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The Working Mom Complex

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I find it hard to believe that it’s natural for a woman to have a little human and then adjust to not being around him or her after spending close to 12 weeks by their side 24/7. But alas, that is what America tells us is normal. I used to think maybe it was the hormones and that I, too, could learn to accept this notion–but I can’t.

Each day that passes, my kids are spending time away from one of the most important people in their lives. They have two parents to raise them, yet only one of them can be with them during their waking hours. And for some families, the child is left with a babysitter or daycare center staff to raise them, because both parents work. I’m not shaming anyone who is in this situation; I’m simply discussing what the circumstances are for the average American family with kids.

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For those lucky enough to have the blessing of staying home with their children, I know it’s not an easy job, but at least you get to guide your children in the way you want them to go. I’ll forever have to trust the person that’s taking my place while I’m at work. My husband is the one who is with my boys at home so it makes me feel slightly better, but it doesn’t make up for the guilt I feel to not be able to hold my baby or play with my toddler for 50+ hours of the week.

At the end of most days, I’m stuck replaying every interaction between me and my toddler, because I know it’s as meaningful to him as it is to me. It’s the only time we can see each other and so those memories have to count. I try my best to always take him to a park or for a bike ride in the evenings when I get home from work so he understands how much I miss him and that I want to make sure he’s happy and bonding with me.

But what helps me get through the days at work when I miss them terribly?

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Knowing that I’m doing something good for my children. Coming to terms that perhaps I’m not meant to be the person that gets to stay home with my kids has been tough, but I’ve accepted it, because I think we all have a unique role in life and in our families. Maybe mine is to be the main provider and to work hard so that in the years to come, my family can enjoy nice vacations, spend evenings together watching movies or playing games, and not being crippled by outrageous debt or the stress of having to make ends meet and losing out on the moments that matter.

My parents had to work more than one job most of our lives in order to be able to cover bills and tuition for our school and still have some for lessons or road trips or Christmas presents. I never felt like I missed out on anything or had to go without things I needed, but I was very perceptive of the fact that my parents were working hard and still under a lot of stress. It was challenging as a child to find ways to help because I internalized my mother’s struggle to a degree, but at the end of the day, the moments my parents were able to spend with me meant that much more and I didn’t resent them for doing what they had to. I’m sure my kids would be the same, but I don’t want them to have to worry about things outside of their control, especially ‘adult’ things like finances, so I’m learning that our circumstances may not be exactly what I want, but it’s how it needs to be (meant to be?) so my kids have the best quality of life.

Dad gets to stay home. Mom’s not always home, but when she is—she is. Her mind will not be wandering wondering how to pay credit cards next month, and she will not be on her phone job hunting to do a side gig that allows for grocery trips or vacations that we wouldn’t be able to afford if it was only Daddy working and mommy at home. Whichever way you put it, I am just learning to understand that life is not always ideal, and though I would like to work and be with my kids, it’s not possible so I have to pick one. And I’m picking based on what’s best for my kids and not based on what I want. It’s not like I’m gone all hours of the day shopping or hanging out with friends or anything. I’m doing something valuable that will be able to not only maintain our family but also give us opportunities to enjoy time together and explore life on adventures that tend to have price tags.

Other moms out there who work and feel guilty, I know how you feel. Sometimes you’re excited to be doing what you do in the office or out in your field but you wonder if your kids are missing you and if it’s really worth it. Maybe you have a choice and maybe you don’t. It’s common to waiver back and forth on these sentiments…I know I do.

Just remind yourself of all the things your kids wouldn’t be able to do if you were home. And if you don’t see how it’s making a difference, then reconsider your situation and do what you feel is best. But if you are like me, and are the working mama, then be happy. Feel blessed. You’re in a position to give so much to your kids, things you forget about when you’re busy feeling guilty or sad. That’s not to invalidate those feelings, but this is motivation to be proud of what you do, your talents, and your ability to comprehend that being a working mom is not the worst thing in the world and certainly not hurting your kids as much as you might think.

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