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  • Writer's pictureK.C. Dreisbach, LMFT

Mom Guilt: When Having to Work Makes You the WORST MOM EVER!

Updated: Apr 7, 2022

Did that title cause a sudden twist in the pit of your stomach??? Was there a part of you that felt offended? Sad? How about “guilty”? Today, I'm talking about one of the worst feelings every mom experiences at one point or another… GUILT. I’ll be focusing on 2 types of guilt that are specific to working moms, and then, I’ll wrap things up with one key point I want you to remember as you go through your parenting journey. With that said, let’s dive right in!

When I had my first baby, I had no choice but to go back to work. I not only worked, but I was also going to school full-time to finish my Master’s degree. As such, my Little Girl spent a lot of time in the care of other people.

I remember the first day I had to leave her behind in the care of my own mother. I got in my car, backed out of the driveway, and had one final glance of my baby through my living room window. Even though I couldn’t hear her, I knew exactly what was happening. She was sobbing, her face red and her mouth wide open in a never-ending scream, with salty tears creating wet trails of sadness down her cheeks. In that very moment, the pang of guilt almost overcame me! This is Guilt #1!

#1 The Guilt of Abandonment

If you’re a working parent (or perhaps a parent who is going to school), this form of guilt is probably very familiar to you. The day you need to leave your child in the arms of a babysitter, caregiver, or daycare worker, you become overwhelmed by this sense of guilt. You feel as though you are abandoning your child, even if you are leaving them in the loving arms of a grandparent or someone else you trust.

The worst part is, you know that your baby doesn’t understand that you’re coming back. So, when they cry out for you, you feel even WORSE because you know that, in their little mind, you are truly abandoning them. This guilt makes going back to work/school/etc. a very painful experience for any mom. This is the Guilt of Abandonment.

As time moved on, I felt less guilt about leaving my daughter behind with my parents and more confident with the whole process. But instead of experiencing relief, I began to experience a new kind of guilt. I began to realize that, although there was a part of me that wanted to stay home and care for my baby all day long, there was another part of me that truly enjoyed working. Once again, I was showered with guilt, Guilt #2. This is the Guilt of Enjoying Your Freedom.

#2 The Guilt of Enjoying Your Freedom

Having a baby is A LOT of work. And, if you have a colicky baby, the amount of work, frustration, tears, and feelings of hopelessness are even worse! The day you go back to work, you might end up discovering that you’re grateful for the break… away from your baby! This is when some moms will feel this second type of guilt. I know I did. As much as I loved my baby, I really loved my career as well.

Let’s face it… I’ve studied hard in school my whole life to become a therapist, and I’ve sacrificed a whole lot in order to accomplish my academic and professional goals. I was determined that I could be a mom and have a career too! So, it came as no surprise to me that I would enjoy being a mother who was a working professional. But I wasn’t prepared to feel guilty about it!

Many moms I’ve worked with share that they feel guilty about enjoying time away from the baby. Even going to get a Root Canal can come as a welcome relief to poopy diapers and the constant wailing from a pint-sized individual who needs your constant attention. This is the Guilt of Enjoying Your Freedom.

Unfortunately, as your baby grows up, the guilt doesn’t get any easier. It changes over time, but it doesn’t lessen. You will feel guilty about not being able to make their first school performance because you have to work, or missing their first ballet recital because you got stuck working overtime.

You will feel guilty when you find out your child was being bullied at school all year long (and you had no idea because you’re so exhausted from managing work and home life, you didn’t notice the subtle signs). You’ll feel guilty for dinners that are cooked at 7:00 p.m. because you don’t make it home until 6:30 p.m., or for late bedtimes because life got away from you.

You will feel guilty because you have so much to do when you come home from work, you can’t allow your children time to play in the bathtub or you don’t have time to read a bedtime story to them every night. You will feel guilt when you wake up on Monday morning and realize that there is no clean underwear for your child (or yourself) because you couldn’t manage to get the laundry done over the weekend.

You will feel guilty when you open your front door Thursday night and are greeted by an odor, which you discover is coming from the pile of dirty dishes that have piled up all week because you couldn’t tolerate standing on your feet any longer to get them washed. I could go on and on, but I think you get the picture. You will experience Mom Guilt, and there is no escaping it. So, what do you do with it???

I am going to give you one take-home message. I want you to remember this every time you feel guilty. I want you to memorize this message, and say it back to yourself every day if you have to.

“You are a GOOD Mom, and your baby will be just fine.”

Earlier in the Book Tour, I was asked what I would tell readers about the book. This is what I said: “I think I would want moms to know that it's ‘ok’ to not be ‘perfect.’ I think we put a lot of stress upon ourselves trying to be Super Mom with ‘perfect’ kids, ‘perfect’ house, ‘perfect’ career woman, and so on. And then when we fall short, we feel like failures. This is the crux of the ‘trails of the working parent,’ right? That's why the book has this title. We need to know that it's ‘ok’ to not be ‘perfect’ all the time, and allow ourselves to be forgiving about this."

Mom Guilt is real and very normal to experience, but always remember that you are a good mom. If you want help learning to manage the balance between work and your home life, then send me a message. As a Mindset Coach, I can help you learn how to manage the icky feelings that can come up in parenting, balance your life between work & parenting, and help you become the best parent you can be. Join my now for a call! I can help you.

***NOTE: This blog post was originally published at "Parent Over Working" on 8/21/2017 as part of "The Trials of the Working Parent" Blog Book Tour. It has been updated and re-published here.

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Krystal Dreisbach is a licensed therapist, mindset coach, adjunct professor of counseling, and published author.  Her specialties include depression treatment, anxiety counseling, stress management support, and mindset coaching.  Learn more about Krystal and see how she can help you live a better life.

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