Caroline L. Huftalen is freelance writer and the founder and CEO of Survivors Project, a nonprofit organization and legal fund for survivors of domestic violence. She lives in Atlanta, Georgia.
As a writer, I lucked out with the career versus motherhood debacle. I get to work from home and care for my daughter at the same time. For me, it is the best of both worlds, but I still have days where deadlines approach too quickly, laundry piles too high, and a baby really needs to be held. Those are the days where the mom guilt creeps in, and I instantly feel bad for not reading her that story or feeding her copious amounts of puffs instead of freshly made veggies just so I can get a task done.
Whether you are returning to work after maternity leave or still struggling with the ever-present guilt over putting yourself first, from one mom to the next, you are doing a great job. Studies from all over—the U.S., the U.K., etc.—detail just how many working women feel like you do, that they’re missing out on prime kid time. With so many women feeling the same way, it’s not your parenting skills that are in question. Don’t be too hard on yourself.
What you need to remember is that there are choices to be made every single day, and as long as those choices are based on doing what’s best for you and your family in that moment, you will be just fine.
I reached out to other moms over Facebook, Instagram, and in my local mom group to ask how women who experience mom guilt emotionally deal with the kids-versus-work divide. This is some of the advice they gave:
Kim, IP administrator supervisor
“Embrace the fact that sometimes doing 'your best' means doing what’s best for you. There is absolutely nothing wrong with freezer waffles and an applesauce pouch for dinner while you sit and have a glass of wine. Four days in a row.”
Kathleen, child therapist
“I LOVE working and LOVE being a mother. Furthermore, I am a child therapist, and I personally think kids THRIVE when they are in an early childcare setting from an early age. I have ZERO guilt about daycare. Kids learn social skills, emotional intelligence, are exposed to loads of language. Also, on your first week back treat yourself to a Starbucks run, lunch with coworkers, and run errands baby-free! It’s the best. You’ll always hear 'you’re missing something,' but you’re not. You’re still the mom. You’ll still see their little steps and teeth popping in and hear their first words. I still get loads of snuggles, playtime, story time... etc. I’ve never once felt like I’m missing out.”
Caren, corporate recruiter
“Try not to get too far ahead of yourself with thinking. Literally take one hour at a time. Also, once you are back a few months look for what feels like a good balance. Your old work normal is going to feel totally different, and may not be the same. It’s okay to admit to yourself/family if you need something different so you find that balance again with career and being a new mom!”
Anastasia, TEM OPS analyst
“Studies show kids of working moms are more successful, but even six years later, Penelope asks why I have to work so much and I explain about the roof over our head and water and electricity and that pretty dresses and shoes cost money. Oh, yeah, and food. We just live in a different world too than our own mothers....my mom stayed home my whole life, and my dad even worked two jobs sometimes just so she wouldn’t have to work.”
Elyse, Clery compliance coordinator
“Now that I am a working mom, I am learning how to take care of myself more than ever before. During my commute to work, I listen to audiobooks, radio shows, music, or sit in silence. I focus on what my goals are for the day, establish a plan of action, and walk into work clear headed. When I leave work, I drive for 55 minutes and use this time to decompress. Some days I love catching up with friends or family, and other times I drive in silence and look at the beauty around me. When I get home, I know I will walk in to see the happiest little human on the face of the planet Earth. I set my bags down and it is time to play.
I have been on a roller coaster of emotions throughout the past year. I realized that I am a better version of me if I am doing something I am passionate about. I am fueled by the energy of others, inspired by innovative thought and am a seeker of platforms to teach from. There is absolutely, positively nothing wrong with being the best mama and a badass woman with goals. I have to remind myself that guilt does not serve me and release it knowing wholeheartedly that I have made every decision possible to provide the best life for my family, and that balancing will always be an act as long as there is a tight-rope to walk.”
Susan, stay-at-home mom
“Mom guilt is alive and well regardless of employment status. Even 15 years and four kids into this whole mom gig, I sometimes struggle to do anything for (gasp!) myself without that guilt creeping in. But I have learned that you can’t pour from an empty cup, so taking care of myself has to be a priority if my family wants anything from me. Which they do. Always.”