I’m a mom. It’s my most important job. I have two boys, a husband, a house, two dogs, two fish, and a career. I commute an hour and a half to work and attempt to be home by 6:00 pm each night. I am terrible at cooking and we are lucky to be eating dinner by 8:00 pm. Who am I kidding? We are lucky to be eating dinner by 9:00 pm most days and by dinner I mean Domino’s Pizza, cereal or maybe I got lucky and my mom made an extra casserole. Seriously, I am TERRIBLE at cooking.
I am fortunate that my mom and mother-in-law watch my children during the day and that my husband, who works much closer to home, gets our eldest to school each morning and is extremely helpful with our morning routine. I couldn’t do it without their help.
I invest a lot of energy into my job because I am passionate about it and I truly love what I do. I have worked hard to get where I am and honestly don’t feel I will be satisfied until I get to the absolute top because that’s just how I am wired. And don’t ask me what the “top” is because I don’t have that figured out yet. I also never miss a ball game or practice, I help as much as I can with school activities, I make sure everyone’s pits and booties are washed every night, and I make a valid effort to tackle a mountain of laundry every weekend. (I swear the laundry pro-creates in the bin overnight). But I never feel like I’m doing a good enough job. Which job you ask? Take your pick!
I suffer from what our society has coined as Mom Guilt. While at work, I feel guilty for not being home with my boys. For not being able to go eat lunch with my son on a regular basis at his school. For not witnessing all of my youngest son’s firsts and essentially allowing someone else to be with my children during the majority of the day. When I add up the waking hours that I am with my boys, I feel ashamed and sad. Guilt. Guilt. Guilt.
Then there is the other side of the coin. I work for a very family-friendly company that empowers their employees to spend time with family when needed. I’m often encouraged by my boss to leave early enough to get home so that I can avoid the awful traffic of my commute. But when I do need to stay home with a sick kid or come in late because of a school program, that pesky guilt shows up again. However, this time, I’m guilty for not being at work and getting my job done. What if someone else has to pick up the slack in my absence? What if that project doesn’t get done on time? Guilt. Guilt. Guilt.
Recently, my youngest had Croup and the only thing that made him feel better was for me to hold him, which I did for three days straight. During those three days I got lots of good baby snuggles, an unintended upper body workout from wrangling all 30 pounds of him nonstop, and time to watch the first two seasons of Stranger Things. I tried to get some work done on my laptop but that’s not easy with a sick toddler in your lap. I became anxious about not reporting to work and worried that I was letting the bank down. The day before he got sick I had booked one of the largest loans of my career and had embarked on a project that could change the course of my future. It’s not like I had just been twiddling my thumbs. However, I allowed this voice in my head to tell me that I was failing. Not one person from work had said a word. If anything they were concerned about my son’s health. I was right where I needed to be and there’s no doubt about it. But still, the inner battle of Mom Guilt was in full-on war mode.
One day, when the struggle was particularly difficult, I wondered what other moms did to keep it all together. So, I did what people do in 2017 and turned to Facebook. I simply posted:
“WORKING MAMAS | Whether you work away from the home or at home, I am interested to know your biggest troubles, stresses, etc. as a working mom and how you attempt to balance it all.”
My intent was to start a conversation with the FB universe to see if anyone else even felt the same way. The second I hit “post” I feared that I was alone or that I would be viewed as a selfish mom who was choosing a career over her family. Or maybe, just maybe, there were more women just like me. I had a strategic planning session that day at work and wasn’t able to monitor the conversation that I had started. I picked up my phone a few hours later and was taken aback by the comments and private messages that were pouring in. I even received a few text messages from friends who had read the post and were making sure I was ok and followed up with words of sympathy just in case. But the common denominator was simple: they ALL felt GUILTY in some form or fashion. One new working mom sent me a message thanking me for posting because she felt she was alone. It gave her comfort to know that others struggled as well. Another said she was surprised to hear I struggled with this because I present myself as someone who has it all together. Sheesh! If she only knew!
It’s important to point out that I don’t want to discount those who stay home with their children as opposed to working outside of the home. I’m sure if we compared notes, both working and non-working mommas have their own sets of struggles and dealings with Mom Guilt. I had one Facebook friend who commented that after the birth of her children she elected to stay at home. While she was appreciative of having the ability to stay at home with her kids every day, (removed but) she felt guilty for not contributing to the household finances by not having a paying job. I believe it’s safe to say that regardless of the circumstances, all of us feel like we are falling short of being Super Mom – whatever that is.
I am positive there are people out there who think I am crazy for commuting an hour and half to work, which may lead them to question my parenting abilities or label me as a “bad mom”. Or maybe that’s me being too worried what other people think. At the end of the day, if my commute and my career are OK with my family, then why should I worry about what others think? And who am I to judge any other mom out there doing what is best for her and her family? Is there a guideline that states what is required to be labeled a “good mom”? I remember being told one time that the reason you don’t see many women in the banking C-Suite is because there is a point in every woman’s career where she finds herself at a fork in the road. One path leads to a successful career at the expense of their family and the other leads them to their family at the expense of their career. There is no middle road where she can have both, where she can have it all. Well, I think that’s crap. I definitely don’t have it completely figured out yet, but I am determined to find that middle road because I refuse to believe that it does not exist. I like to think that my sons are being raised to appreciate a mom who is a strong, working woman who can transition from career to family in a matter of seconds. Perhaps they will be more independent as a result and value a good work ethic in their future mate.
I let Mom Guilt get me down daily. It can really steal my joy both at home and at work as it creeps in and reminds me of my shortfalls and inadequacies. Perhaps it’s my own high expectations and standards of top performance or the unrealistic stigmas about the perfect family that social media reminds us about. Regardless, I am never good enough in my own eyes. But here’s the deal: I don’t think there is a cure to the epidemic of Mom Guilt, and that sucks. But I also think we are our own harshest critics. Instead, we need to be having this conversation more often and tell each other that it’s OK. Let’s stop pretending like we are the only ones who don’t have it all together, because none of us really do. We all have our faults and weaknesses, but we are doing the best we can. We all need to do our part in lifting each other up and make a valid effort to not cast those judgmental stares or make assumptions of other mom’s situations. You just never know what she may be dealing with, and Lord knows this mom gig ain’t easy!