A virtual friend’s status popped up one day on my Facebook news feed, “Does working mom guilt ever get easier?”. I scrolled through the comments where other women were chiming in, “nope, it doesn’t” or “you get better with coping with it.” I stared at the computer screen for a minute, wondering if I should weigh in. Do I chime in with the rest of them? Or do I be honest? I didn’t respond to the post. The truth is, I don’t have working mom guilt.
Long before I got pregnant, I would tell friends that I never thought I could be a stay at home mom full-time; I would need to work at least part-time. Most would swear that “once the baby comes, you’ll change your mind.” I knew how I worked up until that point in my life. I thrived by working on projects, collaborating with people, and having a measurable outcome. I have always had a “side project,” meaning if I was working full-time, I was also in school or serving on the board for a nonprofit or two. My mind was always engaged in one way or another, whether it was learning, or planning an event.
When I got pregnant with my son, my days didn’t slow down. I worked at a job that required me to travel within 75 miles from where I lived. I had 10-12 hour days without fail, up until I had to stop and go on bed rest about six weeks before I delivered. When I wasn’t traveling, I was still working well into the evening.
I had my son, and boy, did he change my world. He was perfect in every way. But the core of my being still wanted to be active; my brain needed to be stimulated. My husband swore I would return to work early because I would get bored around the house. I know, I know, how in the world could I get bored with a newborn, right? My son was like clockwork when he wanted to eat and sleep, even though he didn’t sleep through the night until well over a year old. Even being in the process of buying a house, I decided I was going to take the full 12 weeks of maternity leave. I owed my son, and myself, the time together.
When I did go back to work, and even now almost two years later, the question I get most is, “What do you do with him while you’re working?” I don’t know why this question bothers me. I’m honest and say I take him to an in-home sitter. It feels like it can be another way of pointing out that I am not the one home with him. Sometimes I get an even more prying question, “Do you miss him? They change so fast.” Of course, I miss my son, but I’m going to be home at 5 o’clock to see him. Please don’t try to guilt me or any other parent for wanting or needing to work.
What did change in regards to work was that I knew I could no longer keep up the 10-12 hour days. It wasn’t fair to my husband or my son. I set my boundaries, and I wanted to be home to spend the evening with my son and to put him to bed. I did have to switch jobs to achieve this goal, but, this never changed my desire to continue to work.
My drive didn’t diminish; it flourished. My creative outlet is work. I can work logistics on a new program or create a training program. I speak to groups of people about the mission of their organization, what it means to them, and why it’s essential. I troubleshoot when there is a client crisis. I love doing all of these things and I enjoy going to work. I don’t feel guilty about leaving my son at his sitter’s house. I also don’t believe this makes me love my son any less than someone else.
Now, our son is almost 2, and I’ve found myself wanting experiences outside of the role of my job. I’m working with a women’s growth group to understand myself, along with stretching myself professionally because I want more. The ambition to achieve goals and have outcomes is still there.
Many generations before us, mothers would stay home to rear children while the father would work to support the family. As generations passed, women went to work to either support their households or because it was financially necessary. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics in 2018, 63% of married couples with children had both parents employed. This statistic has changed very little, for in 2007, 62% of married couples with children had both parents employed.
I know there are many other women out there who feel the same, but don’t want the side-eye of another mom. Many other women have to work who would much rather be at home with their children. It’s okay to be on different sides. We all love our children, and we all want what is best for them no matter what. I hope my son sees his momma working hard for herself and him. I hope he is super proud.
Stephanie Enger-Moreland is a native of St. Louis, born and raised. She attended college at Maryville University (BA) and Lindenwood University (MA). Days are full as she divides her duties between her job as the Director of Volunteers & Special Events at a local food pantry and as wife to Chris, mom to a lively 2-year-old boy and “bonus” mom to two older daughters. If time allows, Stephanie devotes her time to various nonprofits who are dear to her heart. When she isn’t trying to figure out how to change the world, you can find her at home in Fenton catching up on all of her favorite Housewives or sitting back, watching the glorious chaos of home!