Working mom and loving it - so why am I letting everybody else make me feel guilty?

I don’t normally post on here anymore, but there’s a pretty intelligent group here, and maybe I’ll find someone like-minded here. Really, this is kind-of a vent more than anything. Sorry for the length.

I had a baby about 9 months ago. I quit my postdoc, which I was intending to do anyway, baby or no, and decided to start a new career in writing after taking a few months off. Little did I know that being a stay-at-home mom was NOT the thing for me. The first two months were ok. My little guy slept a lot and so even though I was sleep-deprived, I did get time to myself too. It helped a TON to have my husband take some time off and then work from home. If the little guy was crying, it was ok if I was going to the bathroom, because his dad could get him until I was ready. Then we moved, my husband went back to his job, now working 12-hour days, and taking care of the little guy became my sole responsibility. No more time for peeing or showering. And my little guy was never happy. He didn’t sleep as much, was nowhere close to sleeping through the night, and he fussed much of the day. He took about 6 naps a day, each half an hour long, and fed every 2 hours. It was exhausting. It was like our lives were the world’s tiniest merry-go-round - eat, try to play, change, put him down for a nap, have just enough time to pump, rinse, repeat. I tried to find time to clean and make good meals (my husband came home for lunch), but I just about went crazy with boredom. I didn’t enjoy the revolving-door naps and I hated myself because I could never seem to make my little guy happy. In retrospect, I think his fussiness may have been related to him figuring out sleep…he improved by leaps and bounds when we finally let him cry it out for a couple nights, but that came later. At the time, I was sure it was all me, because I just wasn’t maternal enough, I didn’t get him. (It didn’t help matters that he latched perfectly but would scream at the breast because I couldn’t produce milk fast enough for him. I pumped religiously, every 2 or 3 hours, for his first four months.)

At four months old, I found a job writing for a magazine. It’s my dream job, and I’m so incredibly lucky to have found it. We found daycare in the form of a SAHM friend of ours who is raising her daughter. She’s a behavioral therapist by trade, and my little guy took to her so fast. He adores her. She’s always chipper and amazing with him and her daughter. And she’s a miracle worker! Within a week, she had him feeding every four hours, eating a real meal instead of a tiny snack, and napping for 2 hours at a time. (About a week before I started work, he had started transitioning to longer naps, but I always wondered if he would have slept so well at home with me.) So my little guy’s happy, and I’ve got a job I love, and when I spend time with him, I’m really with him. I love spending time with him now.

So everything’s good, right? It ought to be, but I end up feeling guilty. Not guilty for working – I love working – but guilty for not wanting to be at home. I read articles like Slaughter’s “Why Women Still Can’t Have It All” (as if a tenured professorship at Princeton plus two wonderful boys isn’t “it all”). And then there’s the comments from people at work. When I first started, one guy expressed surprise that I would choose to work with a young son at home. Another woman asked me how it was going, and when I said it was great, she said she couldn’t do that with her son, who is now 18. She told me she had quit her job at the time to be at home with him. And then there’s the very funny Irish janitor (really, he’s a great guy) who asked me why I always worked late (because working until 5pm is late, apparently – I leave every day at 5pm on the dot) and didn’t I want to be at home with my son? The conversation with the janitor was the one that made me cry. He’s such a nice guy, but why would he say that? Of course I want to spend time with my son! And I want to work! Are the two really mutually exclusive? My husband and I had the 4th off and went to the zoo with the little guy, and we all had such a wonderful day. I know that I wouldn’t have enjoyed that time if I were home all the time.

This has gotten awfully long, sorry. I guess I am just wondering why I’m feeling guilty even when I’m pretty sure I’m doing what’s best for my family. At some point, we’d like to have another baby, and I’ll still want to work. Why does everybody disagree with this? The other moms I know, they all SAH or they WOH but want to SAH. That includes moms from a working moms group I attend - most of them work only 2 or 3 days a week. That wouldn’t cut it for me. I just don’t understand how we would be better off if I were at home. My little guy knows I love him, and he knows his Dad loves him, plus he’s got this great aunt-type figure in his life, and she loves him too. How is it bad for him to have three loving adults instead of just two? I remember going to daycare when I was little, and I loved the woman that cared for us then. I still feel warm fuzzies when I think of her. She wasn’t my mom, and that was ok – she was another adult I could trust. So what’s with all the people who say it’s “best” if one of the parents can stay at home, how it’s so much “better” for the child’s development? My son’s doing just fine, thank you, better probably than he would if I were home.

(And before anyone says it, I’m fully aware that at least some of this is in my head. I really need to stop caring about what other people think. I just find it so discouraging that so many people seem to think my choice in life is wrong. And whatever will they think when I have another baby? I’ll be a truly awful mother if I work then.)

You are exactly right here the thing you aren’t realizing is that you are only hearing the people who disagree with your choices. No one comes up and pats you on the back for doing what they think is right, they just silently agree and go on with their lives. It’s only those who think they know better and have something to teach us that speak up. So for every person that dares to openly discuss your lifestyle choices consider that there are 9 more keeping silent and at least 5 of those either agree with you or don’t care.

ETA: I worked from the time both my son was 2 months and my daughter was 6 weeks old and they’re amazing young adults. I think they gained more from having a sane and fulfilled mother than they would have from one more verse of ring around the rosie.

I was raised by a working mom. My father makes a lot of money and there was never a financial need for her to work-- but staying home made her crazy. She did it for six months with me, before getting a nanny. With my sister she took 6 weeks maternity leave and that was it. This was 30+ years ago, so she got a lot of guff for it. I loved my nanny to bits, and I always thought it was an awesome thing that I got this extra person in my life to have a close relationship with. Children can’t have too much love. I never felt for a second my mother loved me less.

As a bonus, I got a mother who was happy and satisfied, who had interests and a life of her own. She would have been miserable at home, and that wouldn’t have made for the best relationship for us. My sister and I were encouraged to go out in the world and make whatever life we wanted for ourselves, and that never even needed to be said. She led by example.

And it turns out I’m just like her. I have friends who are SAHM’s and very happy at it. My husband, god bless him, is practically chomping at the bit to be a stay at home dad. I am more than happy being the breadwinner, but my kids would be fine in daycare, too, if he needed/wanted to work. God knows I’m not staying home.

(It might be genetic. My grandmother was fired from her job for getting pregnant with my mother-- told to ‘go home and take care of your husband’. She was angry about that for the rest of her life, but that was life in the '50’s. She did a huge amount of charity work and whatnot to try and fill the void.)

My wife isn’t particularly the perfect mother for babies and toddlers, while many of our friends tell us that I would have made a great SAHD, had my wife’s income been enough to live on just hers alone. My wife would have gone crazy if she had been forced into the stay at home role. It’s not that she isn’t a great mother or doesn’t love our kids, it’s just that with her temperament, she clearly will be the super mother as the children get past toddler stage. As our daughter turns four, I can see how they are fitting better. Not that she was a terrible mother, just she’ll make a better one.

Not everyone is cut out for the stay at home stuff. It’s actually a fairly recent phenomenon, as mothers used to have to work hard on farms or household duties. It’s not like the majority of mothers in the 1800s had hours and hours a day of taking the babies to the park.

Anthropologists point out that with primitive tribes, most of the child raising is done by older siblings.

I wouldn’t waste another thought. I would much rather have a happy mother working full time than a miserable one watching the kid.

I’m a working mom.

I learned that 1) I didn’t NEED to justify myself to others and 2) that it helped if I could.

My justification for being a working mom was twofold…

  1. I was really unhappy when I stayed home with my kids - I found it draining. Working lets my kids have an energized mom who enjoys them evenings and weekends, and they spend days with people who chose kids as their career, and are energized by them.

  2. People value different things - I value security, in particular, financial security. When my kids were really little my husband almost lost his job. He was put in a different position before the layoff occurred, but it changed the way I viewed my job. My kids (cross my fingers) are much less likely to have the stress of parents who don’t know how the mortgage is getting paid this month. In the last five years, as I’ve watched my kids’ friends move in with grandparents or to grandma’s cabin when they lost their homes, I believe I made a good decision.

I don’t tell people these things. I smile and nod and say “oh, I’d have been a LOUSY stay at home mom - that is really a talent.”

(Often, the same nosy people - usually coworkers, though an acquaintance or two as well - are the ones asking a few years later how we’ve managed to pay off the mortgage, save for college, build a stock portfolio, not have a car loan, while taking the kids to Hawaii…gee…I wonder…and I have smiled at some of them and said “two incomes.”)

This is one arena where everyone is incredibly sensitive, because everyone has such an incredible emotional investment in their kids. This seems to lead to women assuming that if someone makes a different choice than they made, that means she’s criticizing their choice as wrong.

I stayed home with my kids; I was actually really surprised that I enjoyed it so much. I’d assumed that I’d be going nuts after a few months, but I didn’t. I always said that if I’d had a really fulfilling occupation to go back to, I probably would have felt differently. My own mother was miserable staying home and she became much happier after she went back to work when I was eight. If she’d had the chance to go back to work full-time earlier, I think she (and my brother and I) would have probably been better off. I feel like I learned a whole lot from having a mother who worked outside the home - but when I stayed home with my kids, she told me she felt bad that I missed out on the experience I was giving them!

It’s great that you have a job that you love, and that’s going to make a difference in your interaction with your son. As long as you have good daycare, your child will benefit in many ways from having a mother who’s happy in her professional life, and that will teach him lessons he’d never learn from having a mom who was unhappy staying at home. You’re making the right decision for your family, and that’s what matters.

Oh, I’m so sorry.

I had a similar reaction to motherhood. People (including my mother-in-law) kept telling me “Oh, wasn’t it worth it when you saw that sweet baby?” and I was all NO. NO IT WAS NOT. And then I would feel horrible because I was clearly the worst mom in the world. The best thing I was ever told was by a friend who said to me, “Yeah. When my son was that age [one month], I didn’t think I wanted to keep him either.” Knowing it was okay to feel that way… that was huge for me. (And now I think the Little One is terrific!)

After three months I went back to my job, which I thought would be hard, and it was, but it was also such a relief. I really like my job, much more than I do staying at home with the Little One (I like it for about a week, then we both get stir-crazy). We found a nanny and a preschool who have been wonderful with the Little One. She’s now 2.5 years, bright as a whip, and the combination has been really good for her – her caregivers emphasize things like physical activity and art that I would never think to do if I were a SAHM (not being into PE or Art myself), and since they are way more experienced at parenting than I am, they have lots of useful pieces of information. For example, if I’d been a SAHM, her whining period would have lasted much longer than it did; our nanny gently pointed out what I was doing wrong, and the whining stopped almost immediately.

The difference between you and me is that although I do live in something of a culture of SAHM-hood (especially my church), there are enough working mothers at my workplace, and especially enough friends I have from my high school/college days who work full-time, that I can look at them and say, hey, their kids (and yes, many of them have more than one) are turning out really really well. And I look at my friends whose mothers worked, and they all turned out super-well, and all of them were quite proud that their mothers worked. So I never felt that much guilt about it after those first awful couple of months.

But anyway, I’m so, so glad that you didn’t let what other people thought railroad you into making a choice that was wrong for you. A path can be right for you and wrong for someone else, and vice versa. (On preview: what InternetLegend said.)

You feel guilty because mothers are supposed to put aside all personal concerns and dedicate their entire life to serving their children. I heard this on TV somewhere, so it must be true.

I wish my mother had gotten a job: she’s a teacher by training and vocation (unlike many Spanish women her age, who became teachers because that or nursing were “the women’s careers”) and, since she didn’t have a class of kids to pedagogize* and who would time and again prove that what she’d been taught wasn’t The Only Way, she pedagogized us. I could have used less pedagogy…

  • is too a word. Hereby defined as “those actions whose goal is to turn individual children into Lego ones”

My mom wasn’t a teacher, and had a job, and still managed to pedagogize us on a regular basis. I think pedagoguery is an independent trait.

Well, yeah, like I said in her case it’s vocational, but at least it would have gotten spread out, you know? Her need to pedagogize would have been solved greatly by having forty-some ordained victims per year, thus leaving less pedagogizing for us three.

I’m currently 6 months into my second 12 month maternity leave; I returned to part-time work after #1 when she was 11 months, and was in full time work by 15 months. We each worked from home for a day, and we used a combination of nanny and daycare for the other days. The plan is to do the same this time around as well.

In my experience, the first 9 months was the hardest; particularly the first 8 weeks and 7-11 months until she learned to walk. Post 15 months or so she became much less physically intensive (co-incidentally I weaned her from breastfeeding at that time so we could try IVF again for #2), and the role changed to guiding and teaching, rather than sustaining. Knowing that, this time around it’s all been easier so far. Sounds like you had a rougher time than me both times, as I’ve been blessed with good sleepers; knowing other mums who haven’t, I know life is much harder if that doesn’t work well.

I enjoyed returning to work; I sometimes commented that if I wanted to stare at a spot on the wall for 8 hours I could do so - there’s just not that option when you are parenting. But I enjoyed being busy at work for me - I felt I was stretching my brain again, contributing financially again, and for the 3 days she wasn’t with us, #1 loved her nanny and daycare and really had the best of both worlds. My responsibility was to place her in the best and most stimulating environment for her growth and development, and I think that’s what she has.

I often felt I had more energy and interesting things to do with her when I came home after a day of having my mind on the work track, moreso than the long days where I had her care all to myself. I also looked forward to the days when she was with me in a way which I wouldn’t have if everyday was groundhog day.

Importantly for me, they girls are being given a model of a strong, fair partnership where both parents contribute to the running of the house though shared parenting, work and care of the house. Neither of us is the ‘boss’ of anything. I think that’s a really good lesson to be learning. And the other side of the coin is that if anything happens to Boy From Mars, I’ve got the career still on track to look after us.

Someone else commented that you’re not hearing from the people who think you’re doing a good job, and I think that’s right. All of the 12 mums in my mum’s group (we are grouped together by our state maternal health system for 3 years) went back to work during the first year so that was our ‘norm’ and it’s been a wonderful support network. I know other people who were the only working mother in their group, and there was a lot more judgement there.

My mantra is that parenting is like flying - when the oxygen masks fall, you need to put your own mask on before fitting those of the kids. You should be free to decide what your oxygen is, but it’s critical that you get it.

I bet you’re doing a great job, and if it’s what works for your family than stop worrying about what anyone else thinks.

For a variety of reasons I’m not going to list here, I had to go back to work when my daughter was 3 weeks old. We were fortunate to have found a wonderful daycare, and altho I felt like the worst mommy in the world when I left her that first day, I got over it.

My baby is now nearly 27, a teacher, and a pretty decent adult. And honestly, I don’t think I could have done the SAHM thing. Heck, just a year after retiring, I’m going crazy - I miss the stimulation of a challenging career - taking care of the house just doesn’t do it for me.

So to echo everyone else, who cares what others think - you know what’s right for your family so go for it!

I am right there with you, only I’ve never really felt guilty. I love my job, I love that I have somewhere to go every day that is intellectually stimulating and interesting to me, and I think my daughter will grow up seeing a strong, educated, hard-working female role model and will hopefully learn well from my example. I would do terribly at home, and I know it.

If you had decided to stay home you would be guilted by people for that too. I get shit from strangers and well meaning family all the time about staying at home with my daughter. People who feel like my family prioritizing other stuff over money means we just don’t get it comment about how sad we will be when we can’t take her to Disneyworld next year or how difficult it must be knowing we aren’t putting much in savings right now. Both of those things are true, but for us it has been worth it.

Having me at home means we eat home cooked meals 98% of the time instead of the masses of take-out we used to eat. It means that when my husband gets home from work we aren’t having to rush to the grocery store and throw in a load of laundry while arguing over who will walk the dog and who will bathe the baby because all of that was already done, so we can cuddle up and watch a movie when the baby goes to bed. I am able to schedule at least one day a week to take the baby to the zoo, museum, park, etc. so she gets plenty of time out exploring the world. It won’t be like this forever and I will eventually be working outside the home again but for now it is absolutely the best decision for us. It doesn’t stop those people who feel like we are wrong from telling us exactly how we are harming our baby though.

When you find yourself in a pleasing groove, finding your stride, and feeling exhilarated by life, it’s almost always better to not pick it apart, examine it too closely, needlessly try to delineate or define it.

When people emit their issues, or misguided guilt, around you, simply remind yourself, your path is your path! It’s not supposed to look, or feel, like theirs does, to them.

When people ask leading questions, “Don’t you feel…”, tell them you’ve been pleasantly surprised that it suits you, and you’re quite enjoying it! That’ll shut them up!

As all new parents are forced to face - life’s messy. When you’re doing it right, it’s a beautiful mess. Life expects nothing more of you than ‘Enjoy The Ride!’, and it sounds like you’re on the right track! Keep up the good work!

Welcome to motherhood: nothing you ever do will be right again. :slight_smile:

I could relate with stories about my experiences both as a single working mom, a married working mom and a SAHM (yeah, I’ve done a lot of different stuff). But the most important thing I can impart to you is this: you gotta cut that shit out. Seriously, cut it out. There are plenty of people that will try to make you feel somehow inferior or incompetent when it comes to the choices you make and the loudest one doesn’t need to come from inside your head. So, in the great words of Dr. Bob Newhart: “STOP IT!” and do what you love and know that there are a million ways to raise kids and doing what you feel is best **is **best for you.

This is so true. My mother and grandmothers were at home, but they weren’t giving their children 100% of their attention all day. They were helping with the farm work, making lunch and bringing it out to the field, gardening, canning, etc. I know a few SAHMs who do those kinds of things now, but not many.

Not going back to work wasn’t really an option for me. For about the first 9 months of my daughter’s life, I really resented that. I wanted to stay home with her. Eventually we fell into a good rhythm and I am now very happy with our lifestyle. I no longer feel guilty for being a working mom. Honestly, I’d be a terrible SAHM. And even though I’m not making a huge amount of money, I like what I do and I feel good about myself when I am working. I think that’s what it comes down to, really. No matter if you’re staying home or working, if you’re doing something you hate because that’s someone else’s idea of how you are supposed to parent, that’s not going to be good for you or your children. I know there is a lot of pressure these days for moms to give up everything for their kids and it’s hard when others make you feel bad for not doing that.

Isn’t this a 1950s issue? The only moms I know who aren’t working are the ones who were laid off. Seriously, though, I’ve heard the occasional at-home mom say she gets grief for that, but not the other way around. :confused:

Everyone already covered the salient points, so I’ll just take this opportunity to tell you that you’re not allowed to post about your baby without including pictures. I’m pretty sure that’s in the user registration agreement.


My sister was a SAHM and, at the time, had a hugely wealthy husband, an au pair, and a housekeeper. If I had been a SAHM, it would have been a different story of scrimping and pinching and belt-tightening. I probably could have been a SAHM if I’d had my sister’s resources, but not so much with what I did have.

There are still times when I wish I was home more, and still times when I am so glad to get to work and be among grown-ups. It’s such an ebb and flow, and I imagine it will be forever.