Mom Guilt: A Result of Going Back to Work

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When I was younger and thought about having kids, I always imagined I’d stay home with them, and after my first daughter was born, I did mostly that … a few odd jobs as well as working from home.  This continued with my second daughter. Almost five years later, here I was, “staying home” with my kids, having all the flexibility in the world to go on field trips, meet friends for coffee, or maybe drink wine before noon (wait, is that not ever okay?) After awhile, I really wasn’t focusing on them like I had imagined, which was the onset of the mom guilt that I would become so familiar with.  I would want to clean the house when we were home, and found myself getting angry when they were playing and making a mess. Or, I’d work on an art or photography project and get angry when they tried to ‘help’. Worse was when I’d have to bring them to work for a few hours and would leave frustrated because I couldn’t accomplish tasks that were actually pretty simple.  What I realized was my “staying home” means that I was really doing anything besides being home with them.  I realized I was getting angry because I wasn’t fulfilling my own needs, and I was trying to do too much. I had been home and present with them for about 5 years, they had both been exclusively breastfed for 2 years (which was a huge goal for me based on the World Health Organization recommendations), and I had bonded with them.  Now, I needed something for me.

Mom Guilt

While I had the opportunity to pursue photography and art as a career, I wasn’t exactly in a place to do that consistently to generate the kind of income I wanted. I was lucky when I was able to quit my full time job and live my dream.  But what happens when your dreams shift and doing what you love isn’t financing the other things you love: traveling, activities, and gatherings with family and friends.  These ‘things’ we loved about our life weren’t paying for themselves.  So I knew I was going to have to start contributing more financially if we wanted to maintain the comforts and quality of this life we had come to know as our own.

Then, of course, I started in with the mom guilt: “Wasn’t the whole point for me to stay home with them? Isn’t the point of having kids to be a parent?  To be present?  To be with them?”  It’s not that I think working moms aren’t great moms {we can all agree they are}; I’ve just learned that it is not possible, for me, to be both at the same time.  To be good at my job is to be focused on my work, and to be a good mom is to be focused on my kids. I was doing neither after a while, because I was trying to do both.

What’s the point of my kids being with me for 40+ hours during the week if I’m frustrated, inconvenienced and irritated?  On the flip side, me doing something productive, contributing financially and having the extra income to pay for gymnastics classes and the extra weekend trips out of town is contributing to quality time with my family.  Now when I pick them up, I’m less stressed.  My house isn’t as messy because they haven’t been playing in it, which saves me a lot of cleanup time.  Now I am able to plan and take little weeknight adventures.  Weekends are spent as a family, doing a lot together; we go camping, check out local events, and attend birthday parties.  Of course I knew I would miss them during the day, but I also knew they would be with someone who is focused on them. There are lots of benefits for my kids when they aren’t spending the entire day with me: they can play with other kids; they are bonding through a shared experience; they’re learning to be a little more independent.  They’re old enough now.  I know this is good for them, and me too.

I’m trying to stay positive and remind myself that life is fluid, and nothing is forever.  When this no longer serves my family, I won’t do it.  But for now, my kids are with someone I trust, I’m less angry at myself (and likewise them) and I can hear my own thoughts again.  This should reduce my levels of mom guilt…  I am looking at our family’s long term goals. I know I’m in a unique situation to choose to go back to work, when many mothers and fathers both have to work.  And I’ve moved passed the point of judging myself for making this choice.  I’m grateful I was able to stay home and work from home for those early years, and now I’m thankful for the opportunity to work full time and have someone that I trust watch my kids.  The only trouble is … I still feel guilty.  Even though I’ve explored this topic from all angles, and this really is the best decision for me and my family right now.  I’m not quite sure why I still feel this guilt, but I can only conclude that I don’t think the mom guilt ever goes away.  No matter what we do, we spend our lives trying to make this the best life possible for our kids, and we carry guilt with us everywhere.  I think the guilt stems from the fear that we might just mess this whole thing up.

No matter what … no matter what anyone says … being a mom is the hardest job we’ll ever have.  And I could not be more proud of my favorite “job”.

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Jennifer is a Phoenix native, mother to two wild toddlers and is married to her high school sweetheart. She graduated from The University of Arizona with a B.F.A. in Art education with an emphasis in painting in 2008. She is an Art Teacher, Artist, and Semi-professional Photographer. She loves to talk about all things natural, and is always planning her next family adventure. She started the blog hawks and honey to share about everyday life including her local food club project. In 2014, she started hawks & honey apparel, and loves being a part of the Phoenix creative community. Her favorite color is black. And she will never RSVP ‘with regrets’ to a wedding.

7 COMMENTS

  1. What a great post! Such true words- I have worked through the years since my first daughter was born. Life is fluid, and time goes fast. It’s a challenge to find the right fit for the right time.

  2. Loved this! As a mother of 3, I’m going back full time for the first time in 8 years. I totally can relate to your reasons to go back to work. Never thought I would with such small kids! Thanks for your encouragement!

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