By: Heather Desmond O’Neill

“Mama, I’m going to miss you … just one more hug, please???”

Ugh.  And guilt has kicked me in the stomach, again.

Being a working mom has its advantages and its disadvantages.  There are mornings when I want to wake them, hold them and smother them with kisses, and there are mornings when I sneak out of the house and push my car into the street before starting it so as not to wake a soul.

I returned to work when my first-born was 6 months old. In those early mornings I would tiptoe into his room, rest my hand on his back, and wish him to stir so that I could hold him close and snuggle before heading off for the day.  There were mornings when my heart ached as I left the house, feeling an emptiness that I never knew I could.  I could not wait to get home and waste away the afternoon staring into his eyes and nuzzling with him on the couch.

When baby #2 arrived, I still felt the same, but somewhat enjoyed getting out of the house to go to work.  I would still go in and rest my hand on their backs, but instead of wishing them awake, I would wish them to sleep because dealing with the cries of a newborn, or the pleas of a toddler for extra hugs and kisses were pure torture.  And with the addition of baby#2, I learned there was no such thing as “wasting away an afternoon.”  Every second is accounted for; feedings, diaper changes, story-time, potty training, trying not to neglect the older sibling…all the important stuff.  Heading back to work was a welcomed change.  I had conversations with adults, felt like I was actually a contributing member of society and was more than a milk source and bum wiper.  But the trade-off was guilt.  Unparalleled, extraordinary guilt.

I want to be that mom who spends unlimited time with her kids, makes home-made everything, is fit beyond belief, and makes it look like nothing.  But that’s just not the case.

I’m a working mom.  I’m lucky enough to enjoy my job and work with great people.  This year, I have taken on a more administrative role at work and have been more pre-occupied than usual.  I thought I had managed these two facets of my life pretty well, but that thinking has been very short-lived.

TimeYesterday I left work “on-time” and rushed home to see the boys.  We took out every toy from the garage and had a wonderful time playing in the sunshine.   I let myself go there and thought, maybe I could juggle this working mom thing.  I started planning my mother-of-the-year acceptance speech and then I heard, “Mama, wasn’t I supposed to go to the doctor today?”

Guilt kicked me in the gut again.

I forgot the doctor’s appointment!  And you know how far in advance you have to schedule them!!!  I had a reminder on my phone, I got the email and phone call from the office, and I still forgot!  My mother-of-the-year award flew right out the window.

As I was wallowing in the guilt, feeling horrible for wasting people’s time and dialing the office to reschedule, my extremely intelligent mother-in-law told me to stop worrying.  “It wasn’t meant to be.  You were supposed to be here playing with the kids in this beautiful weather.”  And she was right.  I was.  So, I pushed guilt aside and enjoyed my afternoon.

Guilt will be there tomorrow to greet me, I’m sure.  Until then, I’m off to play hide and seek and commit the sounds of my boys’ giggles to memory.  I’m sorry I missed the appointment, but I can’t change it now.  I’m happy to have the time to play with my boys.

Are you carrying around guilt?  Have you ever forgotten an important appointment for your kids?  How do you deal with it?

19 thoughts on “Guilt

  1. Hi Heather! I have just read your post and identify with every aspect. I believe that you feel guilt the day you become a parent and that it never really goes away. My girls are 10, 6 and 4 and I am getting to the point only now where I can cope with this gut wrenching emotion. Like you, I work hard and have family commitments. This doesn’t make us Super Women and occasionally we will forget doctors appointments, dentist appointments or even sports days (guilty)! I think for me, the important bit to remember is that when you do manage to finish work on time or it’s the weekend, you really enjoy being around your kids. This is precious time that your little ones will cherish. By working I think we teach our children the values of life. Earning money, doing something we enjoy etc. I am writing a similar blog – take a look and see what you think – you may find you identify with many of the points raised.
    Keep smiling and don’t let the guilt consume you – hold out for the special moments 🙂

  2. I missed second child’s first ever immunisations. I confused the day, so we went to play group instead. I spent the next 4 weeks worrying he’d catch something he should have been immunised against! As for work guilt, I don’t think it actually gets better, you just get more used to it!

  3. I had a ton of mommy guilt with my first child and it led to insecure parenting. She was colicky and sick often and all those parenting “experts” kept telling me that crying babies grow up insecure and sad and lose brain cells. Seriously, people teach things like that. I have decided that I was going to choose my philosophies carefully, think about what every action teaches my children in the long run and forget the guilt! I have two VERY happy children, and the experts can think what they will about my methods 😉

    1. Love this! I find I have different styles indeed for both of my children. I want them to feel secure and be happy. Is it wrong to think they can be both? As for taking care of yourself … happy moms make for happy children!!

  4. It sounds to me like you have more quality time with your children than some parents do who don’t work. Through no fault of their own, if unhappy, It is hard to stay motivated to play when you don’t feel fulfiled, and if work is what you enjoy (mostly) then you are doing the right thing I say. At home it is easy to fall into the rutt of cleaning, getting fed up with bored kids and switching on the television when you’re not dragging them round the shops. If I was a kid I’d rather do my own thing and have a fun game of hide and seek any day! But perhaps that’s just me…

  5. Guilt is one of the most difficult things to deal with as a parent. I have a wonderful relationship with my son and care for him beyond belief. Laughter fills our home more than anything else. I work from home, but I feel it every morning I drop my son off a school. He’s in a wonderful montessori program that he really enjoys, but it seems that he thinks it would be better if I could stay too. He asks about going to school at home, like some of his friends do, so he wouldn’t have to miss me. In these moments, I wonder if I could do it- provide him with everything his current school does (do I even remember ANY chemistry? lol) and be able to spend more time with him. Our neck of the woods does have a huge group of families who homeschool, making the social aspect a nonissue too. Though compelling, I really think he thrives off the current situation so I don’t want to mess with it much. Still, the guilt is there. I think it will always be to a certain extent. If I did homeschool, the guilt would simply switch to another aspect of our life since nothing is ever going to be as perfect as your children.

    1. You’re so right – not sure we can ever escape the guilt. I love that you fill your home with laughter as well as love – it certainly is the best medicine 🙂

  6. I often feel the same way ! I have 3 children 6 4 and 2 and work part time as a gp ! I’m constantly juggling but my husband the same we share the child care! I think you start to experience guilt from the minute you see two feint lines on a pregnancy test ! What about that drink I had what foods should I eat ! Anyway I’m struggling through each day with the realisation that I can only so my best and that has to be good enough ! A book called Buddhism for mothers by Sarah Naphtali was a great help ! It’s not a religious book hope this helps xxxvfiona

  7. It’s a fine line to walk and as a mom who is just dipping her toes back in the work water, I read your comments with admiration and fear. We cannot do it all 100%. It’s impossible, but at least we try and make the most of what we do have. Great post.

    1. We do what we can. Good luck on your venture back into the workforce. It’s not easy, but we do what we have to do…… and know that it will get easier … really.

  8. Well, as a mother of two boys, I think I felt more guilt from not working. Lets face it. Everyone doesn’t have wealthy husbands and a lot of them just makes enough to get by. Then, there are the moms who are single. How could you ever feel guilty for providing for your family? How could you feel guilty for taking a load off of your husband and helping making ends meet for a family of four? I know it has to be extremely stressful when a man has to pull the weight of two children and his wife. Some men enjoy doing it and could afford doing it as well. I was raised in a single parent household with eight siblings and my mom worked when I was younger. I would miss her, but as I got older those feelings turned into respect. But she’s different, my mom is SUPERWOMAN! At some point the boys will be in school and then they’ll be leaving when u do! When I wasn’t working, I would feel guilty because I couldn’t afford to buy them the things they desired. When I started working, I would miss them and wish I could spend more time with them, but the reality is that we have bills that need to be paid; kids that need to be fed; and clothes and house appliances that need to be bought. So turn your guilt into joy, because you are taking care of your boys even if it means having to leave for a little while each day and they know you will be back. They always know mommy will be back.

    1. Thanks 🙂 Coming from a single parent household I get that adoration for the superwoman mom. As tough as it is, it’s a comforting club to be part of …..

  9. Were you reading my mind? I’m a single mommy of an amazing one year old that I wish I could spend every second of every minute with. He kisses me goodbye through the baby gate and runs to the window to watch me drive away and wave at me as I go and it breaks and warms my heart all at the same time!

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