I discuss my own experiences dealing with the mom guilt associated with juggling a baby and career, and the struggles I have faced as a mompreneur working mom (especially without any sort of designated mat leave!)
This is going to be a bit of rant, so bear with me as I get it all out. You know, hormones (and lack of sleep).
My Mom Guilt Juggling a Baby and Career
Motherhood is just one big fucking guilt trip, and I might argue that no one knows that better than the working mom. I am only a few weeks into motherhood, and I live in constant state of mom guilt about how to balance both of my babies. My real new baby boy, E and my work baby, Abbey’s Kitchen. Sometimes I feel like I spend more time feeling guilty these days about how I’m juggling a baby and career than I do actually successfully juggling a baby and career. It’s probably not a productive state of affairs.
But you know, it’s a constant struggle. I feel guilty when I take a 2 hour walk with E in the middle of a Tuesday and not look at my phone once (#LivingOnTheEdge). And I feel guilty when I spend 2 hours trying to pump out a blog post (like this one) while my husband feeds the baby my pumped milk. It’s really a lose-lose situation.
But alas, I guess I saw that coming. I’m an entrepreneur (or now, I guess, “mompreneur” as they say) so there’s no such thing as a government funded mat leave. For that reason, my husband and I went into this knowing that I would continue to work. I can’t just so easily put my whole company on hold and pick up a year later. When people would ask me if I was taking a mat leave, I would laugh and remind them I was an entrepreneur. People who know me would smile politely and laugh with me, “oh yes, of course, you’re crazy, I forgot!” Crazy sounding, maybe, but that arrangement felt like the only non-crazy thing I could do.
Now that baby is here, I get all sorts of comments about my baby and career balance (or maybe lack-thereof). In the first month, every allied health or medical professional I saw would look mortified if I told them I was already dabbling back at work. Hell, they gave me a look of disapproval just for saying I was going to leave the house to grab something at the store!
Never in my life have I felt so judged for my independence, ambition or even just suggesting that I’m feeling good enough to get out of the fucking house for 30 minutes. And this was largely from fellow moms (men, on the other hand, don’t seem to care what we do, probably because the pressures on them look so different).
Struggles of a Working Mom
Being a working mom, I’ve had to give up a lot of my ideals on how this whole motherhood thing would shake out. I recently talked about my botched birth plan, and my struggle to breastfeed my son, so I feel like I came into this feeling like a bit of a failure already. But being a working mom just trying to juggle baby and career meant I had to give up a lot of control. Like, a lot. And that’s a damn hard thing for a Type A person to do.
Not only do I not get that special breastfeeding bond due to latch issues, but it means someone else often gets to feed (and cuddle) my son all together using the milk I worked my ass off around the clock to pump. It means I have to try to ignore his cries in the nursery next to my office as I talk on a conference call, all the while watching my breasts leak milk right through my shirt. It means I could go a half or even full day without really seeing his sweet little face (I guess this is how a lot of husbands feel). And it also means I might miss one of those hallmark “firsts” because I had a meeting with a client, or YouTube shoot. That last one is a particularly hard pill to swallow.
Sometimes when I hear my friends talk about having never even left their child alone with another person until they were 6, 8 or 12 months, I ask myself if what I’m doing is wrong. Will I regret losing this precious time when my kid is all grown up? Am I a bad mom for not having this innate need to keep him by my side all day and night until he’s already in school? Sometimes the worrying is crippling. But I’ve come to recognize that while I think worrying about the future is a natural part of motherhood, it isn’t in any way productive. All I can do is try to recognize what’s right for me now. And right now, I’m going to just have to be comfortable doing a good enough job balancing a career and motherhood.
But here’s my ask. While I try to maintain some confidence in how I’m doing with this daily struggle, I just hope that we can all recognize that we don’t all have to do motherhood the same. It’s hard enough to physically balance work and mothering, we don’t need the criticism from others who decide to run their homes or lives differently. I would love if we could call a truce. It would be nice if moms (and dads) could support one another, wherever they are in their parenthood journey. Both stay at home moms could enjoy their time at home, and working moms could just enjoy their own little juggle. I recognize how hard that is given we’re probably all questioning the deal we cut at least a million times each day. I mean, we’re all giving up something, or different percentages of things. But let’s cut each other some slack and recognize that it’s not easy for any of us. There is no right way, or even better way. Just a good enough way for you.
So moms, next time you speak to a fellow momma about how she stays at home with her kids, or how she juggles a baby and career, remember to please be kind. We’re all just trying to survive this motherhood thing in our own imperfect way, and we may feel insecure about the sacrifices we’ve chosen (or maybe not willingly chosen) to make. If you are attempting to actively balance baby and career, stay tuned next week where I share some of mine and my colleagues top tips for making this most out of this working mom thing without the mom guilt.
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Moms, let me know if you’ve ever been shamed or felt mom guilt for how you chose to divide your time. Leave me a comment below with your thoughts!
Abbey Sharp is a Registered Dietitian, an avid food writer and blogger, a cookbook author and the founder of Abbey’s Kitchen Inc.