4 Ways To Manage Working Mom Guilt

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Oh, motherhood and work, and all the different ways a woman can approach it.

What are the freaking labels again?

Working mom, stay-at-home mom, work-at-home mom, part-time working mom, robot mom, virtual reality AI mom…wait a sec.

Depending on a woman’s situation, some of these are options and some of these are mandatory. And we all agree that no matter the choice, a mother ultimately wants what is best for her and her family.

I don’t like to call myself a working mom because I think all moms work but it’s a label that people understand.

I’m a mom who does the 8 to 4 grind, 5 days a week. I went back to work when my daughter was 11 months old and I haven’t looked back.

When I first went back to work, I actually enjoyed my time away from my daughter.

I like the feeling of being able to go to the bathroom without distraction, without a little person tugging at you, without the fear that she’s going to get into the cleaning supplies cabinet and start taking swigs of vinegar, tea tree oil and mouthfuls of baking soda, creating a volcanic eruption in her belly.

I love the independence, the interaction with grown-ups, the option to go to the gym during my lunch break, to get coffee whenever I want.

Hello, adult socialization! Oh, how I missed you.

Why yes, I do think it’s going to rain tomorrow.

Working allows my creative juices to flow, my communication skills to sharpen, my sense of purpose to ignite. I like knowing I can make an impact on society that is not directly related to my role as a mom.

I love the feeling of seeing her when I come home from work. I had the whole day to think and act like an adult with all its complexities.

Then, once I step through those doors, I’m pleasantly reminded of how simple life can be, seeing her smile when I help her put clothes on her Teddy.

I’ve been a feminist since I could remember and I thought that if I firmly believed that I am entitled to my choice to work as a mother, I would never feel guilty about doing so.

I told myself that working will make me a better mom.

Because eventually, that tiny human will grow up and she won’t need me anymore but my career will still be there, like a vine that keeps on growing.

And that vine keeps me connected, with the ability to impart wisdom and provide opportunities once she enters the workforce.

So for the longest time, I didn’t believe in mom guilt.

Until recently…

Earlier this year, my husband started working from home and with his flexibility, he’s able to take care of our daughter one day a week. He loves it BTW.

A few months ago, we went grocery shopping. My husband’s pushing the cart when we switch so he could take a look at the meat aisle.

I’m pushing the cart when my daughter starts to cry.

She pushes me away, saying,

“爹哋 推車! BB 唔鍾意媽咪.” (I want Dad to push the cart! I don’t want mom.)

I was flabbergasted. This was the first time she’s ever preferred my husband over me. She’s always been a mommy’s girl. Like WTF.

Then over the next few weeks, from reading books to giving her a bath, her preference for him happens again and again.

And every time she chose him over me, I got more upset.

At first, I was confused that I had negative feelings about this.

Isn’t it a good thing she’s starting to bond with her dad?

But I was jealous; my feelings were hurt.

So I started blaming myself, that I wasn’t spending enough quality time with her, that my job was preventing me from having a deep, meaningful relationship with her.

I started thinking that the couple of hours I had with her after work wasn’t enough.

And these guilty feelings started to bubble up to the surface, feelings I never thought I would experience.

I was naive to think I was immune to working mom guilt.

How To Manage It

Permission To Have Bad Day

First, I let myself have a bad day (a couple, actually), to fully feel those feelings of jealousy, anger and disappointment.

Then once I was ready to change my mindset, I began practicing self-compassion and gratitude, finding ways to address those feelings of guilt.

Doing A Little Thing With A Daily Impact

I started reflecting on how my time was being managed during the week. So I used some vacation time and scheduled a couple of mommy-daughter days.

However, that was a temporary solution and a pretty costly one since it’s not like I get unlimited vacation days.

So I thought,

“What is something I can do for her even if I’m not physically there?

What will make me feel like I have an impact on her life while I’m at work?”

I’ve always loved baking.

On weekends, instead of sitting on the couch watching an hour of Netflix, I now use that time to bake healthy muffins. I’ve been rotating between carrot raisin, pumpkin and banana carob (FYI: carob doesn’t have caffeine and is usually cheaper to buy at grocery stores. Let’s give some love to carob! I digress)

My daughter loves these muffins and has one for her snack during the day. So while I’m at work, I love picturing her enjoying the fruits of my labour as I’m dashing from one meeting to another.

An Invisible Umbilical Cord With an Infinite Length

She will always be my daughter and I will always be her mom. I have my entire life to influence her as a human, instilling those values, guiding her through uncertainty, giving her the courage to conquer her fears etc.

And like all things in life, there are ebbs and flows in the level of influence I have. Right now, my husband’s taking a turn at the wheel.
My turn will come at the right time and place and I will be ready (with guns blazing…let’s talk about bras, periods, hormones, make-up, body image..oh yeah…I’m fucking ready).

It Takes A Village To Raise A Child

My husband, my parents, my in-laws, my sisters, my sister-in-law, my brothers-in-law, my friends…all these people love her unconditionally. Each of them has a portion in their hearts dedicated to her.

The fact that she’s developing a strong relationship with her dad only tells me that we are good parents, that she can come to either of us when she needs help.

And given that “Life is short”, it gives me comfort to know she can depend on an entire village of people who love her if I’m not there.

So Readers, have you ever experienced mom guilt? What do you do to help ease those feelings?

This post was previously published on medium.com.


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