Guilt has no productive value. Take it off your checklist.
Preramble: why I blog
I love blogging – really can’t pinpoint the exact reasons why – creativity? Feedback? Tracking stats? The tens of dollars I make each month? Why have I been blogging since 2010 with really not much to show for it?
It’s a mystery, even to me.
But I have this opportunity to share. To connect. And to tell my story. Influence and empower and love and convince other moms to STOP FEELING SO IRRATIONALLY GUILTY.
Because we all do. Especially working moms. And it’s been my passion and mission for years to empower women and working moms.
I am writing my own article to let you know that it is indeed possible to excel at both work and home, without chaos, or guilt, or abnormal stresses, or feeling failure.
Let me share my life with you.
A Day in the Life of a Happy Working Mom
I woke up, drank coffee, had breakfast, snuggled with my 2 year old, showered, kissed 2 kids + 1 husband goodbye, went to work, had a few meetings, got some important stuff done, had drinks/appetizers with friends, played with play-doh, put the toddler to bed, kissed another sweet child good-night, and watched TV with my husband while writing a blog post.
So NOT exciting, right?
The harried working mom hero character is missing from that bland description of my day.
Maybe writing about the mundane, the unexciting, the normal isn’t funny or entertaining or raw enough to “go viral.” Not having guilt or angst or chaos isn’t newsworthy. It doesn’t generate clicks.
What does generate clicks: painting working moms with broad brush strokes of stress.
It comes in the form of humor – spilled milk from cereal at breakfast, complaints about husbands, work meetings with Goldfish dust on our sleeves (organic of course – the kind kids have injested for years is no doubt poison!) blah-di-blah-blah-blah-blahhhhhhhhhhhhhhh.
But, this humor – this tone – focuses on women doing it all with an underlying tone that it’s not a positive experience. WHY?
Despite the unfair parental leave leave policies in nearly every organziation, going back to work is not a terrible, boo-hoo inducing, detrimental obstacle that women are forced to overcome because their husbands don’t bring home enough income to sustain a posh lifestyle.
Admittedly, there have been times I wished I was a stay-at-home mom: but, it was my out-clause, the vision at the end of the tunnel, the escape from a job that I despised.
The Ol’ “If I didn’t work, I wouldn’t have this problem” Problem.
It was my take 2 beers and slide down the escape slide.
“If I didn’t have to work,” I would reason, “I would not have to deal with this insane environment.”
The vision of being a stay-at-home mom became my vision of what moms should be – and that vision was largely impacted by the media and articles I read. Staying at home seemed like the plausible option rather than finding a new job. But I didn’t have to quit working, I just needed to find a new job. And so I did.
And I am going to tell you that this is all through my lens of privilege: I have a tremendous amount of help and resources that allows me to be relaxed, productive and successful at work.
But I’ll also be candid. Part of the resources I have are a direct result from not leaving the workforce.
In the time I’ve been a mother, from ages 30 to 38, my salary and career have grown exponentially.
I didn’t take a break. I didn’t stop learning. I remain relevant, on trend, with a load of marketing successes and failures to be legit when I’m developing a strategy.
I kiss my babies, play with with them every day, run from the playground to Costco to the pool on the weekends, and my stressful moments are the same any person has: and I don’t look at them through the lens of “what if” anymore.
In the past week, I had so many friends traipse down the guilt trail of being a working mom, and I found myself championing the choice to be a female parent in the workplace.
My son didn’t want to go to daycare today… What if I didn’t have to work?
Toddlers never want to leave their moms. They are wired to have a meltdown the instant mommy disappears from their vision. Go behind the shower curtain for five minutes? ABSOLUTELY NOT. Close the bathroom door? DO NOT EVEN CONSIDER IT. Leave for a date night? HOW COULD YOU COMMIT SUCH A HEARTLESS, ATROCIOUS ACT? Dropping off at daycare is no more dramatic than any of the other mundane activities that cause a meltdown.
My son is sick and I brought him to work with me… what if I didn’t have to work?
Every human wants their mom when they are sick. You can bring him to work? Lucky, lucky you. Way to be productive while giving him what he wants the most: just to be around you. If you were at home, you’d be trying to fold laundry and tackle re-organizing the pantry. At least you are generating revenue at the same time as caring for your child.
I’ve had a terrible day at the office… what if I didn’t have to work?
You’ve made a mistake. A co-worker irritated you. Your project list is so long it seems unmanageable. You have a lunatic boss. You were in a meeting that ran an hour too long and nothing substantial was accomplished. All of these annoyances are part of work, and build character (maybe?) but are not reasons to retire.
I had to buy formula because I didn’t pump enough milk… what if I didn’t have to work?
Breastfeeding is not easy. Pumping sucks. Literally. Nursing without pumping has it’s own weird set of issues, including the possibility your child isn’t actually getting any milk (happened to a friend. Baby was nursing, not gaining weight, wasn’t eating a thing, and she had no clue because she wasn’t pumping to know how many ounces she was producing.) My point is this: stay at home or working – breastfeeding is not as easy as mixing warm water with powdered formula and feeding your little angel bottles of balanced nutrients that real doctors with degrees (not Dr. Google) agree are good for babies. Do what works for you. Your baby will be A-Ok. Personally, I breastfed and pumped for 14 months while traveling for work so you can take your snarky comment about how working moms justify formula and save it for another mom blog.
My child is sick and I had to pick him up from school… what if I didn’t have to work?
PLEASE. You have sick days for a reason. Take a sick day, take care of your child, postpone your meetings, turn on your out of office (or check your email from your phone) and dwell on the fact that your boss is probably thinking about ways to fire you because you had to take the afternoon off. Kidding. No one cares or is even giving it a second thought because it’s normal to have sick kids or be sick yourself.
What if… you removed “what if” from your thinking?
Mom guilt is intense. But the thing is: you’d have it no matter your choices. You just have to make the decision that is right for you and it will be the right decision for your family.
I was attempting to be grumpy today about something ridiculously inane, like I was having a tough time prioritizing my monstrous task list, and (instead of sympathizing) my cheerful co-worker said, “AT LEAST WE AREN’T IN A SWEAT SHOP IN CHINA!”
While I didn’t want that kind of exuberance or logic infused into my grump, her perspective is right-on: it could always be hideously worse.
And guilt has no productive value. Thinking “what if” instead of “what’s next” will hold you back.
I’m sharing this with you to tell all of the working moms out there: tune it out. If you truly want nothing more in the world to stay at home, that’s an excellent decision for you. Go for it. But if you’re feeling pulled in that direction because you feel like you “should,” ignore the noise. If you’re stuck in a job with a boss who makes you miserable, or a job that’s unfulfilling, find a new job. And if you’re a new mom: stick with it. You’re valuable. And companies need women in the workplace to lead. They truly do, because studies prove women in leadership roles improve the bottom line: so, if you like to work, and stick it out, your career is going to continue to grow because companies need talented women like you.