‘Is this the time they fire me?’ I see you practicing your speech for your boss on why you have to leave early AGAIN. I see you racing home to MAYBE make it in time.’: Mom details the guilt of being a working parent

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“I have been struggling to write on this subject for some time now. I’ve talked to different friends to try to understand their feelings. I’ve read endless social media statuses online, and I see the pictures they’ve posted. There seems to be a mom ‘taboo’ no one wants to talk about. Something moms are scared to whisper out loud even to themselves in fear of being condemned, yet they all silently struggle.

MOM GUILT. I see you.

I have been both a working mom and a stay-at-home mom. I have seen and felt both sides of the guilt, and even to this day, it plagues me. But WHY? Why do we feel this way? I became a single mom at the age of 19. The ‘hustle’ as people call it, started then. I was determined to succeed, beat the statistics, and achieve ALL of my goals both as a mom and as a career woman. Oh, what lofty goals young me had! I was going to do it ALL! Then reality hit, and it hit hard. For women, moms in particular, we are held to a gross double standard. Expectations that are JUST outside of our reach. We are told ‘You can be whatever you want to be! You don’t have to live in a 1950’s mindset! You can be a CEO!’ WOO! This was my dream! I was going to work my way up the corporate ladder, become a leader of a large corporation, and my kids and I would all live happily ever after!

What they don’t tell you, lurking right there beneath the surface, is the pit in your stomach you feel when you get a notice about a 6 p.m. conference on the day of your kids practice or activity, the panic you feel when your kids school calls and asks you to pick them up because they are sick and you don’t want your bosses to be upset, the anxiety that overcomes you when schools plan ‘Muffin’s With Mom’ and you have deadlines, and the GUILT that seeps deep into your mind when you log onto social media and see moms at the park, moms at the PTA luncheons, and moms chatting casually in the pick-up line. I see you, mamma. I see you crying in the bathroom at work. I see you sitting in your car in the parking lot composing yourself for just a few more minutes. I see you racing home to MAYBE make it in time. I see you practicing your speech for your boss on why you have to leave early AGAIN, hoping you won’t get fired. I SEE YOU, MAMA!

I received my degree in Construction Management. All throughout college, I was always one of the very few females in any of my classes. I was always looked at oddly. No one could ever figure out why I chose that major. The way they talked and interacted with me was vastly different than my male peers. No one ever really wanted to be paired with me for group projects or presentations. But, I knew what I was getting into when I chose that path. I knew I would always be the minority in my field and I would have to work a little bit harder to prove I had a right to be in the same room as everyone else.

When I started working in my first post-college job is when the mom guilt truly sank in. It comes from having to feel like you have to do it ALL. Two full-time jobs. You have to be a successful businesswoman, and you have to be the perfect Pinterest mom. There is no in-between. When one is taking up more of your time, the other is suffering. I have sat in conference meetings full of men as knots built up in my stomach when they said, ‘we’re going to have to extend this meeting.’ And they call for someone to order in dinner. Lumps slowly formed in my throat as I found a way to be the only one to have to excuse myself so I can pick up my child from daycare or be at a game I swore I wouldn’t miss. Then I would watch a sea of head shakes, eyes cast down, and eyebrows raise as I collected my things and fumbled my way through an excuse of why I had to leave. The whole way home I would cry, ‘Is this the time they fire me?’ ‘I’m expendable. No one else has to leave, they could just replace me for someone who doesn’t have the obligation of children like I do.’ The. Obligation. Of. Children. I repeated over and over in my head driving home one night. I was heading home exactly 14 hours after I left the house that day. I didn’t see my kids off to school, I wasn’t there when they got home, I wasn’t there to do schoolwork, and they would be long asleep before I ever got home, just to do it all over again the next day. I sobbed more. WHY do I feel like they are ‘an obligation?’ Why do I feel like they are ‘a burden?’ Why do I feel like LESS of a professional because of them? These children which I prayed for, worshipped and lived my very existence for. WHY do I feel this way? How could I even think those thoughts? They would understand when they are older, right? They would understand why I worked so hard, right?

MOM GUILT. I see you.

It preys on your every emotion, your every vulnerability. I see you struggling, mama. In my later 20’s I landed a job with a company I had only dreamed of working at. I was meeting and having the opportunity to work with people I never in a million years thought I would have the chance to work with. It was a fast-paced project with lots of deadlines. About a year into the project I found out my husband and I were expecting our 4th child. Instead of the excitement and joy I normally felt, a shameful amount of fear and anxiety set it. I was working with an all-male team on a highly coveted project. I made the gut-wrenching decision to quit the project, and subsequently the company, BEFORE anyone could find out I was pregnant. I lied and came up with an excuse why I suddenly had to quit, much to everyone’s extreme shock and attempt to talk me out of something to insanely crazy. ‘You’re giving up an opportunity of a lifetime’ is something I was told quite often. And trust me, I felt it. I gave my notice I would be leaving in a month. A month of concealing the most precious and exciting part of my life.

I confided in one close female friend on another project. We sat in my car that afternoon and cried together as I opened up to her. I told her I knew if the team found out and the company had to offer me mandatory maternal leave during THIS project, I would never be offered another project with this company again. I KNEW they would never offer me another project again because there were other, well-qualified males, who wouldn’t ever have to take maternal leave.  As I pulled out of the parking lot on my last day, an overwhelming wave of failure washed over me. I sacrificed a careera I had worked for, because of the stigma and prejudice that is shown to working mothers. Whether society likes to address it or not.

MOM GUILT. I see you.

Fast forward a few years, and I have been blessed with 4 beautiful, wonderful children! It has been an incredible change of pace for everyone in our family! For one of the first times in my oldest child’s life, his mom takes him to school, and I am chatting with the moms in the pick-up line waiting for them after school. I am at all the practices, I am team mom on my both my daughter’s softball teams, I’m the ‘class mom’ in my son’s class, and I get to do Pinterest-mom worthy summer crafts with them. I am everything I always envied about stay-at-home-moms.

It was all a dream until the sneaky little friend came back upon us…the MOM GUILT. Being a stay-at-home mom isn’t this Stepford Wife vision people have in their heads. I see the working mom at school events in their perfectly planned outfit and designer heels while I try to remember when I showered last. I see the working-moms on social media completing these awesome projects, I see the working-moms on work trips with friends all over the county toasting some fruity drink to their achievement (Have I even seen another adult this week? I’ll take a ‘what is a friend; for 500 Alex!’), I see the working-mom obtaining success even if you don’t feel like you are. I see you guilt-stricken by the thought of ‘this isn’t enough’ and at the same time a resounding desire to be there for your kids. I can feel the sense of failure other people look down on you for staying at home. I can understand the shame you feel when you politely congratulate a friend or neighbor on their success story. I see you when you have locked yourself in the bathroom or closet for just a few minutes to yourself. I see you with tear-stained cheeks wondering if you will ever know what it feels like to be your OWN YOU. I see you, tired and emotionally drained from a job that gives you little praise or acknowledgment. I see you, feeling ashamed to even be feeling this way because society has made you feel like it ISN’T OKAY. If you feel this way, OBVIOUSLY, you aren’t being appreciative or grateful for your children. I see you, mama.

MOM GUILT. I see you.

Mamas, whether working or at home. I SEE YOU. Truly, I SEE you. I understand the strife the world unfairly puts on us. The little voice inside of you that makes you feel GUILTY for your choices. GUILTY for making a career and name for yourself, GUILTY for staying at home and raising your children. Understand and hear me when I say BOTH of those choices are worthy of praise and acknowledgment, both of those choices are not without sacrifices. You ARE worthy.

I see you, MOM GUILT. I see you.”

Courtesy Alexandra Giovanelli

This story was submitted to Love What Matters by Alexandra Giovanelli. Do you have a similar experience? We’d like to hear your important journey. Submit your own story here. Be sure to subscribe to our free email newsletter for our best stories, and YouTube for our best videos.

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