Talking About Mom Guilt with Care.com

I guess I've become poster child for mommy guilt, because Care.com wanted to feature my advice on the subject for the Banishing Mom Guilt interview series.

I guess I’ve become a poster child for mom guilt, because Care.com wanted to feature my advice on the subject for their Banishing Mom Guilt interview series. (And by the way, kudos to them for addressing this important issue with their working-parent members.)

Here’s my Q&A about mom guilt with Care.com’s Melissa Roja Lawlor:

Tell us about your family and your blog.

I’m married to Jerry and we have two children, Cassie, 6, and James, 3. We live in West Chester, Ohio, a suburb of Cincinnati where I was raised. My blog, Working Moms Against Guilt, is the combined effort of three friends and I sharing our opinions and experiences of working motherhood.

Have you ever experienced “mom guilt”?

Sure! A couple of years ago, my husband and I went on a much-needed getaway trip to Florida, leaving our children with their regular sitter for 5 days and 4 nights. My son, about 5 months old at the time, got sick. He had a bad cold, making it difficult for him to sleep, eat, etc. and keeping the sitter and her family up quite a bit during the nights. I felt so horrible! Part of me wanted to come home and just snuggle him, but we would have lost a lot of money on a flight change and hotel deposits — plus the sitter insisted we stay. We had a good time despite the guilt, but I was very glad to return home and care for my sniffly little guy.

What are some things you do to balance work and life, as well as take time for yourself without feeling like you’re taking time away from either?

I am fortunate to have a flexible job/employer, which allows me to take care of “life stuff” when I need to — whether that means working from home when I have a sick kid or stepping out for a long lunch to be the room parent at my daughter’s school. That flexibility is everything. Without it, I would definitely struggle with the balance issue. I also have a fabulous crew that whips through my house like a cleaning tornado every other Friday. That is a godsend! Once a month, I take 2-3 hours to spend at a local salon for a manicure, pedicure and facial. Worth every penny.

So many things today can make moms feel guilty —it’s hard to squash it! What are some things that make you feel guilty as a mom?

I feel guilty when I lose my temper with my kids. Not only is yelling totally ineffective as a parenting behavior, it also happens as a result of me being tired, at my wit’s end, hungry … in other words, not being there for my kids as a 100% mom. But I’m human, and it happens, and when it does, I am the first to apologize and take responsibility before moving on.

There never seem to be enough hours in the day. What is the first thing to fly out the window when you’re in a time/schedule crunch with your kids?

Laundry. There are always piles that need washing, drying, folding, put away. And when life gets busy, laundry just piles up. Sometimes I have to dig through baskets of clean laundry to dress myself and the kids. At least it’s clean, right?!

One of the hardest things working moms do is handle the guilt with leaving their children in the hands of another to work How did you handle going back to work? What made the transition easier for you, and/or for your child?

In the beginning, my husband was our daughter’s caregiver while I was at work. So that made the first year much easier than a lot of working moms have it. When we found our regular sitter through a family friend, we quickly established a strong bond of trust with her and eventually a great friendship. Later, when my daughter went to preschool, we both felt good about the teachers and school. So the lesson is, if you feel comfortable about who your kids are with and where they spend that time away from you, you minimize the guilt.

Do you feel a certain peer pressure, either from relatives, friends, or other moms? Tell us about that and how you handle it.

I think all moms pressure themselves (and sometimes each other) based on what they observe other moms doing. Usually, the pressure I feel most strongly is to have an organized, clean house at all times, serve healthy, home-cooked meals every night, and plan educational, bonding activities to do with my children every weekend. These three things never happen as often as I like. But I have to remind myself that most of the time, what I do for my family is “good enough.”

In your opinion, what makes moms feel guiltiest? And what’s your best advice for moms (and you!) on how to cut yourselves some slack?

It’s getting better, but I think many moms feel guilty if they don’t want to be with their kids 24/7, and they actually like to work and spend time apart from the kids. There is something programmed in our DNA or culture (or both) that makes us think, “Good moms prefer to be with their kids to anything else.” Which is totally not true or realistic!

We are not parenting machines who can churn out endless love, patience and teaching day in and day out. We all need breaks, in varying amounts and forms. And there is absolutely nothing wrong with it! As corny as it sounds, it really does “take a village to raise a child.”

Find local babysitter and nanny listings at Care.com.

Fighting mommy guilt is tough, but not impossible. See how we take on the beast—and you can, too!

7 thoughts on “Talking About Mom Guilt with Care.com

  1. When you hire a nanny, you check her background, references and experience. You want the perfect person to care for your children – someone that they’ll love and want to spend time with.

    But what if they love her too much?

    It’s common for mothers to feel threatened by – and envious of – their nannies. It’s often difficult to leave your kids to go to work, and here’s this “other woman” who gets to do all of the fun stuff that you’re missing – playing with your kids, teaching them new things…even being there for their milestones. Talk about major mommy guilt!

    It’s natural to feel possessive and protective of your kids – that’s the maternal instinct. It’s also OK to need help with childcare – it takes a village to raise a child, right?

    But hiring a nanny, which is supposed to make our lives easier, can be complicated, as many mothers struggle with the unique dynamic of this relationship. You’re having an intensely intimate relationship with your employee: she has become an instant part of your family. She sees you at your most vulnerable (in your bathrobe after a sleepless night with a sick baby), she gets a glimpse into your personal life (your house is always messy) and she’s sharing the most personal, familiar routines with your children. She’s comforting them when they’re hurt or scared, cheering for their successes and doing all of the other things that you would do – if you were there.

    Other moms have similar feelings, as discussed in this “nanny envy” interview: http://www.nannies4hire.com/gma_video.html.

    While you may feel conflicted or upset that your child loves your nanny so much, it’s actually a good thing. Don’t you want your child to feel comfortable with their childcare provider?

    You aren’t the only mom to feel “nanny envy.” You’re also not the only mom to feel guilty about working, not keeping a spotless house, not baking bread from scratch…and the list goes on. Give yourself a break, do the best you can and count on help from others – including your nanny – who really does have your family’s best interests at heart.

    1. While it is really hard to work full-time and miss so many things during the day that happen with my son, I am lucky that his grandma takes care of him and I don’t worry about who he is with. However, the guilt never seems to go away – although I think part of “guilt” is really selfish (at least on my part): I want to be there all the time for ME, not just for him. I want him to run to me with joy, pain, sadness, excitement. I want to be his one and only. There is a desire to nuture that feeds my emotions as much as his. At the end of the day, I remind myself that before I had a child, I had many heart-to-heart discussions with myself and was confident that I would not feel happy or fulfilled if I did not continue my career. Sometimes (daily) I forget this! It helps me to remember all of the working, professional women out there, and how they have raised amazing, accomplished sons and daughters by setting an example. It’s not how much time, it is what you do in that time.

  2. My first baby is coming in 2 weeks and I just got an offer for a once in a lifetime opportunity at a University I have been trying to work in for years. Before this happened my husband and I decided I would stay home with the baby for 3-5 years and raise him, since I wasnt happy at my job and after applying forever to my dream positions, nothing was coming up. At this point I was content with this decision knowing that I will find my dream job, just a little later than originally wanted, but I never expected this. It all happened within a week; three interviews and an offer. I was so happy I couldn’t believe it was all really happening to me, but then reality set in. They needed me to start part-time, working 20 hours a week only 4 weeks after giving birth, and then 4 weeks after that start the full-time position. I told myself this will be good, an easy transition back to work. After all my mom wanted to watch the baby full-time so chid care is not an issue, nor would I feel guilty who I am leaving my first little baby boy alone with. However, a few hours later came the tears, the tears of my baby won’t get a chance to bond with me, I won’t have a chance to get a schedule going for us, he will look at my mom as his everything and me a stranger. I have waited for him for 9 months, and now I will abandon him in 4 weeks, am I a bad mother? All this guilt is overwhelming and not to mention I’m quite emotional at this point in my pregnancy. My husband says he supports me and it is my decision, but I’m torn, I want to be with my baby but I want this career too. I just never expected it all to happen around the same time so quickly. Now how do I deal? Help!

    1. PD – as long as you can be with your baby at least a few hours a day, you will be able to bond and be “Mom.” And remember, motherhood is a lifelong journey. This is just the beginning! If this is truly a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity for your career, don’t pass it up. Make it work. You’ll do just fine.

  3. PD, congratulations on your offer! I can only imagine what conflicted emotions it brings with it. It if helps at all to hear about other experiences, I went back to work full-time when my son was 4 weeks old (we planned it this way), and my mother cares for him. Four weeks was actually ok – 6 or 8 would have been better, but the transition was not too terrible. I think I was still surviving on adrenaline for quite a while. I pumped at work for 6 months. I live close to work, so I met him for lunch at least once a week and I felt so good knowing that my family was taking care of him. To be honest, it has become harder as he is now older – I want to be there to teach him more, and I don’t want to miss anything as he is changing so quickly. All in all, you do what you have to do. I know that I need my career for me, but there isn’t a day that goes by that I don’t wish I could be at home with him that day. Something about your situation seems very fortuitous – maybe it was meant to be since you were offered your dream job right at this moment. Good luck with your decision!

  4. Thank you for such encouraging words! I keep trying to stay positive and tell myself that this is meant to be and yes it will be hard at first but at the end it will end up being the right decision. However, then I look at the ultrasound pictures and think about this baby being here in 2 weeks and how badly I want to be with him and hold him and I start to cry again! I hope that this does end up being the right decision because it not only impacts me but it impacts my parents as well since my mom is quitting her full time job to be with the baby. So it’s not like I can take the job for a little bit and then change my mind because then we will both be out of a job and I won’t be able to pay her too if I am not working! Lol. Maybe it will be clearer once baby is actually here. I’ll keep you all posted. Thanks again for great advice and words of encouragement! 🙂

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