stay at home mom guilt vs. working mom guilt

When Mom Guilt Gets the Best of Us

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Working mom guilt. Stay-at-home mom guilt. Are we screwed either way we choose?

For nearly nine years, working-mom guilt consumed me.

“If I could just quit my job. It would solve everything.”

That thought ran through my mind morning, noon and night. Finally, after years of obsessing, it happened. I became a stay-at-home mom. These days, I’m free from my ties to a stressful corporate job. I’m able to focus on life at home without the pull of meetings, travel, sales goals, and deadlines.

So now that I’m a stay-at-home mom, why do I still feel guilty? 

It seems we always feel mom guilt on some level, no matter what we choose.

Working mom vs. stay-at-home mom. What’s a mom supposed to do?

Now that I’ve experienced parenting from both angles, I can speak to the pros and cons of both.

Here’s what I know without a doubt:

Whether you’re a working mom or a stay-at-home mom, it’s easy to find that you feel guilty for something.

Managing the Working Mom Guilt

While trying to balance motherhood and my career, I felt guilty all the time.

Guilty for rushing my daughter out the door each morning. Guilty for taking her to daycare.

Guilty when I picked her up after 5 p.m.

Guilty for not always staying home with her when she was sick. Guilty for missing work when I did.

I also felt anxious and overwhelmed. I remember the underlying stress I felt leaving work early to attend school parties and programs. 

And I let’s talk about how inept I felt when I forgot to pack her swimsuit for Water Wednesdays, send the party snacks I signed up for, or when I hastily grabbed McDonald’s for dinner because it was easier.

I dreaded helping with math homework, because I was so drained after a stressful day at work, and my patience was worn thin.

As a working mom, I sucked at balance. 

There wasn’t a meal planner or cleaning schedule on the planet that solved my problem of being spread too thin. 

I envied stay-at-home moms. Or, put a better way,  I was flat-out jealous.

From my point-of-view, stay-at-home moms had it made. No pressure from a stressful job. No struggling and juggling between the office and home.

Plus, they didn’t even have to wear real pants!

I worked for so long because I couldn’t walk away.

You see, by the time I had my daughter, I had built a solid career, worked for a great company and earned a very healthy income and outstanding benefits that we relied on. 

So as the years passed, I never thought I would have the opportunity to be a stay-at-home mom.

I felt resentful. And stuck.

But then as my daughter entered third grade, my husband took a promotion that moved us to a new town and allowed me to transition to the role of “stay-at-home mom.” 

Two years later, I’m still a stay-at-home mom. I love it for many reasons.

But I’ve also learned an important lesson: 

Mom guilt still gets me.

I still experience guilt. It’s just a different kind of guilt.

Dealing with Stay-At-Home Mom Guilt

Yes, it’s true, I wanted this chance to stay at home more than anything. 

Now that I have it, I question it. Quite often, I am working through feelings of guilt.

I Feel Guilty About Family Finances

I feel guilty that I don’t bring home an income anymore. Especially since my education, work experience and skills could command a very nice income.

I think about what that kind of income could do for our family. 

We’re doing fine as we are. But who can’t benefit from more money?

I think about how I’m not making money when the garage door spring breaks. Or the refrigerator stops working. I think about money when we sign our daughter up for activities and summer camps.

My husband and I want to travel more. We want to take our daughter to see the beautiful places and things in the vast world.

Guess what? All of those things cost money. 

There’s more: Money can provide experiences for us, but it can also do good things for people in need. We could give more. Help more.

Money is an amazing resource for making a positive difference in others’ lives.

I feel a lot of guilt because one income is a very different financial picture than having two. 

I’m grateful that we have this option; for me to stay home. 

But it’s definitely been eye-opening. It takes much more planning and organization to manage one income vs. two. 

It takes sacrifices and sometimes, honestly, that’s hard. 

Recently, I read an article from a stay-at-home mom in which she said she didn’t miss the money. She said money didn’t buy happiness. 

I agree. Money doesn’t buy happiness. But money sure as hell can make life a bit easier. 

Money gives you more options. It gives you choices and affords you more experiences and opportunities.

The fact is, I miss making money. I can still be happy with less, sure. But let’s be honest, having more money helps. 

I Feel Guilty for Not Doing More

From a productivity standpoint, I feel like I should be doing more. Here’s the ugly truth:

Now that I’m not working, my house isn’t any cleaner, I’m not more organized, and I’m definitely not killing it with healthy after-school snacks and organic, non-processed, well-balanced meals.

I still suck at meal planning and I’m always running back to the grocery store for something I forgot.

And I still hate helping with math homework. Sorry. 

When people ask me, “what do you do?” Or “where do you work?” I hesitate and stammer.

I feel small. Because my answers are “nothing” and “nowhere.”

And for a woman that used to totally support herself, that bought two houses on her own before getting married, that got things done, this feels deflating.

Here’s another truth: Stating that “I’m a stay-at-home-mom” feels silly to me since my daughter is eleven and in school, and I have nearly 7 hours a day to fill.

It Feels Like I’m Losing My Identity

Who am I? I’m a mom. I’m a wife. I know I’m more than those two things, but sometimes, I can’t put what that is into words.

Sometimes, I’m not sure who I am.

What am I doing with my life? I really don’t know.

 I was career-oriented for so long that I’m still not sure who I am without a career.

 I’m out of the game, and sometimes, without a work identity, I feel a little lost. A little insignificant.

I Feel Guilty Because Now I Have What I Wanted

Here’s another truth. I’ve wanted this freedom for a long time. And now that I have it. I feel guilty about it. 

I wanted to be able to drop my daughter off and school and pick her up at school and head to lessons, run errands or just hang out with her. 

I wanted the time to be able to construct my day in a way that empowered me and aligned with my desires. 

I wanted the space and time to write and create.

I have it now. And now that I do, I feel guilty that I have it.

To add on, now I feel guilty that I’ve been squandering it because I’ve had a hard time giving myself permission to start a blog, write, and try new and scary things.

I’ve wasted time being stuck and scared.

Working Mom? Stay-at-Home Mom? What’s a Mom Supposed to Do?

Do I have the answers? No.

But I have some final thoughts. Here’s where I’m at with all it.

When I was a working mom, I had to make sacrifices, necessary ones, to juggle both a career and motherhood.

Now, I’m sacrificing other things:  the money, the independence, the accomplishments on a professional level, a bit of identity.

The bottom line is yes, I feel guilty either way. I’m guessing I”m not alone.

As a mom, there will always be crap to feel guilty about!

Want to Hear My New Strategy?

Let go of the mom guilt.

Let go of the mom guilt no matter what your choices look like. Let it go regardless of your circumstances.

I know, that’s so much easier said than done. 

But, just try.

That’s what I’m going to do. I’m going to try. 

I’m going to remind myself that I’m doing my best. I’m going to keep moving forward. I”m going to show up for my daughter and my husband. I”m also going to show up for myself and try to remember to stop feeling guilty.

I want to remind you to try, too. Just try to let the mom guilt go. You know you’re doing your best, regardless of whether you work or stay home.

Forget about other opinions. Forget about the shoulda’s and the coulda’s. Those are sucking your precious moments with your people.

Just try to find gratitude in each day because the days really do fly by. Don’t waste these precious days feeling guilty. 

Instead, live them to the fullest, as much as possible, by letting go of guilt as much as you can.

Overcoming Mom Guilt
Overcoming Mom Guilt
Overcoming Mom Guilt

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One Comment

  1. pat collins says:

    I am a 82 years old widow. My husband and I were married 60 years and raised 4 wonderful children. Three daughter and one son who passed away with leukemia at 21 years old. I still have that mother guilt because of the mistakes we made. We married very young and the early years were hard on the girls and they have told me about the arguments they heard us having. So my husband didn’t hear their memories, but I have and at 82 I have a lot of guilt. I don’t remember all the arguments but the girls do. So even at 82 a mothers guilt lives on. They have all married. One that I live with was widowed 3 years ago. They all have and the one widowed had wonderful marriages and attend church regularly. They all 3 have grandchildren. One is a minister so even thro we made mistakes they are good daughters and good people. So why do I have this guilt?

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