Business woman using phone with son on sofa

The Many Dimensions of Mom Guilt When You’re a Working Mom

A year ago, I became a mom. I retired my red lipstick because I didn’t want to leave lipstick on my baby that I couldn’t stop kissing. I became the baby bouncing mom making mom friends. I started crafting and taking my son to library story time. I wasn’t sure I wanted to be a mom, but as soon as I saw my baby boy, I fell head over heels in love and into mom life.

I always said I would never give up my career for the sake of being a mom. I went back to work when my son was only six weeks old. I convinced myself that the career I loved kept me sane and kept a part of me separate from being a mom.

I kept telling myself it was good for my family, good for my son and good for my sanity, but still, the mom guilt set in.

Mom guilt is not something I ever thought I would struggle with. I mean, I was unapologetically me. I loved my career and grew up with two parents who worked long hours. I turned out fine, so why would my son be any different?

When I went back to work it hit me hard. Guilt about missing out on the majority of my son’s waking hours, guilt about taking time out of my workday to pump. Guilt about missing the first word, the first crawl, the first clapping. Guilt about getting to work at the last minute and leaving right at the end of my shift. Guilt about skipping out on girl nights to go home and spend time with my son. Guilt about going out with friends and missing out on my limited time with my son.

I really thought that those things would all balance out as I got better at being a working mom.

I wouldn’t be pumping forever, and my son would start napping less and being awake for longer hours that I could play with him. I would develop a rhythm that would allow me to see my friends but still spend time with my son. It would all balance out. But a year after becoming a mom, it hasn’t balanced out. If anything, the guilt has only gotten more pronounced.

Everyone keeps saying to cherish every moment because time goes by so fast and they grow up so fast. And everyone is right. I feel like I blinked and missed this past year. My snuggly little newborn wants to get into everything now and snuggles only slow him down.

Maybe I should be listening to everyone and loving every minute of the messes and noise and snuggles because sooner rather than later they will be over.

Enter more mom guilt. The initial mom guilt-inducing situations have gone, or I’ve gotten used to them. Now I feel guilty when my son is snuggled with me and I’m thinking of the million things that I need to do. I feel guilty when I let him play by himself so I can get something on my to-do list done. I feel guilty enjoying his super long naps because it means I can get a ton of things done. I feel guilty not checking work emails while I’m home with my son but feel guilty when I do.

Now that I’ve been a mom for a year, I’ve added another dimension to the mom guilt. I’ve remembered that I used to be someone with dreams and goals before I was a mom and that someone was pretty awesome. I had a full-time life prior to becoming a mom and now I’ve created a full-time mom life where my career is about all that resembles that previous life.

I miss me, or at least the pre-mom me. The problem is that fitting any of my pre-mom activities in requires taking time from somewhere which often means time I could spend with my son. Now I feel guilty when I’m reading a book instead of doing household things.

I reached the point where working instead of being with my son was pretty easy to justify. Now though I’m trying to justify non-work things that don’t involve my son. And every time I do one of those things, I get a constant stream running through my head about how my son is only little once, and the years fly by.

It’s even worse when my son doesn’t want me to leave.

I had a rare opportunity to leave my son with his grandmother while I spent an afternoon at a coffee shop and went to dinner with a friend (two of my favorite pre-mom activities that I almost never do anymore). I was excited to go and sure that my son would have fun with grandma. Then he saw me and crawled over and wanted to be held and snuggled and my heart melted. He didn’t want me to leave. Cue the mom guilt.

Despite the ever-present mom guilt, I will keep pushing forward. I know that there is more to me than just being a working mom. I know that having multiple dimensions to my personality and how I define myself makes me a better mom. I know there is a balance to be found, but it’s a work in progress. So, in the meantime, please quit reminding me that the years are short and I’m going to miss this stage because I already know all that.

This post originally appeared on My Favorite Job Title is Mom. It has been reprinted with permission.

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