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To Work or Not to Work: That is the Mom Guilt Question

Before I had children I was on the fast track to getting my doctorate and excelling in my career. I spent more than a decade of my life working in management positions, and if I am being honest, I loved it.

When I had my first child everything changed and suddenly I loved being a mom more. Work wasn’t as fulfilling as it used to be and I found myself not having as much desire to go to the office, but instead I would find ways to go in late, leave early, or work from home just so I could spend more time with my daughter.

I had so much guilt being away from her and having someone else take care of her during the day, especially since she was only a baby. I felt like I was missing out on her life and that was heart wrenching for me. I remember when she was close to walking I asked her daycare provider not to tell me if she took her first steps without me. I never wanted to miss the first time she hit a milestone because I was at work.

At the time I had no choice. With a tremendous amount of student loans and other financial commitments, my husband and I both had to work. With a 4-hour daily commute, daycare and gas costs, mileage, and wear and tear on my car it was draining for me and my daughter and often left me stressed, frustrated, and resentful. And if I had any downtime at work my first thought was, why am I here when I can be home with my baby?

Over time, my husband and I had many conversations about my working situation and decided that once I became pregnant with our second child I would stay home after the birth and not return to work. However, it was taking us a long time to get pregnant with our second child and month after month went by without any change to my schedule and so our plans changed. During a perfect storm of intervention, my husband ended up receiving a promotion at work and at the same time I found a job that would provide me approximately the same salary but would allow me to solely work from home instead. It was perfect! So for the first time since I took my first job out of high school, I resigned from my current position outside the home and became a stay at home mom. But was I really?

I know every mom is a working mom whether they are a working mom outside the home or a stay at home mom. And when people ask me what I am, I tell them I am both. I am a work from home mom. It seems like it’s in an entirely separate category. And I believe in some ways it is much harder than either of the other kinds of working mom. 

As soon as I started staying home, it took a while to get my footing and find our new routine but I loved staying home. We slept in and went for walks to the park everyday and even had time for crafts and other home projects. The best part was that I was able to spend quality time with my daughter everyday. It was a whole new world for me. And I found myself doing my work when my daughter napped so it wouldn’t interrupt our time together. It was manageable and my stress levels decreased significantly.

On any given day, I had enough time and energy to be with my daughter full time, complete my work, clean the house, and even have dinner prepared each night for when my husband came home. I was also able to focus more on becoming pregnant and after about a month after staying home, we became pregnant with our second child. As soon as we had our son, everything changed again. I know this is just a phase and things will continue to evolve but at this moment, I am having a difficult time staying home. I feel almost guiltier than I did when I was working outside the home. I am so busy sometimes I feel like I am not the present and hands on mom I sought out to be. As any mom with an infant and a toddler, I don’t have any downtime. Some days I feel like I win the gold medal in swimming and other days it feels like I’m drowning. 

I now wake up multiple times throughout the night, so staying up late to work or get up early before the kids wake up is nearly impossible. If I work during the day it interrupts any special time with my children because one or both of them are typically awake while I work. I am noticing myself getting more and more tired and not being able to keep up with the housework, my workload, and other daily commitments. I feel rundown and guilt ridden if I have to get work done during the day when I would rather be paying undivided attention to my children.

So I often save my work for the evening after the children go to bed and then end up having no time for my husband or myself. And then I start to think, if I was working at an office right now at least I wouldn’t feel like I’m taking any time away from my children because they might be given more attention by a daycare provider than I am right now! If I worked outside the home I could get all of my work done and then come home and give my children and my husband 100% of me. So to make sure everyone has time with me, if I don’t get any work done throughout the day, I end up staying up late once the children and my husband go to sleep. Something or someone seems to suffer.

So what is better?

Would you rather work outside the home while your children are being watched by someone else so you can come home and spend more quality time with them in the evening or to work inside the home and spend all day everyday with them so the quantity time is plentiful but have to sacrifice some of your time to work?

Either way it is difficult. Either way there is guilt. Working outside the home or inside the home both come with their own challenges. The challenges may be different than one another but they are both difficult nonetheless. I exchanged a little bit of freedom for flexibility.

As a stay at home mom I gave up certain luxuries I had when I worked outside the home like privacy while going to the bathroom, having time in the car alone, sitting down while eating, running a quick errand, getting through an entire phone call without interruption, and showering each day because I actually had to leave the house. However, when I worked I gave up certain luxuries I have at home like laying in bed and napping when the children nap, not having to shower because I’m not leaving the house, working in my pajamas, and never missing a moment with my children as well as getting snuggles from my children any time of day. 

Don’t get me wrong. My situation is unique. I am grateful for a job that allows me so much flexibility and freedom from typical working commitments. One day when my children are both older and are in school and I am back to working outside the home I know I will long for these days at home with them. I may not have a moment to myself and may have to master the art of multitasking to make things work if the guilt doesn’t swallow me up first!

It is definitely a sacrifice I’m willing to make to provide a better life for my family. Do I wish sometimes I could just stay at home and not work on anything else but my family and my children? Yes, and maybe that time will come.

I often imagine that being a stay at home mom versus a work from home mom has even more benefits and advantages. It makes me curious and even a little envious, but is that grass greener than mine? I don’t know. For now I am going to focus on the present and especially my family and how I will make my current situation work and be grateful I have a home, a job, a husband, and two beautiful children. Being a mom is the best gift of all and as a mom we are committed to making the best life we can for our babies no matter what kind of job we have.

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3 Responses to To Work or Not to Work: That is the Mom Guilt Question

  1. Lyla May 18, 2017 at 6:03 am #

    Great post. There is so much stress for moms on both sides but it is important to do what feels right. Even when you don’t think you’re getting it right, you probably are!

  2. jessica lynn
    jessica lynn May 18, 2017 at 9:25 am #

    Being a work at home mom is HARD. I don’t know what it’s like to work outside of the home, but goodness, some days I pine for the opportunity. Thankfully, my job is a thriving home business, which is good and bad in some regards. Good = more money, great flexibility, and it’s nice to find myself doing something that I enjoy. Bad/hard = young kids don’t understand how some days/times I’m working and other days/times I’m not. It’s hard to grasp how I’m working here when their dad works and then comes home (and is present). Either way, like you said, is hard.

  3. Cash for Cars San Diego May 28, 2017 at 11:48 pm #

    Moms are super humans! I think being a work at home much is way better than working in the office. You have plenty of time for your kids and flexible time.

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