Working Mom Guilt & Encouragement – We’ve Been There, Too.

Being a working mom is hard.  Hard on many levels. It’s emotionally taxing to be away from your baby.  It’s physically hard from sleepless nights and stressful work days. It’s financially burdensome. And it’s incredibly guilt inducing. Working mom guilt is a real, tangible thing. You feel guilty for missing time with your baby. You feel guilty for not being the worker you were pre-baby. You feel guilty that the house is always a mess. The list goes on and on. That’s why I want to bring you some working mom encouragement.

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Being a working mom is demanding, but it can be rewarding, too.  Did you know that Harvard did a study in 2015 that found that children of working moms turned into more successful and caring adults than those raised by stay at home moms?  I’m not here to pit moms against each other (#teamboth), but I hope that study provides working mom encouragement to you if you are struggling today.

You may read the Harvard study and think that’s great for when my kid turns into an adult, but what about right now?  I get it. I’ve been there. I’m still there most days, to be honest. Working mom guilt is something you deal with no matter what age your child is. But, I remind myself of certain truths I have learned over the years and it does help to ease my anxiety about being away from my babies.  

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I remember when I went back to work after my first child and was deeply struggling with being away from her, I was repeatedly told “it will get better” by many well meaning individuals.  I didn’t believe it at the time, and even now two kids in I’m still not sure it’s gotten easier to leave them each day, but I–we–have gotten used to it.  My kids know that “Mommy always comes back” since I drill that into their heads every morning as I drop them off.

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Leaving them doesn’t cause me the anxiety and working mom guilt it once did, although I still feel like I’m leaving a piece of me behind while I go to work.  I do have days though where I’m actually glad to have alone time on my commute. That doesn’t make me a bad mom–just a tired one. On those days, picking them up feels so much sweeter because absence really does make the heart grow fonder.

If you are having a hard time today due to missing your babies, working mom guilt for missing out on special moments, stress from work, sad you don’t have time to work out anymore, or any other reason, I am glad you are here.  I want to give you working mom encouragement that many wise women gave me.

1. Your children know that you are mom.  Nothing can change that.

If you are struggling with the thought of another woman taking care of your child, or if you find yourself jealous of your nanny or daycare worker, remind yourself that your baby knows that you are his/her mother.  All of the time you spent holding and caring for your baby during maternity leave solidified your bond with your baby. She knows you alone are her mother from your touch, your smell, and the unique way you hold and nurture.  Nothing on this earth can change that.

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2. There is no such thing as too much love.

If your child does not want to leave daycare or cries when your nanny leaves, remind yourself it’s good they love their childcare. It can feel like a knife in the heart when you have worked all day long, yearned to hold your baby in your arms, and struggled with other feelings of working mom guilt, only for your bundle of love to immediately start crying when you are finally reunited. They may be sad to leave daycare or to see their nanny walk out the door.

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When your heart is aching in a situation like this, use your brain to remind yourself how good it is that your child loves his/her childcare provider. Just as you have been at work all day, they have spent their day in a certain environment–hopefully one they love. Making the transition from one place and person to another can be a little jarring to them.

Also consider how much worse would it be if they screamed every time you saw them in your childcare provider’s arms? How could you focus on work if you were worried that your baby wasn’t being taken care of well? It is a wonderful thing that your child has someone who loves cares for them, and that they have established their own bond together (separate from yours).  It’s also a great thing that you can trust they are taking loving care of your baby while you are at work. There is no such thing as too much love for a child (or anyone!).

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3. With that said, your baby won’t remember daycare.

Do you remember much about your early years and who cared for you?  Or is it mainly pictures, stories your parents have told you, and snippets of memories that you can recall?  Similarly, your baby won’t remember who took care of them while you were at work. They won’t even remember that you worked! 

As they get older, they will remember more and more, but mostly they will remember the fun they had. They will also remember the excitement they felt whenever you picked them up each day.  I was a daycare kid and I can still recall the sound of my mom’s keys as she approached my classroom–I knew it was her coming from the unique way her keys jangled!

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4. You are not alone.  Millions of moms have walked this working mom guilt path before you.

It can feel incredibly isolating being a working mom of a baby. This is especially true if none of your coworkers can relate or perhaps your own mom was a stay at home mom and can’t provide any words of wisdom.  In times like that remind yourself that over time, millions of moms have rejoined the workforce after having their babies.

Moms the world over can relate to every feeling you are experiencing.  You can also guarantee that somewhere another mom went back to work on the same day that you did and is walking this path alongside you. You will make it through this and adjust to this new rhythm of life. Hopefully you can help guide a new mom one day (maybe even your baby daughter!).

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5. Never quit on your worst day.

You are going to have many hard days as a mom.  The most important thing you can do on those days is to never quit.  When you want to throw in the towel, turn in your two weeks notice and never look back, pause.  Remind yourself why you work (financial stability? to provide your child with a good life? for your own sanity? to use your degrees you worked so hard for?) and never, ever, quit on your worst day.  It will get better. Take a moment to get your feelings out, then tell yourself that this too shall pass. You will get sleep again, you will be a good coworker again, you will get back to normal.

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Working Mom Quotes

“She never quite leaves her children at home, even when she doesn’t take them along.” – Margaret Culkin Banning

“There is no way to be a perfect mother, and a million ways to be a good one.” – Jill Churchill

“I think every working mom probably feels the same thing: You go through big chunks of time where you’re just thinking, ‘This is impossible — oh, this is impossible.’ And then you just keep going and keep going, and you sort of do the impossible.” – Tina Fey

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“This struggle is real. The juggle is real. That’s why everyone should hire working mothers. They are put in crazy situations all the time and are forced to problem-solve. They are some of my most resourceful employees.” – Sara Blakely

“A happy mother is a good mother, and if work makes you hum, your whole family sings along.” – Sharon Meers and Joanna Strober

“Successful mothers are not the ones that never struggled. They are the ones that never gave up, despite the struggles.” – Sharon Jaynes

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Shannon founded Work Breastfeed Mom in 2019 during her second round of pumping at work. She was tired of googling the same pumping questions over and over again, and discouraged at the lack of websites aimed at working breastfeeding moms. So, she created one herself. Shannon lives, works, and doles out Puffs to her little people in sunny Florida. She has her MBA and works as a strategic planner for a large healthcare system. She is passionate about coffee, memoirs, paddle boarding, and skincare routines. Shannon is mom to Scarlett and Ivy, and hopes to have more babies if her career allows.