I never really considered my mom not being there. I don’t think school parties were a thing like they are today. Sure, we had them, but parents didn’t really attend. And when she was pouring over stacks of books instead of playing with me, well, that all makes perfect sense to me now, too. Barbies just aren’t that fun when you’re an adult.
It wasn’t just her–my aunt worked, grandma worked, other grandma worked … I never really thought about not working myself.
Then I sat across from a friend one day who was riddled with mom guilt. She was an over achiever for sure, who always took everything way farther than me. But she felt GUILTY. Her mom had done everything for the kids and not worked outside of the home. Now she found herself thinking everyday how she was missing big parts of her toddlers’ lives.
I tried to be as helpful as possible and mention how I don’t feel guilty for missing parts of my kids’ lives. In fact, I think it is good for them. I am not an early educator by any means, and although I do it sometimes, I don’t really enjoy chaperoning field trips. I told my friend she was breaking the cycle of mom guilt, and that’s very important. Her daughter could be like me and just consider the fact she has a working mom as normal. Then she will have a beautiful freedom and release; that ugly guilt won’t weigh her down if she wants to set off on a career because she won’t know any differently.
Frustratingly, not only did my friend try to do everything she could in her professional life, but she kept it all up at home with little help from her spouse. So, here’s some more good news: sons who are raised by working moms spend more time caring for their household and family. Daughters who are raised by working moms are more likely to be employed, make more money than their peers whose mothers were not employed, and spend less time on housework.
The attitudes these children have toward gender expectations and societal roles are influenced by their household. This is all very positive for both women who want to succeed in their career, and men who want to define new expectations and stay at home. That being said—as I continually saw the struggle of my friend, I began to think, unfortunately, she wasn’t living her happiest most natural life. I venture to say she didn’t really want to propel forward in her career. I think she wanted to be home.
I wish all parents could do what they want to do. Sometimes the words of encouragement and studies to back up the positive effects for children don’t feel like they matter when your heart wants to be home.
Remember when they all said parenting would be easy? Oh, right … I guess that’s literally never been said. Work isn’t easy and parenting isn’t easy, nor is balancing the two together. But what doesn’t help an ounce—is guilt. Guilt doesn’t change your present, past, or future. All it does is weigh down what could be a lighter, happier life.
Your decision to work doesn’t need a justification to anyone, and it is doing profound things in your kids’ minds and perceptions. So follow your heart, but don’t let guilt be your compass when making decisions in your professional life. Everyone is going to be okay. In fact, if science is any indication, they’ll be better than okay.