Throughout the time I’ve been a mother, I’ve had to take jobs here and there to help our family’s merger finances. When I was an undergrad, I worked at my university’s writing center. I also did an internship in a neighboring city and eventually took another small writing job after that finished.
Basically, I didn’t work a lot, but I did have to spend time away from my son, hiring a babysitter to help me out. Let me just say, on a side note, that our babysitter was one of the best people I’ve ever known! My son loved her and was always happy when she came over. I mean, look at that little smile!
BUT, one of the hardest things about having to work as a mom is worrying about balancing your role as a mother with that of employee. I worried that every time I had to ask off of work to be with my son my coworkers and employers were thinking they could have hired someone better. Someone single. Someone without kids…
I loved my role as a mom. It wasn’t something I regretted, but the crippling fear and work guilt constantly plagued me on days when I would stay home with my sick baby.
When we moved to Alabama, our financial situation became the worst its ever been. We were staying with my sweet family to save money while we waited to hear back from the medical schools my husband applied to. We left Idaho with a little savings and the desire to make this gap year the best ever! Our grand plan was that my husband would get into the health or research field with his undergrad degree and earn some good money. I was planning to try and get pregnant with our second child so he or she would be born before medical school. I also planned to secure a work-from-home job either writing or editing to bring in money on the side.
Well…we did get pregnant, but after two months of applications and no nibbles, our job plans were falling apart, and our savings was dwindling into the double digits. We resorted to applying for jobs at Target, fast food, literally anything that would bring in some kind of income. My husband even went to temp agencies to find work, all with no luck. My nerves were fraying as I felt crushed by pressures from my family and bank account.
I ended up finding a part time job at a daycare where I could bring Matthias, our son, with me every day. It was a blessing of a job, alleviating my guilt of potentially having to leave my son every day, and my coworkers were kind and supportive. My husband ended up finding a job at a local Panda Express and donated plasma on the side to bring in extra money. Still, the pressure of our financial situation, which was improving at a painfully slow rate, made me paranoid about missing even one day of pay.
Eventually, as children do, my son got sick with a cold that was going around the daycare, and I took a few days off to be with him. I cherished holding him while he napped and worked through a fever. But even while I held him, I stressed.
I stressed about leaving my coworkers without help. I stressed about missing those days of pay. I stressed about what people would think of me, both for wanting to work and wanting to stay home. I stressed about feeling guilty for wanting to work. The spiral went on and on.
The world did not end. I did not lose my job, and our bank account did not explode. I returned to work the next week, my son healthy and happy once again, but I worried about the next time I would have to take work off to stay home with him.
Having a sick child is no fun. Feeling guilty is also no fun. So how can we overcome those horrible and intrusive thoughts and allow ourselves to be the mothers we want to be for our children, the mothers we probably imagined being long before our little ones came into our lives? What could I do to change my outlook and eliminate my own guilt?
For me, the first step in overcoming my self-imposed guilt was understanding the reality of my situation. At work, my coworkers took time off to be home with their children both young and older, and honestly, I thought no less of them. So why should I judge myself so harshly? Understanding how I viewed them helped me push away the inner voice telling me that my coworkers viewed me differently. They were moms, just like me, and they put their children first.
Another realization I came to was so many of us moms want society to respect our role as mothers and workers. I think if we are ever going to make that happen, we need to believe it ourselves first. We need to see our job as mothers as more important than our work in hopes that others will eventually too. Maybe not everyone will understand, but we have to stand up for our role regardless.
Admitting these feelings of guilt for staying home with my son has been hard, but I have found a lot of healing from finally facing and overcoming them. Matthias did get sick again with another cold, but when the time came for me to make a decision to stay home or not, I didn’t feel guilty for missing work. I enjoyed our time together and focused my energy on helping him feel better.
For you working mamas suffering from self-imposed guilt. I ask you to stop and try to reevaluate your situation. Are you hurting yourself with these feelings? Are you preventing yourself from being happy as a mother? What can YOU do to change your mindset?
I promise that ridding yourself of unnecessary guilt will improve not only your own mental health but also your relationship with your children.
Olivia Fisher is a small-town, library-going wife and mother. She graduated from Brigham Young University-Idaho in 2019 with a Bachelor of Arts in English. She is the mother of two boys, a two-year-old and a second son to be born in April. With a deep love for family and children, Olivia works to write children’s books that will inspire young readers. When she isn’t writing or reading, Olivia loves to create YouTube videos, spend time in nature with her family, and listen to her doctor-to-be husband nerd out about science.
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