Mommy Guilt, The Most Powerful Emotion

Mom and child

Most of us who spend multiple years in college or in training for a particular career plan on using those skills to obtain gainful employment. Emily at Evolving Personal Finance had an excellent post recently about how she has no desire to retire early because of that and many other reasons. I used to think the same way. Then I was hit by a force so powerful and overwhelming, it could make you walk through fire. If you have never experienced it, it’s called Mommy Guilt, and no matter how hard I’ve tried. It never completely goes away.

I’ve been married to a school teacher for 10 years. It never bothered me that he had 2-3 months off every summer while I had to work. I could have been a teacher if I’d wanted, but summers off was not enough motivation to make me want to spend all day in a room full of children. Honestly, most children used to annoy me, and then I had one of my own. While the whining and unreasonableness that come with kids can certainly be annoying, there is nothing that compares to having your own child.

Suddenly my husband’s off season drove me nuts. I was completely jealous that he got to spend summers with our daughter, and it made me really mad when he seemed to take it for granted and they sat around and basically did nothing all day. Whenever I had a day off, it was planned to the minute as I tried to fit in as much as possible. It actually stressed me out to be off because I was afraid I couldn’t get everything done. No matter how hard I tried, I could never shake the Mommy Guilt.

Well, there have been some major changes in my life over the past year, and now I am working part time. Finally, I get to have a summer to do all the things I’ve never been able to do. My daughter and I get to go to the free kid’s movies that play at 11AM on Tuesdays. I’ll also get to see most of her swimming lessons and actually participate in the summer reading program. Also, we can have a day to lay around and watch TV if we want. I totally understand that concept now and don’t feel the need to have every second scheduled. We’ve already spent a week visiting family, and we’ll get to take an almost two week vacation later this summer. I’ve completely turned into a giant cheese ball because I caught myself driving down the road just smiling the other day. The Mommy Guilt is still in there somewhere, but finally it’s silent at this point in my life.

I used to read stories like this and scoff at the writer. I told myself it was good for kids to be in day care or have a Mom who had a career. I still believe that to some extent, but I think you can have both. While I do not claim to know what is best for anyone else on the planet, I know what was best for me. The key was to actually admit what I wanted, get out of debt, and make changes, regardless of whether or not everyone understands why I walked away from a profitable business that produced money but not happiness. This summer I hope to be the most boring person I know, and I’ll love every minute.

Have you suffered from Mommy Guilt? What would make you walk away from a full time job to stay home more?


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  1. This was an insightful post for someone who doesn’t have kids. You gave me some hope considering I’m not too fond of children either, but my mom has also told me it’s different when its your own! My mom worked part time at a school so she was home when I got home, and was off on the same days I was. It worked out great! Out of necessity, she changed over to full-time work when she deemed me old enough to be at home by myself (13). I think it worked out well for us.

    1. I may also work more when my daughter is older. It certainly is different when you have your own child.

  2. Thanks for mentioning my post and expanding on your comments! Obviously I am not a parent so I don’t know yet how I’ll feel about being away from my children for a full-time job. I can only imagine that it’s unique to the individual and probably even changes with seasons of life. My mother, for instance, worked full-time when we were young but became a stay-at-home mom for our later childhood and adolescence. In any case I’m glad you’ve maneuvered yourself financially to be able to do what you most desire.

    1. My mom went through periods of working and staying at home as well. I think she liked to work, but also felt really guilty not staying at home. It’s a tough balance and different for every individual. I would never claim to know what works best for someone else, but I think I’ve found my balance for now, although I can see it changing as my daughter grows up and becomes more independent.

  3. Haha, I can’t really call it mommy guilt but I do experience the same thing. Working all day I feel like I need to get quality time in with my son when I can. Luckily for me my work schedule is pretty flexible and I was able to shift it earlier so that I can get home at a reasonable time and have a couple of hours before he goes to bed. It’s tough finding a balance. I’m glad you’ve been able to get there.

  4. Ah, mommy guilt. Yes, I am absolutely familiar with it and I’m glad you’ve find a way to put your guilt in remission. 🙂 “Admit what you want” – I love that and it’s so powerful when you think about it. I always planned to continue working after I had my daughters. My family certainly comes first, but I love what I do and would not be as good as a Mom if I did not work. Where I live, I am a bit of an anomaly. When I got pregnant, everyone assumed that I would quit my job and when I didn’t – some people were fairly vocal about their disapproval. I can’t say that it didn’t bother me, because I am human after all, but I know in my heart that I made the right choice for my family. My life is hectic and crazy but it works for me. I’m glad you’re enjoying the summer with daughter, kicking back and spending time together. Happy 4th of July!

    1. Let’s home it stays there! I can certainly feel it bubbling around the surface at times. My family in the South expects Moms to stay home or at least work a “woman’s job” so you have lots of time off. Here, people have been very surprised at my cut in work hours. I guess I used to work so much it almost defined me. I hope that’s not what I’m remembered for.

  5. Totally agree with you here, Kim. Mommy guilt is the worst! And the key, like you pointed out, is to admit what you want. I could never handle (emotionally) being away from the kids all day, but that doesn’t mean my choice to be home and home school is for everyone. We all have our own wants and needs, and although parenting is extremely self-sacrificial, you’ll also be a better parent if you take some time to nurture your own needs and goals too. Good for you, Kim, for finding out what you want and making it happen. 🙂

    1. Being home more makes me enjoy work more. Everything works better with some balance. Finding that and being able to make it happen is tough, but doable in my opinion. Your kids only get one childhood. I don’t want to have any regrets.

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