Superwoman? Really?

by Love, Work 27 Comments

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I read a news article this morning that reported on a survey showing working moms and stay at home moms BOTH feel overwhelmed.  This got me to thinking about the guilt issue.  While we can understand some of the guilt that working moms carry around with them, is there really more guilt because a mom works outside the home or is it just a different type of guilt?

Personally, I think all moms carry some level of guilt with them no matter which choice they make – to stay home or work.  As women, I think many of us put pressure on ourselves to be the best, do all and never let anyone down.  So I wonder…what causes us to feel like we are supposed to be “superwoman” when, in reality, it is impossible to be something other than human.  Thoughts on this?  I would love to hear them!

Becky

Becky Gruebmeyer has been a single mother of four since 1998. Her children, ranging from 13 to 25 years old, have been her focus while meeting all the challenges that come with being a working mom.

27 Comments

  1. No Guilt Allowed! We do the best we can for our families. It is amazing how we look at other parents and automatically think they are better than us. I work to pay 1/2 the mortgage and receive benefits through my employer.

  2. I’m a new 1st time mom. I just went back to work this week and it was so hard. My little girl is 2monts and 3wks old. I needed a good read about guilt and I think your right. No matter what a woman, wife , mother trys and wants to be EVERYTHING …. super mom. I have to work and NO I don’t need the guilt trip im getting from a very Rude public about being a working mom. Please help. I need some good advice. How can / should I deal with the public and not cry when I drop my baby off with the babysitter.

    • Julie,

      I worked full time when both my kids were babies and my husband stayed home with them. I still cried. But it does get easier. My kids are now 5 & 7, very well adjusted and used to both Mom and Dad working. The public be damned!

    • Julie,

      When my youngest was born, she was a premie. I was also a single mom with three other kids. I had to go back to work as soon as I possibly could to keep food on the table. The woman I was paying to babysit my children was telling people that I didn’t want my child because I was working and leaving her. Obviously, she didn’t remain my babysitter. It hurt and made me angry, but I knew what I was doing was what was best for my children. I refused to live on public assistance. I wanted better for them than that. It was hard leaving her, but I knew she would be ok. We (myself and the kids) worked together as a team to work towards where we wanted to be. We sacrificed at times, but they thank me for teaching them independence.

      I heard once – “Those that matter, don’t care and those that care, don’t matter.” The people that are close to you and whose opinions matter will support you. The rest of the opinions are just opinions. The easiest thing to say is “I love my children and my family supports what I am doing”.

    • BE PROUD! You are a mom who wants to provide for you new bundle of joy. I’m a working mom of two. I felt the guilt too with my first. But when people ask who watches your kids I proudly say a fabulous daycare that I am blessed to have found. My boys are happy, healthy and understand mommy has to work to give them what they need and some of what they want. Your daughter will too one day!

    • Julie, I cried too at first. Crying is ok. Sometimes I have guilt about not spending time with them. But I make that up by doing as many fun, educational activities as I can with them when I’m home. Even if it’s just cuddling with them watching a movie or having my 2yr old help me wash dishes. I have to work, 32-40 hours/week just to make ends meet, and I’ve been working since my babies were 6 weeks old. I also am going back to school online in an attempt to better my future and reach my potential in my career. Having this struggle of having to assess my own priorities every day has helped me grow as a person tremendously. It hasn’t always been easy, but more than ever I have a sense of whatever I choose, it is important, and I am giving it my all. And so, even though it can be stressful and confusing sometimes, it is also filled with joy and much satisfaction.

      As I final note, the other day, an older woman (a very nice woman) who used to be a stay at home mom asked my toddler, “Don’t you love Saturday? You get to stay with your mommy and daddy and you don’t have to go to daycare?” I just smiled inside because whereas this might have once made me feel guilty, I realized she had no clue that my daughter loves her home-based daycare woman like an aunt and loves her friends there. And because of the socialization they get there, they are really friendly and polite kids. Hang in there. It gets easier.

    • Julie,
      I’m in the same boat you are. My daughter is now almost a year and a half and both my husband and I work full time. I love my job but not more than my baby and there are days when I’ve had it! but I also remind myself what me working provides for her. I also just try to make the time I spend with her really quality and really special. Hang in there. I’m not sure it gets easier, but kids are resilient. Good for you for getting back out there. Screw the public. What do they know??

    • Julie – remember that you are doing what’s best for your family, and really at the end of the day YOU are the only one you can count on 100%. I don’t want this to sound negative, I’ve been with my souse for 20 years, but ANYTHING can happen – divorce, death of a spouse, he could loose his job, and by you remaining valuable to the work force, continuing to sharpen your skill set, you are helping to secure the future of that precious baby.

  3. I work full time with two boys aged 8 and 6. Whenever I am tempted to feel guilty about leaving them I summon memories of my childhood, at a time when husbands ruled the house. My father would not let my mother work for fear of his ability to provide being challenged. As a result I had a miserable unfulfilled mother, a poor family because my father didn’t provide well enough, and my three sisters and I were all kept home on field trip days because my parents couldn’t afford the extra cost. I vowed if I had children I would never be in my mother’s position. Now, with a mixture of day care and some fabulous nannies, I have happy children who are quite used to mummy and daddy working. They are thriving and so am I. Diss the guilt girls! Think of the alternative!

    • Great way of putting it!

  4. WOW! Such a complex issue! Everyone’s situation is so different! I think you have to make the best choice for your family. I am a working mom by choice. The guilt I feel is that I “don’t have to work” but I do. But I know in my heart of hearts that this is what is best for me and my family. I don’t consider it selfish (that word is always thrown around when women choose to do something for themselves) to be a working mom. I do enjoy my career and make very good money. My kids are well cared for and we have a wonderful family life.

    I don’t try to do it all – I can’t and don’t want to. I discussed with my husband before we had children that I didn’t want to be one of those families where the dad didn’t participate. He readily agreed and is so wonderful in taking care of our two boys! We are a team – each with unique skills. But we approach things as a team.

    I am much more accepting of myself than I’ve seen other women be about this. Perhaps it is because I don’t compare myself to others (in a negative way) or think that I have to be perfect to be loved and accepted. Or because I know that my husband and my boys love me even if i’m not doing something for them. They love just being with me. And I with them! There are times when I wish we had time or energy to do more but I do know that we do our best, with all of our hearts and with all of the love parents can offer. No drama, *tiny* guilt. =)

    • you go girl!! smart choice.

  5. I have been on both sides, as a working mom for 7 years and (since Jan of this year) as a stay-at-home mom. Although I have studied the “Mommy Wars” extensively, it wasn’t until I quit my job that I fully developed an understanding and appreciation for both options. There are as many ways of making parenting work as there are parents… each family has their own way of surviving (and thriving).
    I discovered that I DID need an outlet for my creativity (so I didn’t overwhelm my family with my research and observations) so I started blogging (one of my first blog posts “This couldn’t be burn-out… my life is stress-free is about this very issue), but I am surprisingly satisfied with my decision (despite having justified my Working Mom status for years).

  6. Agree it is hard on both sides of the issue. Staying home during maternity leave was hard – I constantly felt overwhelmed, isolated, and feared I was doing everything wrong. When our nanny started, I felt a bit of relief. She was so gifted and experienced with children, I often found myself asking for her advice. I felt like my baby was well cared for day to day and I was creatively and intellectually challenged at my job. But now that he is approaching 1 year old, I can’t help but feel like I’ve missed out on a lot. Too much. I get weepy daily thinking about it. It’s gotten to the point where I know I need to make a change. Being an ambitious person who’s always been comfortable working long hours, I hate to be that person who slinks out at 445. But arriving home at 7 when my child goes to bed at 8 is an even worse feeling.

    Right now I think working out some kind of part-time work schedule sounds like the holy grail, but I know that has its own challenges. It’s hard to find quality part-time child care and it’s hard to continue to progress in your career when you HAVE to leave at 5 or want to work 25-30 hours instead of 40-50. I recently had a very difficult conversation with my bosses about cutting back. Tears were shed and my boss said I wasn’t doing the right thing for my career. So I think you do have to choose. (At least I do in my current situation.) You can’t necessarily “have it all”. And maybe that’s okay. Maybe this is the year that my home life gets more attention and my career gets less. Maybe that balance will shift in 5 years when my little boy starts school. I do think you can figure it out if you find the right job, the right childcare provider, and have the right partner and support system. You can’t raise a child all by yourself. And no one should try!

  7. Maybe it’s just a coincidence, but I feel like women more than men (but there are many who break this mold) tend to juggle more. I feel like even though so many more women work than previous generations, women still do the lion’s share of maintaining the household (although I have a friend who has the complete opposite dynamic in his home). What is it about us that makes us strive to be 120% in parenthood, work, homelife and everything else? I know stay at home moms who work tirelessly to homeschool their kids. They’ve made some hard decisions about what is best for their family, and I bet they feel some guilt like all of us, but they made a choice and give it their all. Is it because we’re women and that’s what we do? I don’t know.

  8. This discussion makes me think of a description of a good woman in the book of Proverbs:
    http://www.biblegateway.com/passage/?search=Proverbs%2031:10-31&version=NKJV

    This woman is the ultimate juggler…. she burns the candles on both ends, buying and selling, working hard to provide for her family, and even managing her own business on the side! Girls, I think this description was made for us, and our struggles. Many good women have gone before us, busting their butts. 🙂

    • HELLO

  9. I went back to work when my daughter was 3 months old. It was tough! But I am a teacher and I have been off with her this summer. I can’t even begin to tell you the sadness and guilt I am already feeling as the beginning of school quickly approaches. We have had such a blast together!!! On the other hand, I am very blessed that my mom watches her in our house. I have to work, but my heart is just not in it anymore. I would give anything to stay at home with her, even if it was just part time.

    Does it really get better??? I am fearful that I am going to miss out on so much!!!

    • Hi Renee, I don’t think it gets easier. I guess you just need to find a career you enjoy. I know that fact that I like my job has helped. However, I feel extremely guiltly 3/5-4/5 days a week.

      I was like you; my mother in law watched my daughter up until she was 18 months. That was a good and bad thing. I was jealous of my MIL, but I trusted her soo much!

  10. Working Moms, be proud!

    Yes, it does stink when we have to leave our babies each day (aw, who am i kidding? it hurts like hell!), but we are taking care of them in so many more ways. We’re healing boo-boos, packing lunches, snuggling with a copy of “green eggs and ham,” and we are also contributing to the family’s financial needs – and in today’s climate, that is something to be enormously proud of.

    Reading through all of the comments I recognize the same pains that I have been experiencing these five years since I had my first child: The anguish over what we may be missing during those hours that we are away, the sadness we feel when counting what few hours, or even minutes, we got to see our children before bed, the frustration we feel when our partners are not faced with the same pressure to get everything done in a teeny-tiny window of time. When faced with those painful moments, I do a little number which goes something like this: Benefits, college, nest-egg, rainy-day-fund, 401K. While a work-free me would bask in the luxury of focusing only on family, I know that the financial burden that I would be heaping on my husband would be too great, and I would go crazy worrying about the dreaded “what ifs:” What if my husband loses his job? What if the market tanks again? What if my children need an emergency something-or-other? But having my job means that if any of those things happen, I know that I can take care of everyone in every way. And that is something I take pride in.

    I also want to quickly address a few other points:
    Choices: Before I became a mom, I was also staying at work for at least ten hours a day. When I chose to return, my daycare situation required that I keep a strict 9-5 day. It also made me look at how my not-at-work time was filled: Network outside the office, research stuff on my own time, stay the maximum time away on business trips, etc. With my newly expanded family, I made the decision to slow things down and make my time at home family time. If I have work to do at home, it happens after the kids go to bed. If I have a trip, I try to make it as short as possible (or avoid the trip entirely). I’ve also structured my week so that I work at home on Mondays (when my work week is the quietest). And while it’s been a slower track, and I’ve seen others around me progress faster, I’m still on the damn track. So I guess my point is that sometimes it’s not a matter of “stay on or get off” but “find a different way of making that journey.”

    And lastly: Why don’t the dads have to juggle as much? I think it’s because they’re a generation behind us. Our fore-mothers who paved the way for us to take to the workforce taught us that we can chose to be both a mom and a working woman. But the guys were sold a different bill of goods: She’ll still do the cleaning, she’ll do the cooking, she’ll cover the trips to the pediatrician, etc. We need to have honest discussions that if we are going to shoulder some of the financial responsibilities then some of the domestic responsibilities need to be shared as well. And in the meantime, I’m going to teach my son how to cook and do his own laundry!

  11. I think it’s a matter of perspective. We all have these ridiculous standards in our heads that no one could fulfill and remain happy. We need to leave room for others in our lives to have a role. Especially our husbands. If we’re taking care of everything at home, AND bringing home the paycheck, how essential can they feel?

    Check out my related post: http://www.practicallyux.com/2011/08/three-ring-circus/

  12. I’m all too familiar with feeling the guilt! I have 3 children and have worked full time pretty much all there lives. Dad also works full time, we have odd schedules so thankfully only need a sitter for 1-3hours daily. Even though I know I should not carry guilty and i repeatedly tell myself this all the time, it doesn’t always work that way! I hate the time I miss with them, but Im thankful my Husband and I are able to take care of our family on our own with few moments when we need to reach out to family for support. I’ve never been a stay at home mom so I cant speak of that kind of guilt only knowing that at times I wish I was a stay at home mom thinking maybe I would be a ‘better’ mom, in reality, its up to each of us as indiviuals to accept our own lives and if we can’t accept them for what they are….well, change something. Even when you are someone (like me) who finds change to be difficult and all too unpredicatable as far seeing/knowing the exact outcome, sometimes it just needs to be done!

  13. I’m a FT working mom who has a career in higher education adminstration. Until I had my daughter, I thought I would be a career woman. Now, I work 11 hour days, and see my daughter, on average 2.5 hours a day. The guilt that I feel about not being with my daughter is horrible. Some days are worse than others, and today is one of them. My friends and family tell me that I am providing a wonderful life for my daughter, because of my career. However, my husband has been laid off, and he gets to spend his days with her. While she naps, he applies for jobs. My family’s situation has to work because there is no other option…

    I think that is what bothers me….is that I don’t really have an option in this. I have to work to provide for my family. I get that.

    But, I don’t like feeling as though I am missing out on everything, from trips to the zoo, to potty training, to finger painting…

    Also, I think another issue related to the guilt is that many of us were raised by SAHM. I was, and I always thought I would have that OPTION. I don’t.

    I guess the nice part, if there is one, is that I know I am doing THE BEST I can for my family, and I get a lot of hugs from my sweetheartbabygirl when I get home.

    🙂

    • Emily, you WONT regret this. Yes, you may miss the trips to the zoo, fingerpainting, running around the playground and pushing them on the swings…BUT, this small child is growing and will not have the vivid memory of mommy running and swinging and painting that you think they will. They will however have a vivid memory of…was my mom a happy, satisfied, fullfilled woman? Did my mom love me? Did we have great times when we were together? What was the quality of my life economically?…ie; the neighborhoods we lived in, the doctors we were able to go to, the schools I attended..on and on. Remember Emily, don’t just look at this as though everything you are doing is a sacrifice for your child, do this ALSO for Emily…if you are basically happy, your child will benefit tremendously in every aspect of their life.

  14. Girls..it does it easier. If you are in your twenties or thirties you really can’t see the big picture yet, but you will. Listen, we are all giving our opinions our own personal opinions, so everyone see’s this differently. My daughter (33) has a 2yr old and just returned to (full time) work. She realized that although her husband’s salary was keeping them afloat, her salary helps tremendously and buy’s them so much more. Also, my grandson is growing each day, getting closer to pre-school, playgroups, etc. What about mom? What are you girls going to do when they are in school and now you have been out of the loop for a few yrs, who is going to hire you? Maybe a minimum wage job, certainly not a career. Try to keep focused on your life/future also. What happens to mommy? What happens if you get divorced? or your husband gets sick? or laid-off? This is a tough economy we live in. I have studied this and the pluses for returning to work outweigh staying home. I am in my early fifties, I stayed home. None of you love your children more than I do, and I regret staying home. I can only pass on the info.

  15. I am reading through these postings holding my almost 3 month old daughter. I return to work on Monday and cry every time I think about it. I have to work because of a condo we still own in Columbus that we cannot sell. We have a renter who covers the majority but not all. My husband and I do well financially together but could not cover expenses without spreading ourselves thin! I am sick about leaving her and everyone tells me it will get better but I’m really not buying it.
    I to am afraid of missing her play time, teaching her to talk, crawl, walk and all those things. I have thought about trying to find a part time job here in cincy that would cover the expenses I cover with my paycheck.
    I guess I’m most worried if my daughter will remember me since I will be away for 40 hours a week and will she want me more than the sitter? I am so confused and scared of Monday. Thank you for the postings at least I know I am not alone.

  16. It is incredible how I have found this blog because lately I have been so overwhelmed with my feelings of guilt and remorse for going back to work. My husband does not understand the pain I endure. I work 6 to 8 hrs a day with a 2 hr roundtrip commute. I get so immensely frustrated and I tend to bite my tongue knowing I will make matters worse. But I am the one that gets my 6 month old ready to take to my inlaws Ii pick him up after work sometimes around 930 at night. I clean cook. I feel like I have 2 kids in the house and my energy is so depleted and I am so close to being burned out. I hate this feeling because I want to spend every chance I have with my son because he is growing up way 2 fast and I feel guilty that I miss out on so much it literally hurts like hell. Yet I cannot stay at home. I am not one to be inactive and well to be honest organization and structure are not my key elements. Being able to contribute financially helps my esteem yet I am in agony watching my son grow up on me and not having any energy to fully immerse myself in spending quality time with him. It is all about balance and like u all have said…choices. a choice in how u want to modify ur time and the attitude u have during the time God has given you. But my god he just grows up too fast. And I relate in being jealous of him spending more time with my inlaws than with me.

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