One of the biggest challenges I have as a working mom is coping with my endless amounts of guilt. The guilt sits in the deepest pit of my stomach and pings constantly throughout my day. I have guilt when I drop Maisy off at daycare and she cries for me to stay; guilt coming into to work at 9:10 instead of my usual 8:45 because I chose to stay a moment longer for one last hug and kiss; guilt when I have to call Justin to pick Maisy up because I’m stuck at the office; guilt when I get home and put Maisy right to bed because I missed the entire day with her–the guilt is everywhere and it can be crippling.
To me, I felt going into work each and every day–starting my day early and ending it late–was my motherly duty. I was providing money to support our growing family. I knew that the longer I was at work, the more money I was bringing home and it was okay. I was okay with popping in during third-shift, with volunteering to stay late, with offering my phone number to assist on vacations. It didn’t matter to me how little time I was actually spending at home with my family during my 45-50 hour work weeks, it mattered that I knew I was helping us.
But then I noticed Maisy was growing without me. Her sweet baby “bye bye’s” on work day mornings turned into questioning “Momma, you stay with me?” said with a cocked head and hopeful eyes. Soon, those too were replaced with “Mommy go to work,” a bored statement all-knowing that I had said no to staying home one too many times.
One night this past spring, a newly pregnant me arrived home from work after 7 p.m. exhausted. I quickly threw together dinner for our family before collapsing on the couch. Maisy ran to me and asked excitedly “You play with me?”
“Of course!” I replied, attempting to mirror her excitement in my own response. “What do you want to play?”
She thought deeply for a moment before smiling wide and saying “Let’s play run and hide!” Thinking the two year old meant Hide and Go Seek, I instinctively covered my eyes and start counting out loud
“No no no, mommy,” she corrects in a rushed tone, “We run!”
Off she went, running out of the living room. I turn and look at my husband with an excited smile, “Justin!” I shout at him, “She’s making up her own game!” I couldn’t believe my curious little Peanut was being so imaginative and creative.
He sighed with a smile, “Ally, she’s been playing this for months now.”
The guilt pings began.
“She’ll run to the bathroom and hide behind the curtain, then to the kitchen where she’ll hide against the door, and finally to her room where she’ll hide under the blankets. And you go and hide with her… She’ll do it for hours.”
The guilt felt heavy in my stomach, my smile dropped, and I burst into tears. The guilt had gotten me.
Guilt is easy to ignore when you think it’s all in your head–that you’re just being paranoid or anxious for no real reason. For the past two years I ignored the building guilt because I was doing well at my job, coming home each night to a happy baby and husband. I never noticed that my guilt was actually telling me something was missing: me. I was missing from my family’s lives.
I speak often with other working mothers and find myself asking the question we all hate to answer: How do you make it all work? The answer, I’ve found is almost unanimously “Balance.” I suppose I thought I had achieved a balance of work and life, but somehow work always came first. The night of the game, I thought long on what I was calling a work-life balance. I couldn’t say I wasn’t happy at my current job–I was working with great people, I had my hands on some exciting projects, I was providing for my family, but I was out of balance.
I put so much time and energy into my job, and I never put together that all that time and energy working was less I was using at home. I finally realized I was missing out on what I truly wanted and needed from my relationship with my family–to be a part of it. The hour before bed and the hour during breakfast weren’t enough to be a part of their lives.
I quickly realized that if I didn’t make a change in my life before our new baby arrived, I would split that little bit time and energy I had left in my day between three people I loved dearly, knowing all too well that someone would never get enough time. I would never be able to balance the scales of work and life. I couldn’t do that to my children, to my marriage, or to myself. I finally understood something had to give.
Sometimes God works in really mysterious ways. The following week, I received a call out of the blue to come discuss a new role with Social Media within my company. This role was a promotion from my current title and it would be part time. Instantly, I was interested and I learned a few weeks later I was offered the job.
Today, I’ve completed my first week in my new role and the biggest, and most exciting thing about it is that I’m home with my family four days a week, without having to sacrifice any of the income I was bringing in at my old role. I’m hoping this new position will grant me more moments with Maisy, Justin and our new child, that will warm my heart and help shed my mommy guilt for good. I’m also hoping the extra time will allow me to pursue my other passions, namely this blog that I’ve been so neglecting the past few months.
I’m excited for this new adventure and all the changes coming to our family soon.
Stay tuned for more fun!
Wow, Mama, this post touched my heart. I feel your struggle as a working Mom. It’s so hard. You wish you could be ten places at once. I recently blogged a letter to my son, “from your working mom,” and it made me feel better because I experienced much of what you write. Thank you for being an inspiring Mama who does everything she can to provide the best for her family. Many hugs!!