If I’m going to be honest, this is a hard thing to write about because I’m still trying to figure out this balance myself. 2 years ago I made the tough transition from stay-at-home mom to working parent. Financially, I needed to start working to help support our family, but the necessity of income didn’t help ease the guilt.
Finding the balance between home life and being a working parent is no small feat. You feel guilt because you want to be with your baby, but also guilt if you can’t help your family financially. Am I letting down my kids if I can’t make a school event? Am I letting down my boss if my child’s preschool is closed for a week due to Covid cases? Am I letting my kids down because I had to work their entire Christmas break? Am I able to be the mom that I envisioned while also having a career?
A term that I use sometimes is “parent #1.” In my relationship with my partner, I am parent #1. This doesn’t mean I’m any better, it just means that I’m the first one they call. The one who takes care of most of the things with the kids because my husband's career doesn’t afford him the flexibility to leave during working hours unless there is an emergency. If the kids are sick, it's my responsibility. If they need to be picked up from school or need to be taken to a doctor’s appointment, that falls on me. Girl Scouts, Boy Scouts, Gymnastics, if the babysitter cancels…you get it. Having a career while being parent #1 isn’t easy, but is doable with a family-friendly company.
Covid has really made it more difficult for working moms also with childcare being harder to find and temporary school closures. The pandemic has also put a spotlight on how disproportionate responsibilities in American households still are (cough, cough..) Many daycares are no longer offering hourly childcare so it’s really hard on the parents who don’t need full-time care. On a side note, I wonder when we will ever go a single day again without mentioning Covid??
So now that I let that all out, (sorry for venting all my personal mom guilt on you!!) There are some things that you can do to help ease the guilt! Here are some things that have helped me!
First, find something that you enjoy doing. I think this is truly vital for your mental health. If you hate what you are doing, that resentment is going to eat you up. I’m not saying you have to have a glamorous career that changes lives, just something you will enjoy most days. Try to find a career that you can enjoy doing for yourself. Find something that you can get some social time outside of talking to a 4-year-old about Toy Story for the 8 hundred thousandth time.
Most importantly, you are doing it for yourself! You need social time. You need to feel proud of yourself. You need to feel like you are your own person and not just a parent. You need to work on your skills and gain experience and you deserve to have a career that you enjoy and are passionate about. For me, my job is part of my self-care.
Another thing to remember is that you are doing this for your family! This is big for me. I’m doing this so they can have the things they want and need. So they don’t have to know what food insecurity feels like as many do growing up. So they don’t have to see their parent's stress over money and what bills are more important. By helping my family financially, I may be slightly less present at times, but I am able to better their lives in many other ways. It also reminds me that the time we do have together is precious and I try to be more mentally present when I am with them. They grow up ridiculously fast!
Seriously, ask for help! We are not superhuman. As much as I hate to admit it, I can not do it all. Set reminders for all things! Don’t forget about self-care! Having household tasks and kid activities deligated out can make things run more smoothly and can really take the stress out of feeling like there are never enough hours in the day. Help make that home a little more proportionate with some good old delegation! Or if it's something that you can delegate out to someone professional and you can afford it, go for it!
Let go of the image of the perfect home. Sometimes just being good enough, is good enough. You don't need to impress anyone with how much you can do in a day and you’ll get burnt out quickly. Being organized in your home and calendar are super important for making things easier and flow better.
If you are just going back to work after maternity leave or after 10 years as a stay-at-home parent, don’t discredit your skills or your worth! It’s hard getting back out there especially if you’ve been out of the workforce for a while, but you are worthy! Volunteering is a great way to keep some skills up to date. Running a household also gives you valuable skills that can be added to your resume too! There is no shame in taking time off to raise a family and employers should recognize how valuable that makes you.
Know that mom guilt is totally normal. I think we pretty much all feel it about one thing or another. Raising good human beings is not an easy thing! Don’t forget that you are your own person also! This season in your life is actually only a short portion of your life. And while sometimes we think that every little thing we do is going to greatly change the trajectory of our children’s lives, really it’s not a big deal. There is no shame in being a working mom! It's good for kids to see that we have to work hard to be able to afford life.
Written by: Kristen Bickel
Kristen is a mom of 4 and an employee at The Baby’s Brew.