Mom guilt is something I have struggled with since I became a mom ten years ago. I went back to work full-time just 12 weeks after my identical twins were born. I remember driving to work crying because I didn’t want to leave them. Even though we had carefully selected a well-experienced nanny to watch them, I was scared about the level of care they were getting when I was away. I was also afraid that I would be missing out on so many things. I vividly remember talking to friends that stayed home and the inferiority I felt when I told them I went to work every day.
The truth of the matter was that I had to work to help support our family, but I also wanted to work. I liked applying my brain and the adult interaction that came along with working. When I was home with my twins for those 12 weeks, it was very isolated. There were days where I would not change out of my robe until lunchtime and other days, I did not see anybody all day until my husband came home from work. It was too hard to pack up two newborn twins and worry about where and how I would breastfeed them in public. I didn’t want to work full-time but in the corporate world, it was insanely challenging to find any part-time, meaningful work.
So, I made the decision to go back to work full-time, and as I continued to climb the corporate ladder and was given increasing responsibility, it became more challenging. At one point, I even begged and pleaded my company to let me go part-time. Reluctantly they agreed to this and I was able to leave the office every day at 2 PM to spend the afternoons with my kids. The problem with this became clear within the first two weeks of making this decision. When I would leave the office, the work and the emails continued. I’d end up having to get back online after my kids went to bad and work for hours to get caught up on emails and all the other work. I was working the same number of hours but getting paid a fraction of what I previously had made. Plus, I was leaving no time for myself or my relationship with my husband. As a result, I wasn’t happy and my relationship with my husband was struggling. I also knew that this decision would likely eliminate me from any promotions. I felt like I was short-changing everything – work, my kids, my husband, and even myself. After 6 months of this, I realized it was not working and went back full time. And the guilt continued….
Ironically, while I was really envious of my stay-at-home mom friends, I started to have open, vulnerable conversations with them about my struggles of working and trying to be a good mom and what it was like for them to stay at home. They were envious of all of us that got to get dressed up and go to an office every day. It seemed that there was no perfect world: part-time was too challenging, full-time was exhausting, and staying at home was isolating and very difficult in its own ways.
Since starting my own business, I have more flexibility and can work around my schedule with my family. While I am working many more hours than I ever did in the corporate world, I am doing it when it works for me – whether it is at 6 am in the morning or on a Sunday afternoon while my kids are at a birthday party. I have been talking with my three kids about starting my business and the challenges and excitement associated with it. At times they listen intently with curious eyes staring back and me and asking questions. Other times their eyes glaze over out of boredom. What I didn’t realize, however, is how much bringing them into my “working” world they don’t get a chance to see, has had an impact on them. I received this card from one of my ten-year-old twins last week. When she handed it to me, she said mom, “I am so proud of you”.
We don’t need to be the best at everything we do but we should do our best and own our decisions – whatever they may be – and bring our kids along for the ride with us. We should be teaching them that while nobody can do it all, we are all doing our best. Just like us, they can do anything they set their hearts and minds on.