Let me re-phrase that. I sometimes feel guilty about NOT having working mom guilt but I don’t feel guilty about being a working mom. Working mom guilt, for those of you who aren’t familiar with the term, manifests itself in a number of different ways. Some of my working mom friends complain about only seeing their child for two to three hours a day (to which I respond: and that’s a problem, why?). Others take their children out of daycare, during the work day, to take them swimming or to some other kind of activity (to which I ask: isn’t that what the weekends are for?).
But not every working mom has guilt – my mom being a primary example. When I was growing up, my mom pursued a professional career, working late nights and sometimes traveling, and I was jealous that my best friend’s mom was home to drive us around and make us snacks. One day I made the decision that I would never work when I had kids and when I told my mom, she responded with, “you say that now, but you’ll see.” As much as I hate to ever admit that my mom is right, I do see, and I don’t love her any less than my friends love their stay at home moms.
You see, in the short time that I have been a mom, I have come to the realization that being a stay at home mom is a hundred thousand times harder than most desk jobs, and if not most, then at least my desk job. When I ask my stay at home mom friends what they do all day, it’s not because I think they are sipping margaritas by the pool, it’s because I am amazed at what they do and how they do it. And also because I need some tips on what to do with my daughter on the weekend.
Don’t get me wrong, it’s not all sunshine and roses being a working mom. I still need to balance getting myself and my daughter ready in the morning before rushing to work. After a long day at work, I need to rush home to get my daughter at daycare and prepare her dinner. When she’s sick, I need to take a sick day or ask a grandparent to come help out (and I do realize how lucky I am to have that option). But, in addition to the fact that I love what I do, there are some perks to being a working mom – I do get to eat lunch, I do get to work from home when I need to, and I make a salary. And sometimes, on the very rare occasion like on my birthday, I can take the day off, send my kid to daycare, and luxuriate in “me time”.
In an ideal world, I think most mothers would love to take a year or so off to spend with their babies before returning to the work force. But I don’t live in an ideal world, or Europe, where the very same job you left is waiting for you when your youngest child leaves for college. (That’s what I hear, anyway.) For those of us who are lucky enough to get maternity leave, and have the finances to pay for child care, returning to work is a personal choice. In my house, it might make more financial sense for me to stay at home because, let’s face it, child care costs as much as one person’s salary these days. But the fact of the matter is that I don’t want to.
Now that I am about to have my second child, people keep asking me if I plan to return to work, because naturally if I didn’t want to stay home with one child, I would totally want to do that with two. It’s obviously much easier to be a stay at home mom when you are outnumbered and both kids are on entirely different schedules, said no one. Ever. So back to work I will be headed while both of my kids attend the same daycare. Sure, finances will be a bit tight with two kids in child care, but being a stay at home mom is just not the right choice for me. I need my balance and my husband needs me to keep my balance so he doesn’t lose his mind. Plus I am pretty sure that my kids would speak fluent Elmo if they were to stay home with me all day.
Working moms should not feel guilty about working, for any reason, whether it’s financial reasons or to maintain sanity or because they love their jobs. Trust me, as the daughter of a working mom, it won’t make your child love you any less. So to my working mom friends who feel guilty about not spending enough time with their children, I assure you that you too are also lucky that you even get two to three hours a day with your kids. There aren’t many things that we want to do that we get to do for a whole two to three hours on a daily basis, besides sleep (and even that’s not a guarantee). Not to mention that going to work and not being with your children for the entire day makes you that much more appreciative of the time you do get to spend with them when you get home. My daughter knows I love her more than anything on this planet, and she seems to love daycare, so I will continue with my guilt-free working mom-ness. And, frankly, you should too.