Why this Working Mom Feels Guilty…..the Reason May Surprise You


Before I became a mom, I always knew I would continue to work and had no intention of becoming a full-time homemaker.

Not that staying at home isn’t an underrated job – it’s probably the most important life skill one can manage.

I enjoyed my profession, it gave me a sense of purpose and satisfaction.

I placated all of my guilty feelings of leaving an infant behind in daycare with all of those empowering working mom stories. Like, we set a great example for our children or there is (usually) no resentment towards us.  

But dropping off my babies never seemed to get easier.

My older son, now 8, grew up very well-adjusted, social, and happy – even though he was at daycare earlier than my younger son, at the ripe age of three months old.

And even as my boys get older and more independent, I still feel that working-mom-guilt mom creep in more often than not. 

It’s not just because my kids get the worst of me: I come home tired, grumpy and unable to do some of the basic home tasks like laundry and dinner. I just want to sit on the couch and decompress.  I still glance at my phone at incoming emails, tempted to answer them.  Sadly, my boys do not get my full attention.

It’s not just because I miss out on some of the parent volunteer opportunities. I know they will only be so happy to see me in the hallways of their school for just a short period of time. Mostly, it’s because of me. 

With all the demands of a full-time job, two growing boys, a husband and a household to manage, somehow I end up last priority in the equation. 

When I see some moms drop off their progenies at carpool in the morning, I have to admit it – I’m extremely a little jealous. 

I imagine how the rest of their day will unfold – they’ll meet their friends at the gym, have an incredible ab-burning yoga session followed by sauna sweat and then catch up, laugh, and gossip over a matcha protein shake at the cafe.  Then they’ll enjoy the next few hours planting flowers outside, trying a recipe they saw on Facebook, or having lunch with a good friend. 

They’ll be able to fetch their children with a happy refreshed smile, ready to dedicate the rest of their day to their beloved with a full heart and calm soul, and maybe work on some arts and crafts together and homework together.

These moms are seemingly more coiffed. They have more time to organize their homes, wardrobes, and general appearance. They dedicate time to strengthening their friendships and other relationships. All of this seems like an impossible luxury for me.

So I have made some vows to myself in an effort to enhance my sluggish guilty-working-mom morale:

  • I set some boundaries at work, and go to the gym directly after carpool drop-off in the morning, a few days a week. 
  • I take my work clothes with me and dress at the gym or my office bathroom when I arrive.  So far this has worked out pretty well and makes all the difference in my mood for the rest of the day. 
  • My paycheck suffers for the fewer hours worked, but my well-being, mental, and physical health are priceless. 
  • I make more of an effort to reach out to friends, especially ones I haven’t spoken to for awhile, and plan some sort of outing to keep those bonds alive and well.
  • I sometimes hire a babysitter/mother’s helper with the laundry and the dishes that are piling up in the sink.
  • I dedicate a few hours a month to some volunteer opportunity at the kids’ school.
  • I take more time to do the things for myself -whether that means getting a blowout, shopping for a new purse, or making an effort to leave the office to meet a friend for lunch.

As I’ve heard it before, you will always be spread thin as a mom. Never enough for your kids,  your career, your husband, and certainly not for yourself.  Remember the Sheryl Sandberg book, Lean In? Unless you can afford a full-time nanny and maid, it’s not very realistic to think women can “have it all”.

So for now, I’ll “lean on” making the best of what I have and try to make my personal priorities as important as all the others.

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Dana is a working mom of two active boys, ages 4 and 8. She was born in Tel Aviv and raised in Atlanta. With a background in journalism, she spent 12 years chasing deadlines as a news and documentary producer, writer, international news desk editor, and web editor.  After the birth of her first child, it became obvious she was not going to be the next Katie Couric or Christiane Amanpour. She was still dedicated, but the only thing gained from the grueling weekend and overnight shifts was a case of gastritis. She remembers being "so busy" she could not step away for lunch/dinner/breakfast and would have to shove the food down while hovering over her computer. The disgusting crumbs piling up in the keyboard were hers. As luck would have it, another round of layoffs was near and she seized the opportunity (having survived a few layoffs before). Several months into her severance she was fortunate to find a job in PR and Communications, promoting a subject that felt like a natural fit.   The most important lesson she's learned since becoming a mom is: NEVER say never. "I will NEVER shop at Costco, drive a car with a carpool number, become a 'soccer' mom, live near my parents in a house in the suburbs."  She now does all those things and more she never thought she would with the utmost feeling of gratitude.