“Mommy, why don’t you ever come to eat lunch with me at the school?” “Mommy, why can’t you volunteer for all my field trips?” These are all questions working mothers have heard at least once, often many times. According to the US Department of Labor, 70% of mothers with children under the age of 18 work in some capacity, and 75% of those women are working full-time. Despite the overwhelming statistics that working mothers are a normal and necessary part of our society, we still feel a massive dose of guilt over missing all the little things.
But why is it that we have all of this guilt? And how can we work to reduce it? A huge factor in causing the guilt is that we live in a society that still pays women 79 cents to every dollar a man makes, and creates an unrealistic expectation that women are still in charge of the home. In reality, many mothers not only need to work in order to keep their households above water, they want to work. A generation raised celebrating “Girl Power” is now in the workforce, and not only are they getting jobs, they are building successful careers. Being a mother is one of the most important things many women choose to do in their lives, but they are coming into their own as people as well, and aren’t willing to martyr themselves on the altar of motherhood. Even those who have chosen the immensely challenging and rewarding world of being a stay-at-home parent are building themselves as people by finding hobbies and volunteer work that takes them away from the home.
If everybody seems to be making time for themselves, then why do we keep feeling guilty about it? Part of it is Internet trolls who like to cut down people with the slashes of their keyboards for fun, regardless of the consequences. In case you have forgotten this: do NOT believe everything you read on the Internet. If you are finding yourself drawn to a particular messaging board, mom-group or Facebook personality that is consistently making you feel down on yourself as a mother, don’t think twice before hitting that “block” button. Would you let somebody talk to you like that in person? No! Shut the negative opinions down for your own peace of mind.
Another part of it is our own insecurities. Whether we want to admit it or not, women absolutely want to do all of the things. We want to rip it in the boardroom, and still be able to make it to all of our kids’ school events, and bake a killer pie for the bake sale. The reality is that nobody is able to do everything. If you are following somebody who seems to be doing everything on social media, get it out of your head that they are being truthful to their followers. You can’t do it all; be kind to yourself. Turn this into your mantra. When your kids ask you those questions about why you can’t have lunch with them, explain that Mommy has an important job to do, but that you cherish the quality time at home you are able to spend with them. When they ask why you can’t volunteer for all their field trips, explain that you can’t do everything, and you would rather save those vacation days for going on a trip as a family to the beach, or for visiting Grandma and Grandpa during the summer. At the end of the day, know that you are teaching them that you are a real person with your own life and interests, and that you don’t exist just to take care of them. How you live your life will set the stage for the type of adult your children will turn into and, above all, what we all want is the absolute best for our children.