When Mom’s Working Late

Oh, the tears that ensue when Mom ends up working late. How do you deal with disappointed kids who miss you if you put in extra hours on the job?

Before you have kids, working late is really no big deal. Maybe you text your spouse (if you have one) to let them know. You order a pizza with your coworkers and crank to meet your deadline. Go home, go to bed, day over.

Like with everything else in life, having kids complicates the whole working late thing.

Since I started my job at a tech startup, I’ve had more than a few work days that turned into late work nights. Last summer felt like one big blur of “grind,” as startup types call it.

Thank GOD I never have to stay late just because the boss-man does, as Cindy Krischer Goodman writes about in this Work-Life Balancing Act article. (Been there, done that, though. Ugh.) Rather, I’m usually just trying to catch up after a bunch of meetings or finish a piece of work that simply needs to get done. 

What to do when your kids don't "get it" that sometimes Mom has to work late.

Trouble is, my kids (in particular, my 8-year-old daughter) haaaate when I work late. Every morning, Cassie demands to know WHEN I will home that day—and begs me to come home early “so we can cuddle.” (Which I look forward to, as well!)

When I do come home late—against her wishes, of course—big, dramatic tears stream down her face as she scolds me for my tardiness. “I missed you SO MUCH, Mommy. Why do you ALWAYS have to work late and go to meetings and NEVER SPEND ANY TIME with us?!” Oh, the drama that girl can produce. I hope soap operas are still around when she grows up and looks for a job.

The good part about coming home late: This sweet face and shouts of "I missed you SO MUCH!"

I should mention that my son, age 4, is less fazed by my time away, although I hear he’s been known to utter “Where’s Mom?” or “I miss Mom” from time to time. James always tackles me at the door with a big, boisterous hug and shouts, “MOM! I missed you SO MUCH!” Which feels amazing rather than drama- or guilt-inducing.


Consider yourself fortunate if you have a capable, loving partner who can help out when you work late.

Sometimes, no matter how efficient and productive you are at your job, those occasional late work days are inevitable. I feel fortunate to have the Hubs—whose job is more flexible—be willing and able to fill in those evening gaps if I can’t make it home for dinner. (For those who don’t have that option, Working Mother offers practical tips on how to prep for unexpected late nights.) A simple text to Jay and I can rest easy knowing our kids are in good hands (their dad’s) until I can make it home.

I also try to help my children understand that as much as I love spending time with them, sometimes your job has to come first. That’s part of being a professional and earning a good living to support your family. All wonderful teachable moments and totally well-intentioned on my part.

But still. The tears and pleading—they come.

What can I do or say to help matters (if anything)? How can I frame the concept of “working late” in a way my young kids can get, so no one feels tortured by the experience?

Any advice or words of wisdom are most welcome.

9 thoughts on “When Mom’s Working Late

  1. Ugh, Story of life! What makes it worse is that I have a job that I dread going to every morning. I wish I could find something that I could do from home.

    1. Oh, Steph, dreading your job is SO much worse. Agreed. I hope you are able to find a better work situation soon!

  2. Hi, Susan. I hear you — and experience the same thing often. I’m a writer/editor for a content marketing firm and have late nights, on average, twice a week, plus a good chunk of work on the weekend. Like your kids, my daughters hate it when I work late, and despite how fantastic my hubby is to jump in and help, I often come home (on those late nights) to drama of one kind or another. The situation is far worse with my older daughter (age 8) than my younger daughter (age 6), who tends to go with the flow.

    Kids definitely pick up on the stress that comes from overworked parents. In my case, I really like my job, but the hours and constant deadlines are tough and at times don’t mix with raising a family. What do I do? I just try to make up for with my girls during the off-hours — and spend as much time with then as I can. I also try to give them a heads up when I do have to work late, or at least check in with them by phone.

    I think ultimately the American workforce has to change (which is hard in a global economy in which the entire world is starting to work crazy hours!). So moms and dads who are raising kids have to speak up and set limits. Again, very hard when there’s a deadline to meet.

    Check out Ariana Huffington’s new book Thrive — or any of the Huffington Post videos/blog posts in the Thrive/Third Metric section: http://www.huffingtonpost.com/gordon-ching/redefining-success-lessons-from-arianna-huffington-thrive_b_5222408.html

    She’s at least talking about these issues in an honest, direct way — as you are, Susan! : ).

    Many thanks for the post, and, yes, I’ll keep an eye on comments for any good suggestions or even just camaraderie. Good luck!

  3. I read somewhere at some point something like the following – don’t feel guilty for working but do be conscience of your attitude when you come home from work. Be smiling and joyful and talk about how great your day was instead of anything negative. This will help give your kids a more positive outlook on work and a job and it was also supposed to help them be happier about a parent being away at work. Ab is still too little to get this concept but I still come home everyday with a big smile on my face 😉 Good luck momma!

    PS – I want to see these adorable mini-adults of yours soon. When did they get soooo big?

    1. Jesy, agreed. I try to model for my kids that work is a good thing, and I like my work. Sometimes I think it even bugs Cassie—how DARE I “cheat on her” with my job? LOL We definitely need to meet up at the pool sometime. Maybe next Sunday?

  4. Thanks so much for your thoughtful comment. I agree the American workforce needs to change (and is so stubborn and slow to do so in many ways). I try to do my part in my own little ways.

  5. I struggle with the same I have a very high demand job, I leave early in the am and come home at around 6:30 or 7 is that so horrible? My husband is vey resentful for this. He makes me feel so guilty for working so hard. And doesn’t like that I want to delegate my household chores. I feel so lost

  6. Hello, i noticed that your site loads very slow, it took around 10sec.
    to load this article. Do you know that page speed is major ranking factor for google now?

    If you speed up your page loading time you can rank higher and get more targeted traffic.
    There is simple method for faster loading, search for: Masitsu’s tricks

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.