I can’t tell you how many times I have heard comments from other moms asking me if I feel guilty about choosing to work full time instead of staying home. Or the hundreds of times over the years I have heard moms ragging on another mom’s decision to go back into the work force. A study conducted by workingmom.com found that 57% of moms feel guilty about working. Conversely, a Harvard Business School study found that kids actually fare better in the long run when their mothers work outside of the home! The whole subject of being a working mom is a hot topic and one size definitely doesn’t fit all. Each and every mom has her own unique circumstances that they are dealing with. Not everybody has a husband who will share the household and child related duties to help make the working mom’s life easier. Not every mom can make enough money to make the cost of child care worth it. Not every mom wants to work and not every mom wants to stay home! Regardless of the decision to return to work or to stay home, the one point I want to reiterate is the mom shaming has to stop! Moms need to take into account that there is no one size fits all when it comes to being a good mother. Fulfillment for one mom may be making home made play dough during the day while for the other mom gets fulfillment from having the money to take her kids on a cruise.
I was very fortunate enough during both of my kids infant/toddler years to be able to stay at home and knock out two degrees all while attending weekly play dates and never having to miss a special moment, and I am forever grateful for the time I was able to spend with my kids while they were young. But now that my kids are a bit older (3 & 7), going back to work full time is a much less daunting task. Sure- we could financially get by on my husband’s income, but once I finished my degrees and only had one child (3) at home, I found myself slowly sinking into an unfulfilled rut which led to depression. Sure- I would go to the gym, run errands, clean the house, cook, and watch my trashy tv shows- but something inside of me was longing for more. Although I enjoyed wearing yoga pants a majority of the day and have fairly loose timelines, I found myself falling into bouts of depression because I felt like I wasn’t living up to my potential. Of course I get fulfillment from being a mother and a wife, but I needed more and I am not ashamed to say that. I feel like there is a this judgement cast upon moms who feel the same as I do. That somehow we should be 100% fulfilled and content with being a mom. Well, not all of us are wired that way!
My entire world shifted when I began working. Not only did I feel valued, important, needed, and appreciated at work- the adult interaction in itself was amazing and my sense of purpose was increased 10 fold. Once I began working, I felt a level of fulfillment and empowerment outside the home that was unattainable inside the home- and I don’t feel guilty saying that! Don’t get me wrong– the daily grind is usually a shit show as I have to cross multiple finish lines per day and by the time Thursday hits, I am utterly exhausted. If myself or the kids haven’t had a meltdown by 7:00 am, chances are- it’s going to be a pretty good day! To combat the shit show as much as possible- I usually spend my evenings preparing for the next day as much as I can. I set out outfits for the kids and myself, I pack lunches for my kids and myself, I have the coffee pot at the ready, and all bags lined up at the door. Simple things like this can really help the morning flow more easier especially if you are dealing with a cranky toddler. We make up for our missed time during the week on the weekend and spend quality time with our kids. I hired a housekeeper because frankly, I don’t want to spend my weekends cleaning toilets- I want to spend them having quality family time with my kids.
One of the biggest reasons many women choose to stay at home instead of going back to work is the cost of child care. Such a valid point and a true concern for many families in the nation. My daughter does an after school program that isn’t too pricey but my son’s care costs over $13,000 a year! That number can be a total gut check–but the way that I look at it is that my kids are not only learning and gaining social skills, but they are getting that ‘village’ feel that we are unable to experience being a military family. Some people view it as if someone else is raising your kid, but I simply don’t see it that way. It takes a village and being a military wife with no family around- we simply don’t have that. My husband is constantly in and out of town and it is just me a majority of the time- so I truly appreciate both of my kid’s caregivers as they take extra special care of my babies knowing that their father is always gone.
Do I ever feel guilty? Well of course! I am a human after all so of course I feel guilty about missing out on chaperoning a field trip or being able to pick my daughter up from school on early release days. I feel guilty that I have to wake them up at the crack of dawn to ensure they’re functioning by the time we need to leave. I feel guilty that I don’t get to take my 3 year old on play dates with other moms and kids during the week. However, when I feel the guilt emerge in these specific instances- I remember the bigger picture. That not only am I saving money for their future and able to provide a very comfortable life for my kids, I am also teaching them work ethic and determination. That even on the days where I am too tired, my husband is gone, and the kids are acting a fool, I still show up! I’m not just talking about showing up to work, I am talking about the fact that I still push through all the things I must conquer each day because frankly, I don’t have a choice. When I need to have a good cry in the bathroom or spend the weekend in my pajamas and eating pizza, I will. The point is that life isn’t always going to be perfectly comfortable or easy. Sometimes you are going to have to push through the grind to meet your goals and although it may down right suck sometimes, I honor that struggle. I honor that struggle because somewhere out there is a single mom with three + kids that works a minimum wage job and takes classes on the side who is embracing the suck far better than I am. No matter how hard or exhausting being a working mom can be- we must remember that somewhere out there is a mom who has it 10x harder than us.
During the moments where stress and anxiety sneak in with the anticipation that the next working week will bring (especially when my husband is gone) I simply remind myself to literally take it one day at a time. That I have the right amount of strength for today and will have the right amount of strength for tomorrow. There are days where we have to leave extra early because I have to make it to training and I have to coordinate dropping off my daughter with a neighborhood friend who then drops her off at school and it all seems so chaotic and combine that with a tantrum over not having the right shoes set out and the day can start off fairly stressful. But instead of anticipating that stress, I just take it one day at a time!
So, to any of the mommas out there struggling with mom guilt because you work full time, take a deep breath, pat yourself on the back, and know that you are one strong momma! Being a working mom isn’t for the faint of heart. It takes determination, grit, grace, and patience to be able to do the 9 to 5 grind then rushing home to get dinner on the table. It is ok to feel guilty from time to time, it is perfectly normal! For those who are considering working but question if it is the right fit for you and your family, I say go for it! Worst case scenario, it isn’t a good fit and you quit! You will never know unless you try so don’t let the fear of the chaos prevent you from a potentially financial and emotionally beneficial situation.