The Guilt of the Working Mother (Guest Post)

One thing’s for sure in parenting: There’s no perfect way to raise your family.

Full-time, part-time, flex-time… however your time is stitched together, it’s never perfect. Perfect is really just a figment of our imaginations. Life’s more about living into our choices, and looking for ways to soften the hard edges.

My friend Bridget works in the semiconductor industry in Ireland. She’s had a year off with her beautiful daughter Isobel (we’re all jealous of the European year off, aren’t we?!?). But as you’ll see, even after a long maternity leave, the tearing-at-your-heart about what’s best for your child is still the same.

BridgetAndIsobel

The Guilt of the Working Mother 

By Isobel’s Mom, Bridget

There’s a dark grey cloud looming overhead. I try to pretend it’s not really there, but it just won’t go away. It follows me around most of the day. A gloomy, depressing, miserable cloud. Something is tormenting me. Tugging at my heart. Making me feel sad and lonely. After a 12 month break, I’m about to return to work. I’ll be returning to a job I love, colleagues whose company I enjoy and a warm friendly workplace atmosphere…. But I don’t want to go back.

I don’t want to go back at all.

On May 5, 2012 my husband and I welcomed our first-born beautiful baby daughter Isobel into the world, and I’ve spent every day since then at home caring for her with all the love in the world. It’s been the most joyous & special time of our lives.

But now my return to work is fast approaching – like a super-storm on the horizon – and I’m feeling so emotional about it.

There’s a knot in the pit of my stomach. I can almost feel my heart sink when I think about it. Tears well up in my eyes. I’m leaving my baby behind and I’m filled with guilt, worry, and loneliness. Guilt that someone else will be spending the day with Isobel and not me. Someone else will spend more waking hours with her than me…. (I’ve done the calculation).

Will Isobel miss me? Will she wonder where I am in the morning when she wakes up and “No Mama”?  And the most anxious question of all: Will she start to forget about me when I’m not home every day until 5.30 p.m. and someone else is caring for her?

I’ve obviously given lots of thought to NOT going back to work. Hubby & I have weighed up the pro’s and con’s and for now the decision rests to go back, give it time to settle into the new routine and see how it goes.

Who knows, maybe the time away from me will be good for Isobel as she becomes more social and used to other people. But at the end of the day, it doesn’t take away from the fact that while I’m at work (thinking about her), someone else will wipe away her tears when she cries, someone else will pick her up when she falls, someone else will play and have fun with her and someone else will change her dirty, smelly nappies, that I wish I could do every day.

For now, I’m going to treasure these last few weeks with her and hope and pray that the transition goes well and we both adapt.

For my little star Isobel, Mama loves you, even though she’s working and not at home with you every day. xxx

Isobel

***

Thank you so much for sharing your emotions with us, Bridget!! I’ve asked her to write a follow-up, and in the meantime, I’d love to hear your thoughts and experiences about finding the right family path in your house.

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7 responses to “The Guilt of the Working Mother (Guest Post)

  1. The short answer? It’s all hard. I’ve never worked full-time since my kids were born, but I’ve been home full-time, worked part-time from home and worked part-time in an office. My kids are now 5 and almost (gulp) 8.

    The longer answer? Going back to work was hard, but staying home full time was hard for me in a different way. I found that I needed at least some time doing something totally unrelated to parenting, some time out of the house in a work environment, in order to stay (relatively) sane. And it turned out that my kids absolutely loved their preschool and their babysitters. Plus, the best part of going to work (other than the paycheck) is the coming home — they’re happy to see me, I’m happy to see them, and I hope that maybe we all benefit from a chance to miss each other a little bit.

    Give it some time. It’s a big change and there will be ups and downs to it all. But just be kind to yourself about it and give it time to settle in.

    • I totally relate to your thoughts here, Cyndi, and as I read I’m thinking, “I’ve been waiting for someone to say this so eloquently!” I’m in the same boat–full-time with the kids is wonderful but hard in a way that leads me to really love the writing and editing I do even more.

  2. Working moms have their own set of guilt trips we lay on each other. You are not alone in your thoughts! I just cried and cried when I left my Punky that first day to go back to work. But, the more I work the more I came to see that it was good for me to work and the coming home to her is awesome. Everytime I open the door, her little eyes light up and she runs for me, she’s just so happy to see me. That part melts my heart.

  3. I cried the first time I left my first born at daycare at just 8 weeks old, and I’m already feeling a little sad about leaving my newest little guy to return to work again. I have great, smart mom friends who have chosen to stay at home with their little ones after finding that returning to work didn’t work for them. I love my boys with all my heart, and for me personally, I’ve come to find that I’m a better mom working. My favorite part of every work day is watching my son’s face light up when he sees me at the end of the day. I think we’re both happier to see each other after some time apart, and I love to hear him excitedly relate what he’s done all day. It’s comforting to drop him off at preschool, at church childcare, or with friends and family and know that he’s confident and comfortable because he knows I’ll always be back! Enjoy these last few weeks and know that Isobel’s heart will always belong to you. Best wishes!

  4. I want to reach out over the Internet and give you a hug Bridget. These decisions are so hard. I went back to work, then quit, and now I’m evaluating how and when to get back into working. Nothing is easy, except loving the little dumplings that complicate life and make it wonderful all at once. Best wishes with returning to work!

  5. Pingback: Bloggerhood Etc. 7/1/13 | Fatherhood Etc.

  6. Thank you all SO much for your heart warming comments and encouragement. It’s so touching to know that I’m not alone with these feelings. I promise to report back soon if Momsicle doesn’t mind me taking over her blog again!!! :-p
    With love from Ireland to all you wonderful moms out there, doing your best every day 🙂

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