Wednesday, July 31, 2013

Working Mom Guilt

I guess I am a "stay-at-home" mom in that I don't leave the house to go to an office or job every day. However, in order to make our family finances work out, I do have to contribute a paycheck. This means that, though I am physically at home, I do have work part time. I work primarily as a writer (I have my second book coming out in February and I write monthly for and I also do some legal consultation for my father's ADR practice (alternative dispute resolution). I am also very excited about another writing opportunity I have recently been offered (more on that another time).

However, all these jobs require me to spend time in front of my computer, concentrating. And, as you can probably imagine, as the sole caregiver of a seriously rambunctious one-year-old it really isn't easy to find uninterrupted time to work. I've known from the start that I would need help to get my work done, so when OZL was about three months old I hired a local college student to come for a couple of hours twice a week so I could write. She is an amazing nanny - plays with him, sings to him, washes his bottles for me - and OZL screams in happiness every time he sees her. But lately it has been getting to the point where I feel like I don't even have time to make myself a cup of tea while she is here. I need every minute she is here to get work done, and even then I can't finish it all. And unfortunately, as a busy student, she can't commit more hours. This has left me working furiously during all of OZL's naps, which means I later find myself trying to distract OZL while I fold the laundry and unload the dishwasher instead of taking him to the park or reading him a story like a real stay-at-home mom would. And I never have any time to myself to rest, and the exhaustion is wearing on me and making my RA flare. It isn't good.

So we've been thinking about enrolling OZL in a preschool program two days a week so that I can have solid hours to get my work done. This will also give me days where hopefully I can focus more on OZL. However, putting OZL in day care is still a difficult, guilt-ridden decision. Because technically I can stay home with him full time - but not the way I would want to.

That's why I contacted fellow blogger Lana for her perspective. I've never featured a guest post on this blog before, but since Lana is a working mother who also lives with RA and fibromyalgia, I thought she might have some words of wisdom to share with me (and you!) So here it is, my first ever guest post:
Working Mom Guilt…I wouldn’t be a good mother without it

I am a working mother and that is all I have ever been. Being a stay-at-home mom was never an option for me.  I have been a working mother for fourteen years now and I can tell you that the guilt doesn’t get easier.

Every mother who works outside of the home feels guilt over not being home during the day to take care of a small child, staying home with a sick child, taking a child to school in the morning or helping out with homework after school.  The irony is that the guilt would still be there even if you arranged your schedule to work from home because you will feel guilty about spending hours focused on your work. The reality is that no matter how many hours you work, your kids will be just fine and so will you.  

There is not a mother out there who doesn’t wish she could just stay home with her children.  I understand that dropping your child off to daycare for eight plus hours a day can take a toll and for most of us, that burden is even greater because of the expectations that society and media have portrayed of working mothers. Because there is so much negativity about working mothers and their children, many of us feel like terrible mothers. However, research disputes anything portrayed by the media or perceived by society. In fact, a 2005 study out of the University of Texas found no evidence to show that children of working mothers suffered any emotional harm from being away from their mothers.  

The University of Texas study found out some other interesting facts as well.  Their research showed that working mothers spent more time with their children on days off and spent less time on household chores and leisure activities, this compared to stay-at-home moms. Moreover, most working mothers found that the quality of time spent with their children was far more important than the amount of time.  As far as the effect on children, infant development was not delayed because a mother worked outside the house and the researchers found no difference in social behavior, language development, or cognitive ability whether mothers worked or not.  

There is simply no evidence that suggests that our children are harmed by us working outside the home or that they are less intelligent or that they misbehave more because they are away from us.  Therefore, there is nothing to justify our guilt or the ill-informed attitudes of society and the media. 
As a working mother of many years, I am very familiar with the guilt and the stereotypes. And all these years of working outside the home, it doesn’t get easier but I don’t have another choice.  What I do have a choice in is taking comfort in knowing that I am not alone in how I feel.  Further, I know that my kids are doing just fine and they are not affected in any negative ways by my career.  The guilt will always be there because if wasn’t, I wouldn’t be a good mother. 

I want to thank Mariah for the opportunity to share a guest post at her blog.  I know that this is topic that many of you working mothers struggle with as you work or as you make a decision whether to return to work. I hope that you will check out my blog, Living Life As I See Fit.  -Lana

1 comment:

A said...

Oh girl.

This line: "This has left me working furiously during all of OZL's naps, which means I later find myself trying to distract OZL while I fold the laundry and unload the dishwasher instead of taking him to the park or reading him a story like a real stay-at-home mom would."

Having only been a mom for three months, I can't tell you much, but from my experience (and that of my friends and siblings), "real" stay at home moms are doing just what you are-- trying to survive! Literally, they're cleaning, cooking, organizing, driving, picking up, dry cleaning, grocery shopping, stamp buying, and maybe, hopefully hitting the park... if it it's too hot, too close to nap time, or dinner doesn't need to get started.

I say all this to say that you're a wonderful mother. And I'm a wonderful mother. I struggle with the idea of LB giving to day care. COULD I stay home? Yes. SHOULD I? Maybe. AM I? Not presently. But at day care, she will be swinging, being read to, having someone sing to her, bouncing, rocking, and playing without a TV, ipad, or iphone in sight. When she's with me, we're running errands, cooking dinner, occupying ourselves in our bouncer, often with some for of technology on or around.

Does it make me feel better that she'll be in day care? No. Will I dissolve when I have to drop her off in three weeks? Yes. Will she be fine? Yes! Will part of my fears be confirmed because she is, in fact, functional without me? Yes.


I love you! OZL will love the time making new friends; it will be good for everyone! And you'll be able to fully enjoy your time with him when he's home and, maybe, just maybe, catch a nap on a slow day.

If you ever figure all this out, let me know!!