything, but my career is important to me. That may sound selfish, but the simple truth is that my children will meet a lot of people in their lives who are simply working for retirement, counting the minutes until the next weekend or vacation day, and putting their time into a job that gives them nothing but a paycheck in return.

I want my kids to chase their passions, to live their big crazy dreams, and there is no one better to set this example for them than me. If I can teach them nothing else in life, it will be to pursue the path that makes them happy.

My husband and I have a great partnership.

This has been one of the biggest challenges for us, but also one that I am extremely proud of. There were years that my husband devoted long hours to support us while I built a massage therapy practice and had more time to take care of the house and kids. As the practice grew and became more demanding, he took a more flexible position to be more available for those duties. Like every family, we’ve learned that what works for now might not work forever, and we may trade these positions again many times over the next 40 years.

And because there is very little time left in each day, we’ve thrown out traditional roles at home for ones that suit our strengths. My husband is far more detailed-oriented than I am, and a much better planner, so he does all of the packing for our family trips. I’m slightly less awful at managing money than he is so I run our finances. Our kids will grow up seeing that mom cooks while dad does the lawn care, but they will also see that dad does laundry while mom pays bills. Everyone feeds babies and changes diapers and pretty much no one deep cleans, so I’m assuming that they will eventually find their way to a great housekeeping service.

Our sons are learning how to be good dads.

Okay, so watching my daughter march haughtily through the house saying she was too busy working to play with her kids isn’t exactly what I had in mind when I choose to pursue a career, but the good news is that our boys seem to be picking up the skills they will need to be great dads.

From an early age, they have lovingly taken care of dolls; feeding, changing diapers, burping, and soothing. They dote on the infants in their lives, from the babies at daycare to our newborn niece. Our kids are still very much at an age where defining gender identity is a big deal – girls wear pink in our house, despite my objections and evidence to the contrary – but the social constructs they are working so hard to figure out never spill over into their expectations of parenting. At daycare, Tony cooks, cleans, and takes care of kids. At home, dad does the same, in addition to homework and coaching. There are no “dad jobs” or “mom jobs,” just the job of being a parent, which falls on whoever is available at that moment.

Our children benefit from my career because my husband and I have decided that this is what works best for our family.

It’s not perfect and it certainly hasn’t always been easy. Neither of us grew up in two parent, two career households and there have been a lot of times when navigating who does what has simply been ugly. But the bottom line is that while we both adore our kids, neither of us feels cut out to be a stay-at-home parent. So we continue to find new paths to make our lives work and I hope that one day our kids will benefit from watching us compromise, encourage each other, and work together to support our family. In the meantime, I keep a middle finger poised and ready for anyone who suggests I work too much, offspring included.

Sometimes I Feel Guilty For Having a House Cleaner

What am I teaching or not teaching my kids by outsourcing the house cleaning?

The peculiar thing about being a mom is that I rarely feel like I’m doing a good enough job. My mom-fails constantly weigh me down. I missed my daughter’s kindergarten performance. My son went to school with no socks on. We bribe our kids with candy regularly.

Mom guilt wrapped its arms around my neck the day my daughter was born and has been enjoying an unwelcome, tightly-gripped piggy back ride for the past six years. I agonized over nursing and felt guilty that I wasn’t producing enough milk. Then came the “cry it out” stage. The guilt for letting her scream in her crib haunted me to my core. The daycare drop-off blues were torturous. My heart stopped beating each morning as I pulled away knowing I wouldn’t see her for hours and would have virtually no control over how her day went.

I consider myself fortunate that I like to work. After having kids I’ve had all kinds of working arrangements. I’ve stayed at home, done contract work, and also worked part-time. I finally discovered I’m happiest working full-time and I feel lucky that I’m among the select few that actually like their job.

Working fulfills that professional side of me. It allows me time away to miss my children and helps me focus and be fully present when I am in kid mode. I find I’m more patient with them after a day at work than when I’ve spent the whole day tending to their needs.

But like many full-time working parents, when I go to bed at night there are still a ton of things on my to do list that have to wait until the next day. I simply cannot get it all done.

One thing I learned to cut out about a year ago was the deep cleaning of our house. We hired a cleaner. At times I feel guilty about this. I remember as a kid, I had loads of chores and one of them was cleaning the bathroom. My mom would come in and inspect my work after I was finished. I learned how to clean a mean toilet.

At times I wonder if I’m doing my kids a disservice by having a professional cleaner. Should I be teaching them how to properly mop floors and scrub bathtubs? Will the privilege of having a cleaner be something they come to expect? Should I be modeling the chores they’ll one day no doubt have to do for themselves? What if they go off to college without learning the basics of cleaning? Isn’t cleaning a life skill I should be teaching them?

I ruminate for a while, but then I come home after a long workday to a clean house and it makes me smile. I’m relieved to smell the fresh lemon scent of clean hardwood floors. It lifts my mood to know I won’t have to spend my weekend vacuuming the stairs and wiping down the shower. Instead, I’ll be able to spend quality time with my children. I think about it that way, and the guilt cleans itself up.

Needing Space From My Family Makes Me Feel Like a Failure

The need to be alone is as biological as the one to build a family. But recognizing that need comes with a guilt mothers often can’t ignore.

“MINE lap! MINE lap!” my two-year-old screams.
“Mommy, can I sit on your lap?” my six-year-old asks politely, as my four-year-old throws caution to the wind to scramble aboard.
“No! Mine laaaap!” my toddler wails again, ineffectually pounding his little fists on his sister’s back, pulling at her clothes. 

I am surrounded by loving, angry children. Swarmed by them. We rejigger; one child on each knee while the third gets to pick the book we’ll read.

I just wanted to sit down.

The advice I hear most often from well-intentioned strangers: “This time goes by so fast. Enjoy it.”

And I know – I do – that there will be a time when I will crave having all my children near, to have them viscerally want to be part of me, to claim a part of my body as their own.

But right now, in this moment, it’s just too much.

I’m an introvert. I need space not like oxygen, it’s not so desperate, but like Vitamin C. At first I’m okay without it, feel fine in fact!, but after too long without it I start to fall apart.

The past few weeks have been spaceless. The children got sick whack-a-mole-style: One goes down, rises again, then down goes the next one. Up and down. This leaves the kids not only out of school, but also clingy, understandably wanting mothering.

At first I could give it to them, wanted to give it to them. Cold cloths, Gatorade, crackers on their favorite plates.

But the sicknesses continue to stretch out, and my to-do pile mounts. Trying to juggle working from home, a budding Airbnb listing and the required IKEA assembly, keeping up with the Sisyphean sweeping and sorting and cleaning of the house. All while my two-year-old pleads, “Carry you?” and my four- and six-year-olds circle me in their six-foot orbit.

“I can’t right now, I have to cook dinner.” “I can’t right now, I have to do one thing for work.” “I can’t right now, I just can’t, I just can’t!”

I have become increasingly distracted and withdrawn, and then fed up and out of patience, culminating on Sunday when, after an hour of my youngest yelling at me for some massive transgression like not getting his milk fast enough, my rashy, uncomfortable daughter complained about having to set the table.

“Stop! Just stop! Everyone just stop and help me out without complaining for two minutes!”

The voice that came out was not my own. It was deep and came from somewhere low and ancient.

The children scurried off, seeing I was not even at the end of the rope, but had somehow flung myself off of it, miles away from where the rope ended.

My husband came in. “Are you okay?”

Words bubbled. “I’m just so tired of this family.” I spat out.

And of course, I didn’t mean it. I mean, I did. I was tired, so tired. Tired of the need and the constant-ness and the juggling and the yelling and the sickness and the complaining. But more, I was tired of being part of any family, not this family. I just. needed. space.

There is this tension as a mother between guilt and need. Specters of the unwillingly childless haunt me as I think these thoughts, and consume me when I actually say them. I worry that I will inadvertently unleash the sentiment, to be without family, too devastating to even imagine.

I imagine the mothers who work full time, who desperately want to be able to spend more time with their children. I see them pursing their lips, shaking their heads at my selfishness. They are wishing for what I have, all of it, even in its messiness. They are judging me for not appreciating it.

But the need to be alone is persistent. It is as biological as the one that got me into this situation in the first place. It is not tempered by the guilt. If anything, the guilt adds to the suffocating closeness of it. It is not just a testament to my personal failure as a mother, it is a testament to my failure as Mother. 

My oldest is home today with an ear infection. He is uncomfortable, itchy in his own skin, hot. His body needs time, some quiet and rest, and he will be good as new. I do, too. So will I.

Dear Parents: Let’s Be in This Together

As parents, we’re only as successful as we are supportive.

We’ve all been there. You’re on store #5 and you should have quit at store #3 because your children’s behavior was so good an hour ago. You talk yourself into two more stores. You are a warrior, right? You are a mom. And then it happens.

With a cart full of groceries and an open cashier on the horizon, your child unleashes a scream of epic proportions. Apologetic, you look around for a friendly face from other parents or an empathetic smile from a clerk, and you meet the sides of heads or the dreaded…dirty look.

Lift each other up

Who are these people? Have they never dealt with a public tantrum? Where is the village it takes to raise these kids? Our only choice as parents in this scenario is to quietly work through the problem with the child, but how great would it be if a fellow mom gave a somber head nod, cosmic high five, or some indication that you are not alone?

Parents, we have got to hold each other up. In a world where mom guilt is born along with a child, we’ve got to create communities where moms do not feel alone in their parenting struggles. None of us are perfect, and none of us are raising perfect people.

If you see a fellow parent in the grips of a toddler tantrum, send over some good vibes. If your friend is crying out on social media for some mom support, by all means respond to her with a mom-fail story of your own or comforting words. If you see a teammate’s mom struggling to get her kid on the field to get the most out of her $100 enrollment fee for t-ball, send your child over to invite that sad kiddo on the field. In addition, if your friend or family member has a successful parenting day, set aside the jealousy for another day, and celebrate with her.

Let stress go

I remember when I was having a tough time nursing my firstborn. It was creating so much negativity between my son and me that I was physically and emotionally exhausted. Feeling like a failure as a mom already, I sought advice from girlfriends. One in particular made all the difference. She was a successful breast feeder, but she said, “If this is the only reason you’re stressed, then cut out the stress. Try formula so the baby is happy, and try breastfeeding again only if it works for you.”

The weight she helped lift off my shoulders was epic. My son is now a thriving 11-year-old, and I learned a lot during that time. Because my fellow moms were so supportive, I learned to let things go that seemed forced. If they had mom-shamed me, if they had turned their backs, I would have felt so alone.

Let’s raise amazing humans

No matter what, do not leave your fellow moms hanging out to dry. Life is tough, and raising children is even tougher. Together we can bring up the next generation of amazing humans. Think about a time when you were held up by another parent. How can you step in and support your fellow parents out there? We are stronger together, and we should be here for each other.

6 Important Things You’ll Learn After Being Away From the Kids

It’s only for a few days, I told myself as the ever-familiar mom guilt crept in. Just two days. And I’ll Skype with them for an hour before bedtime.

It’s only for a few days, I told myself as the ever-familiar mom guilt crept in.

Just two days. And I’ll Skype with them for an hour before bedtime. And buy them souvenirs. And text pictures. And not leave again for at least another year. Yeah, that’s it. It’ll be fine.

I secured childcare (that’s never easy since we don’t live near family) and took a deep breath.

I got up early to coach my husband on the morning routine and triple-check my packing, because I always overpack but wind up forgetting something important.

I was all ready to go, and I gave the kids hugs and kisses goodbye. I walked into the airport and this exhilirating feeling came over me. I was walking alone. Only worrying about my own stuff, my own things and not chasing children anywhere.

I was traveling alone. I was traveling alone! Like Kevin McCallister from “Home Alone” raising his eyebrows after making his family disappear, I was on my way.

I was only gone for two days, but I learned a lot about taking a trip away from the kids.

It’s hot to watch your husband take over the morning routine

I don’t know if it gave the kids a deeper level of appreciation for me or not, but it was pretty hot to watch dad get the kids dressed and ready, pack lunches, and strap our toddler into his carseat in his car for drop-off.

The kids always get ready faster for him because of his no-nonsense approach, and he may just throw a big bag of pretzels and cookies into a bag for lunch, but he does it with love and he made sure the toddler’s seat belt was on with care. Now that’s hot.

It’s okay to leave for a few days

Moms often give until they suffer, and I am guilty of not taking enough time for myself on a regular basis. I rarely take time away, especially overnight. But I realized as I was gone, after the business part of my trip was done, I was able to decide what it was I wanted to do. I wasn’t working around naps or homework and I got to see a lot of new things and really enjoy myself.

I did not even end up Skyping with the kids for an hour before bedtime like I had planned. And it was fine.

It’s okay for something else to be a priority in your day

Self-care is really important and it’s okay for something else to be a priority in your day. It’s important for kids to know that you are more than “mom,” that there are other things in your life that you can take time for. It’s especially important for them to see you going out and pursuing career ambitions, and I gladly share that with them.

It’s important to experience new things

Experiencing new things helps you grow as a person. I believe if you continue to learn and pursue new things, you will never get old.

I was in a new city trying to navigate how to get to where with public transportation, and I saw a lot of historic landmarks. I had time to get a feel for what it’s like to live and work in a big city, which is a lot different than my small home office out in the country back home.

Kid-free life is good

I had a laptop bag and a camera bag to keep track of, and that was it. I traveled light. I saw a woman pushing a big stroller trying to get on the train gracefully, and I was glad it wasn’t me. And then I of course yearned for my kids’ baby days as I admired her baby.

I also grabbed a quick bite to eat at a restaurant before heading back to my hotel, and there were two little boys at the table next to me telling their mom “I’m hungry!” I grinned and immediately missed a few very similar little voices and complaints from home.

And then I ate my meal in peace while listening to a podcast.

It’s really important to miss each other

Absence really does make the heart grow fonder. I arrived home to excited kids that were happy to see me and I gave them their souvenirs and great, big hugs. I truly missed them. I showed them pictures from my trip and they listened to every word.

Though the big city has a lot to offer and it was a trip that I will always remember, it was really good to be home where I belonged … In a simple little town with two little boys in mismatched clothes that their father lovingly picked out for them while I was gone.