Working Mom Guilt: Is It a Luxury?

For many moms, working outside the home isn't a choice—it's a necessity, which makes working mom guilt irrelevant. Here's why we should support them.

I can’t get the John Stossel article that Susan linked to out of my head. In it, Stossel wonders why employers and others should “bear the cost for the choices women make” by offering maternity leave, daycare, flextime policies, etc.

What bothers me is Stossel’s seeming assumption that working is a choice for all moms. (Since I didn’t see any modifiers in his piece, I’m going to assume his views extend to every working mom, not just wealthy ones like Elizabeth Vargas, for whom going back to work was no doubt a choice).

“Women need what all of us need,” says Stossel. “The freedom to make decisions for themselves in a competitive marketplace.”

Except some women don’t have much of a decision at all.

We talk in this blog about the working mom guilt we sometimes feel juggling work and motherhood.

But it strikes me that feeling guilty is a bit of a luxury.

I won’t speak for my fellow WMAGs, but I, for one, could probably still feed my child if I didn’t work (though that might be all I could afford to do). I have a husband with a decent job. Neither of us has been afflicted with a serious illnesses (knock on wood). And we have generous family who would make sure we still had a roof over our heads should disaster strike. Things would be very tight if I decided not to work, but we would manage.


Not all women are so lucky. For them, the choice is either to work, or watch their kids go hungry.

Sometimes, these women work and their kids *still* go hungry because Mom also has to provide shelter, clothing, and heat in the winter. Do these women feel guilty? Does it really matter? I might have a pile of regrets were I in their situation, but I don’t imagine I’d have much time or energy to dwell on them if I were trying to keep my children warm and fed.

What bugs me about a lot of people who question whether mothers should get some simple benefits in the workplace is that they often are the first to say “welfare moms” need to “get a job.” OK, so you DO want mothers to work!

For many moms, working outside the home isn't a choice—it's a necessity, which makes working mom guilt irrelevant. Here's why we should support them.

What are they supposed to do with the children they’re trying to support when daycare costs as much as a monthly mortgage payment?

I know, I know. It’s all about choices. She chose to have those kids. But where do you stand on a woman’s right to choose *not* to have children? It’s not my intention to start an abortion discussion here, but I often find that folks who claim to want to protect children the most don’t care all that much about helping them after they’ve been delivered. Because think about it. Who are you really helping when you help a working mom who really needs it? That’s right! Her kids.

Look, in a perfect world, we would all make stellar choices. All women would choose to commit to stable, faithful men before becoming pregnant. All men would choose high-paying jobs with no risk of layoff. Those who can’t manage to stay with their mates would choose not to be deadbeats.

But people make less than ideal choices all the time. And sometimes, crap just happens. I’m sure there are women who abuse the system – I’m willing to bet they’re the minority. I also am willing to bet that some people will look at this blog and think we’re all just a bunch of whiners with a huge sense of entitlement.

That’s fine. It *is* my choice to work. I’m grateful I have the choice, and I’m infinitely grateful to have an employer that allows me a flexible schedule. I also am aware that not everybody is so fortunate. Not everyone has a choice.

For many moms, working outside the home isn't a choice—it's a necessity, which makes working mom guilt irrelevant. Here's why we should support them.

5 thoughts on “Working Mom Guilt: Is It a Luxury?

  1. Wow, Sara. Great post. A lot of things to think about. I never thought people would think we were whiners, but now that you say something, I imagine there are definitely some people out there that do.

  2. Yeah! Way to tell it like it is, Sara. Great post! You’re right, by helping working moms, you’re helping the children of our country. Good point!

  3. Anonymous says:

    I’m way past the “guilt” stage of working, perhaps because my children are older and in school. I worked when it was a luxury, and now I work because the reality of today’s economy is that employers are slashing benefits left and right. My husband may make good money, but he has NO benefits. I work for health, dental, 401(k), etc.

    And I can not believe Elizabeth Vargas can stand to work with John Stossel. He’s such a conservative windbag.

  4. Anonymous says:

    The writer of this post makes MANY good points.

    As the writer probably is aware, there do exist organizations (with names like The Nurturing Network) attempting to address the needs of women who would like to accept the gift of an unexpected child, even in unfavorable circumstances. Many more similar organizations are needed, as the writer aptly points out.

    Another good point — support for women after childbirth seems to be a neglected area in public discussion on topics like abortion.

    Keeping children safe, warm and fed is a parental duty that mothers and fathers understand instinctually. The writer presents several examples of difficult situations for raising children. Were I pregnant in the same situation, I can imagine myself heartbroken over thinking through what type of future I could possibly provide for my unborn child, in light of my circumstances.

    However, even considering these extreme examples, I must differ with the writer in concluding that abortion is a valid alternative.

    If one understands human life as priceless, logically one must conclude that it is wrong to end anyone’s life no matter the financial circumstances.

    All human life passes through the family. If mothers and fathers do not safeguard life through their actions, who will? How can we expect a just society while this practice is accepted at the family level?

    In considering the writer’s post, abortion seems to me the very opposite of choice for those in tough situations, such as those described. I agree that likely few mothers-to-be perceive following through with a pregnancy as a realistic option. The logical conclusion is that abortion is indeed an act of desperation for many. I think our society should offer more than desperate measures to mothers and fathers.

    Back to where the writer and I share common ground. There are many mothers and fathers out there trying to make it in extremely difficult situations. There is clearly an opportunity for our society to offer practical helps, so that those finding themselves facing a pregnancy in adverse circumstances are not forced into abortion by default.

    To that end, I find the theme of this post about the “luxury” of guilt very insightful.

    Blessings to everyone, as all the writers and readers of this blog continue with the work of raising the next generation.

  5. See, I have to disagree with you. I think there is a choice. I think more women should try to sacrafice to stay home with their children. I’m all for women going to college, pursuing a career and then when the time comes, have children and stay home. I just don’t see the world as a better place since women went into the work world full time and handed their children off to daycare. I do believe that husbands can stay home and be sahd’s if that works in the home. But I just feel that people need to learn sacrafice and what it means to be a parent. Its the most important job you will have in your life! Much more important than any job your going to 40 hours a week.

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