Does Being a Working Mom Make You Feel Guilty or Great?

When I was pregnant with Penelope, I worked in an office full time doing project management/marketing type stuff and I really enjoyed my job. The pay was not great because it was a non-profit, but the benefits were good, plus I loved my co-workers and I had flexible hours. The plan was to bring Penelope to work when she was a baby as well as work from home.

But when Penelope arrived, my whole world flipped upside down and I changed my mind immediately. There was no way I was going to be able to work from home and have to pump every two hours and be able to take her to all her appointments to help heal all her health issues she had going on as baby. So, I quit.

The first 18 months were rough without my income. My husband and I constantly fought over money. Every penny needed to be accounted for and negotiated with him about whether or not we really needed it this second and if we could afford it. It was not fun.

I had blogged about my pregnancy at my office job and then when Penelope was about 4 months old, I started At first it was a creative outlet for me and something productive to do while I was pumping my brains out for her. Later I realized that there were bloggers making money from their websites and since I had some entrepreneurial experience I thought I would give it a try. I thought it would be the perfect way to work from home sharing all the info I used to share when I owned my yoga studio.

It took me three years to start making money from this website, but I finally got the website to a point that it was an actual business, making me a reliable income. I had built my online business up to a point where working during nap time and bedtime wasn’t cutting it anymore. I needed a babysitter and some actual scheduled work time.

Enter the guilt. The working mama guilt.

I have come to terms with the guilt since that first drop off at a babysitter when Penelope was about 20 months old. Thankfully Penelope has always felt very secure with whatever child care I set up for her. She has either been with my husband, best friends of mine who have similar aged children, or at preschool and never for more than 4 hours at a time. But while there were no screaming meltdowns as I walked away, I still felt guilty. I honestly think I felt the most guilty because I enjoyed being away from her.

Now we live in South Florida and I have no friends, family, or trusted babysitters to rely on. I work on the weekends and one afternoon during the week. My husband works late one night and then takes off half the day the next day so I can head down to the local public library and get some work done.

The move has been hard on Penelope and she has been very clingy to me, to the point a couple of times she begged me not to go to work. She will cry and tell me that I am her best friend and that Papa is not her best friend and I am her only best friend and please, puh-leeeeezzzeee, don’t go to work!

Breaks. my. heart.

what to say when your kid is begging you not to leave and go to work.

But then I crouch down and scoop her for a big hug and tell her that I need to go to work. She always asks me why and this is what I tell her:

“I want to go to work because I love what I do. It makes me happy to be creative and make products and services that help heal people. I like working towards the goal of being financially free. I work because Papa needs help so we can afford to travel the world with you, send you to private school, pay for your dance lessons and to feed you real food and keep you healthy. I work because Mama needs to follow her heart and her passions and live my life to my absolute fullest. Because if I hold back on my dreams, on what I am able to accomplish and experience in my life, I would be doing you a disservice. The brighter I shine my light, the better able I am to hold the space for you to do that one day too.”

Remember this is what helps me get over the guilt.

And when I am home with her, I am home with her. Sure I may snap a few pictures on my phone of our cooking adventures for a later blog post, but only if it fits in smoothly with what we are doing, I am not setting up elaborate photo sessions. I work hard at giving her genuine engagement, being truly present, giving her my full attention, and fostering our deep connection. To truly be able to do that, I have had to separate work and home.

I realize that because part of my income is from being a work at home mom, and my job is something that I created and I have no boss, and that the other part of my income is from being a preschool teacher at the same school my daughter goes to, that I am of the lucky group of working moms. I know there are many, many working moms who are busting their butts, sometimes at jobs they hate, to provide for their families. I am so beyond thankful that I can earn a living doing something that I love, that is helpful to the world, and is flexible. Thank you from the bottom of my heart for reading this blog, participating in the M+BL community, and buying my products and services to make that dream a reality.

I am not alone with struggling with guilt but also feeling great about working. I asked the awesome M+BL Facebook community their thoughts and they had some beautiful words of wisdom that I wanted to share. And if you have to go out of town a lot for work, I love using Skype to stay connected with my family while I am away.

Mama Guilt and How to Get Over It.

*I am a better mother because I am a working mother! Each person my kids see each day (teachers, day care providers, grandparents) provide my kids with lessons and develop their character in a way that I can’t. I am a believer that it takes a village to raise a child and I am forever grateful for my village!

*I work PT and was feeling guilty at first, but her preschool family has been excellent! I went this morning to drop her off and the Director stopped to tell me how much they enjoy having her full time vs part time…I am truly a fan of “It takes a village to raise a child!

*I quit, lol!

*I dedicate about 85% of my weekend to my little guy (part of my photography business needs me on the weekend)… I agree with Angie above, my child is better from his daily experiences. I love my little guy to pieces, but I was made to be a career woman, not an at home mom, so I cherish every extra snuggle I can get!

*I work PT night shift so I can stay home with the kids and not feel as guilty. I believe that they need to learn values and lessons from others as well as their parents. I enjoy working, it gives me my “adult conversation” time and chance to be with other people that are not children.

*I show my child that his mommy is a super hero. She can work, take care of the house and be loving and supportive to him. It is so hard somedays but I am glad he sees we have to work hard to have nice things and do fun stuff.

*I am happy to work because I want to buy Emry nice things and take him places when we want. We have amazing opportunities that we are able to do because of the gift that I can give our family by working. When I think of it that way, I don’t feel guilty. Now, shopping by myself or “mommy day”…. THOSE things I struggle with guilt over!

*Feelings of guilt take away from the task at hand. Whether it be work or family time, I need to be focused. I am lucky to have a great husband who loves spending time with his children when I travel.

*I, too, quit…2 months after having my daughter. I went from being an excellent employee to be a checked out, always worrying about my daughter, no longer valuable, employee! I do send my daughter to preschool 3 days a week.

*I’m a stay-at-home Mom. The one difference I find between my friends who work & me staying at home is… They feel guilty taking a date night or having some time to themselves, where I do not. I enjoy every second of alone time by wondering about the kids constantly. Lol.

*I look at it as working FOR my babies… so all the time I invest away from them is FOR them and their FUTURE. So it helps ease the guilt…

*I work from home. I used to send my girls to day care, but really didn’t like some of the things that they were learning from other kids. And I hated the constant runny noses. So, I hired a nanny. I can still work from home, I feel better about what they are learning and less germs. I also am happily forced into breaks when they come visit me in my office throughout the day to “check on mama”.

*Cash your first paycheck. To realize in this economy there sometimes is a necessity for two incomes. Make memories. Plan events & special times together. Think it through. Ya gotta do what ya gotta do!

*I don’t feel guilty. I’m proud to be a working mom. my job provides the bulk of our income and our health insurance. My husband works the evening shift and I work early morning. We sacrifice our time together, not because we’re against daycare, but because we couldn’t afford it. Our daughter was in daycare for a few months part time and absolutely loved it. I’m proud to be a working mom!

*I am a SAHM ๐Ÿ™‚ No more guilt.

*I quit! We live pretty meagerly, but do pretty well all things considered. I didn’t quit out of guilt, just simply realized that in this season of life, it was the right thing to do. I’m sure when my son is in school all day (when he starts kindergarten) I’ll be ready to get back into the work place, but for now I am enjoying being able to stay on top of home and family.

*Working not only provides, but teaches. In the end, the message your sending is worth the tiers you see when you leave, and the smiles when you return.ย ๐Ÿ™‚

*Some days the only thing that keeps me from crying is knowing that my son is home with his father while I’m working. I’m the main bread winner in my family so there never was and probably never will be an option where I get to stay home.

*I needed this! I am sitting waiting for an interview and I’ve been home for two months with the babies.

*I make sure that when I’m not working, I’m 100% attentive.

*I have found that whatever I’m doing is contributory not just to my family’s financial health, but my mental health as well. I don’t feel that I’m effective as a parent if I have the kids consume every waking moment of my life.

*Never had working Mama guilt. It’s what’s best for my family and I. I want the best education for my son, and I want to provide everything he needs. To do that, I must work. Because I work my son attends a really great daycare center and has a chance to interact with other children, and make some really amazing developmental links. For my family, my working has worked out for the best. No guilt this wayย ๐Ÿ™‚

*I had WAY more guilt being a stay-at-home mom than I have as a working mom. I recognize that my children are better stimulated and educated by day care and preschool than by me. Quality time is great, yes, but education and independence are too. My being a working mom makes affording day care possible. I don’t feel remotely bad about it.

*I feel horrible for my guilt as well as my personal pain of feeling like I never see my family and when I am getting to spend time with my kids, I’m so tired. I’m not making meals or cleaning my house because I’m working 38 hours a week. I used to be aย Sahm and loved it. I would love for it to go back but things have changed and I’m trying to help provide for our family. Some days I’m ok others I feel so depressed and feel so horrible.

*Never felt guilty it. I loved my job as a teacher and my children had so much fun at their babysitter’s house playing with other children. We like to eat and live in a house so therefore I had to work.

*I work 2 jobs and bring my kiddo along! I lucked out, I’m a long time pet sitter and I also work at an afterschool program so we spend mornings caring for pets and afternoons he takes art and dance classes with friends at the afterschool facility while I do admin stuff.ย ๐Ÿ™‚

*I struggle everyday. I like my job and my coworkers (though it barely pays enough to cover childcare). And I really like the daycare providers that care for my daughter and do a wonderful job. I’ve cut back on my hours slightly but still feel like I’mย not able to be great at any one thing, being a mother, wife, employee; without being horrible in another area. My daughter is only five months old and I’m still trying to figure things out, but man is it nice to pick her up and see her smile at the end of the day.

*We try to make the time we do have together quality time. And honestly, I am pretty good at compartmentalizing, so wherever I am, I am fully there at that time. My kids also have an awesome daycare and if I quit my job, I would be concerned about what they would be missing by not going there anymore!

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  • Barbara Demske
    July 17, 2013 at 1:42 AM

    What a great read! I fall into the category of I love the work I do at my job (I’m a pediatric nurse), but HATE having to work full time and be away from my son. I also started a blog this past year as an outlet, and LOVE writing and sharing with others. Who knew? I will admit that I envy all of my stay at home friends, but I also value being a professionally educated woman and using that education. I often feel that I have so much more to offer the world, and that my 36 hour job working midnights is NOT doing this. I’m at a crossroads, but don’t know how to choose a different road when my family relies on my income. Thank you for sharing your struggles, and successes. You have been an inspiration to me and I love reading and following your blog.

    • Stephanie
      July 17, 2013 at 1:47 AM

      Thank you! Thanks for being a long time reader and supporting me! I hope your path becomes clear soon and you get to do what you love and have more flexibility in the way you earn an income.

  • Mary
    July 17, 2013 at 9:31 AM

    After 7 months of staying home I just started back to work at the same company I left. I’m thankful they sought me out to come back and I’m thankful I have a little girl who is so adaptable and able to accept change. The guilt will ALWAYS be there, but in the long run a two working parent household is what is right for our family. I’m glad I have seen both sides of the coin and have new respect for both working moms and stay at home moms ๐Ÿ™‚ Thanks for the post.

  • Emily @RandomRecycling
    July 17, 2013 at 10:31 AM

    Thanks for sharing your struggles. I think for all SAHM who shift into nonconventional income producing roles, like blogging, it can be even harder as others don’t understand how/when you are working. The best advice I received is to create office hours if you are a work at home mom. I love that you use the library! I think the flexibility to be home with Penelope for the special events will make it all worth it.

    • Stephanie
      July 17, 2013 at 12:55 PM

      Yeah, we tried me working in my bedroom, but she would just bang on the door and ask me to play every 30 minutes. In Tallahassee I rented an office cubicle but in our new town, the library has these nice study rooms and I just use those!

  • Nicole K.
    July 17, 2013 at 10:54 AM

    While I wish I could stay home – and am often caught scheming an entrepreneurial adventure that might allow me to be home more – I do think having kids has made me a better employee and vice versa. I noticed when on maternity leave with my daughter – with my 20 month son home as well – that when I was home full-time, I was cooking, cleaning, doing chores, errand, etc and not devoting my full attention to the kids. however, when I work outside the home, I make it a priority to give them my full attention and just get down on the floor and play (of course there are always rare exceptions when I can’t:) If I had a financial choice, I’d love to be home, but I do love my job and love working. As far as the guilt goes…it’s the price of entry to parenthood and around ever turn no matter what we choose!

  • Rachel
    July 17, 2013 at 2:21 PM

    Thanks for the great post! Well said! It is very hard making the decision to 1. stay home 2. go back to work FT or PT 3. Work from home. I have been in all 3 of those categories at different times in my life. I find myself at home right now for the past year and I now am having the feeling again to return to work but I am torn again that I will be shorting our last child of the attention that she needs when I spent so much more time at home with the older 2 when they were little. It’s something I think all mom’s struggle with and finding the perfect fit may never happen simply because of today’s society and economy. It’s hard to find jobs, and when you do most of society does not place a value on mom’s being there for their children so time off is hard to come by for things like school functions and doctor visits even. Ive been blessed many times in the past to be able to work from home for companies that did support me being a mom this time Im not sure I will be so lucky and it’s a scary thought. At this time though we greatly need the income so Im going to brave the working world and see what turns up.

  • Lisa
    July 17, 2013 at 3:38 PM

    Great post! I especially like the part where you say when you’re at home, you’re there fully. I work full-time and have two kids in daycare and am pregnant with our third. After this baby, I will probably quit or cut back significantly, but honestly, I haven’t felt guilty working full-time. I leave work at work, and I leave home at home as much as I can, except for the lessons learned from being a mom that I can apply to be more productive in my day job. I think what has helped me to not feel bad about working (even though I’m not doing something I love) is that my husband and I make sure that every penny we earn goes toward putting us in a better financial situation. We live way below our means, which sometimes isn’t fun, but we also don’t have money fights and we’re setting a good example of financial responsibility for our kids. It’s a sacrifice now for hopefully an awesome payoff later. Sometimes we have to do what’s hard in the moment because we can see what’s down the road and know that it’s worth it. ๐Ÿ™‚

    • Lisa
      July 17, 2013 at 3:41 PM

      Oh! I forgot to add that we have seen awesome benefits from our kids spending part of their time in daycare. They are little social butterflies, and since I am not very social, I don’t know that they would be that way if they had been home with me from birth. They get exposed to different foods, different games, different vocabularies, and just generally different ways of doing things by being in that environment. Our daycare situation is fantastic, and I have seen them grow and change in such positive ways by being part of it.

    • Stephanie
      July 17, 2013 at 8:33 PM

      What is your secret to no money fights! That’s impressive!

  • Francis
    July 18, 2013 at 3:02 PM

    Oh my God, I loved it!! We are in the same page! the only difference is that I do have to go to an office everyday! It sucks! but what you say is true, is the only way we can feel financially free and independent! and thatยดs awesome! I a m a mother of two (twins) and I love my babies!! well, aside from that, I have my VERY OWN blog! and I started it because I thought it was fun to share with other moms experiences and worries and you know, everything! I would like to stay in touch with you! please answer back!! THANK YOU!

    • Stephanie
      July 18, 2013 at 3:10 PM

      That’s exciting! Good for you!

  • Katie
    July 19, 2013 at 2:33 AM

    I appreciate your message, and what many others were trying to convey. But some of us don’t even have the option of thinking about feeling guilty. Being a single mother, leaving my son’s father after 7-8 years of marriage, when he was just 1 year old, my income is the only income. What a blessing to those who can just “quit” and those who work for the fun money. However there is no shame in not having the choice in feeling guilty and doing what needs to be done. I’m sure you agree ๐Ÿ™‚ just putting it out there for the other single moms! We’re working and being mom and Dad! We should be paid triple ๐Ÿ˜‰

    • Niki Hathorn
      August 2, 2013 at 7:11 PM

      You’re my hero! God bless you.

  • Erin
    July 19, 2013 at 3:03 AM

    I work fulltime, and I do NOT feel guilty. I feel like I am SUPPOSED to say I feel guilty, but I don’t, and why should I? Does your husband feel guilty? Do men sit around talking about how guilty they feel, going to work, being ambitious, fulfilling career goals, and providing for their families? I don’t feel guilty because I’m not doing anything wrong. SAHMs are a very American, and a very small slice of America at that. My son thrives in preschool (8-noon) since he was 12 months old and is then picked up by a wonderful nanny who brings him home for his long nap (3 hours!) and then one-on-one time until we get home. He is thriving. We are thriving. He is happy. We are happy. I dislike all of the “how do you handle the guilt” because it tells people they should feel guilty, and we shouldn’t.

    • Stephanie
      July 19, 2013 at 4:13 AM

      I don’t think asking people how work through and process an emotion is telling them they should have that emotion. It’s simply asking a question. And for the record, I think there are a lot of men who wish they were home more, my husband included.

  • Jennifer Schmitt
    July 27, 2013 at 11:21 PM

    Hey there! Huge fan of your blog and this post really resonates with me so I linked to it on my blog. I hope that’s ok, if not just say the word. You can read my post here:
    From what I can tell, you are a great mom and a great role model.

    • Stephanie
      July 28, 2013 at 12:10 AM

      Thanks so much for linking to me! That is always welcomed and appreciated. ๐Ÿ™‚

  • Niki Hathorn
    August 2, 2013 at 7:10 PM

    I have been working since my daughter was 10 weeks old. She is 18 months old now and I would say that I have always had about 95% love and 5% guilt for being a working mom. I am an engineer and get to work from home, so I am able to use my lunch hour to run errands and workout and take care of anything else that might take away other time from my daughter, so in the morning and after work, I get dedicated time with her. She gets the best of me and I still get to feel like “me”. I grew up with a stay at home mom and loved it, so sometimes I worry that I’m depriving my daughter of that, but I also see how much she loves her “teachers” at daycare and how excited she is to see me at the end of the day. No one can replace her mommy.

    I wouldn’t say that I LOVE my job, but it pays well and it’s not stressful at all. Best of all, it allows my husband to pursue his dreams which I do LOVE. He works harder than anyone I know, so I am happy to supplement our income and have our health insurance taken care of. I’m serving our family by working which feels awesome and helps with that 5% guilt feeling ๐Ÿ™‚

    • Stephanie
      August 3, 2013 at 2:39 AM

      A woman engineer! Impressive! My husband is an engineer and I still marvel at the fact that industry is still 90% dominated by men. He literally has no women, except for the receptionist, in his office. It’s like straight up 1950’s frat club at his company. Go you.

  • Liz Dinosaursinmykitchen
    August 7, 2013 at 11:07 AM

    Great post! I am working full-time. Although I’d love to stay at home to look after my two boys, I don’t feel guilty at all. In everything I do, I think about them. I think it’s better for children to have a working mom and a social life at daycare than staying all day long at home with a mom under budget pressure or who does not feel fully accomplished or fulfilled. And if it’s the perception of other moms on you choosing to work that makes you feel uncomfortable (or guilty), then just change of pathway. As mums, we know and do what’s best for our family. Trust in the mom power! Good blog!

  • AM
    May 28, 2015 at 10:05 AM

    HI! I am a stay home mom that works PT, however, I chose this PT job because of the hours offered and NOT because I like it! in other words, I have some resentment that I can not work as a DA because of the guilt leaving my kids in after school care. Ideally, I would love a PT job in my career field, but can’t find one in this small town. I can easily work FT as a DA but my sons begged me they DO NOT want to go to after school care FT but PT only, and I cant NOT find PT work as a DA in this small town, only FT jobs, so at times I feel kind of resentment inside me that I am not able to use my talents to the fullest, however, I enjoy the moments I have with my kids, so I have mixed up feelings at times… I love my kids, they’re extremely smart! I am happy I”m able to pick them up from school and help them out with their homework, and I have a supportive husband! but also DO miss my job as a DA….I have this Summer to make up my mind wether I’ll go FT in the fall as a DA or not…