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Working Moms: Building A Career in Guilt

Michelle Pfeiffer
Working Moms: Building A Career in Guilt

Working mothers carry a lot, from the office to the home, from the kids to the coworkers. They can also lug around a ton of guilt.

If we made a list right now called, “Things We Didn’t Know We Would Feel In Motherhood,” what would be on it?

Well my initial guess would be several million things.

I never knew a love like the love I have for my child could even exist.

I never dreamed I could be this tired and still function as a human being.

I never imagined I could feel such crushing guilt over everything.

Motherhood is nothing if not an endless guilt factory! You feel badly because you fed your kids crap for dinner three nights in a row. You beat yourself up because you threw them in front of the television for a few hours so that you could accomplish a few pressing things. You left them at daycare for ten hours while you went to work.

That last one there is the holy grail of maternal guilt and if you have ever left your tiny little bundle of love in the arms of a near stranger from the hours of 7 to 5 then you know what I am talking about. It’s torture. It doesn’t matter if your kids are happy, screaming or downright clueless; you feel guilty for leaving them in the care of someone else. I know I did. In fact when I returned to the workforce and left my twelve week old daughter in the loving arms of another female all day long, I was sure the guilt and sadness would suffocate, consume, and destroy me. I thought about her all day long. What was she eating, was she sleeping ok, being attended to as I would attend to her, missing me? What if she wasn’t missing me? Oh my GOD, what if she forgets me!

These thoughts were my daily mental script and I know that I am not alone in this. Millions of mothers leave their little ones and go off to work feeling the same way. Being a working mom is beyond hard! Not only do these mighty women combat the working mom guilt all day long, but they have jobs to do, to put first and foremost during business hours. Five days a week they have to push down their emotions and run companies, care for others, perform jobs, and do it all. They pump their leaky breasts in bathroom stalls, they rush through traffic to get to their children so that they can shuffle them off to activities, sports, parties, and play dates. They come home exhausted and make dinner in their high heels. Working moms hunch over counter tops helping kids with homework and projects that are due the next day before putting the kids to bed and staying up halfway through the night to catch up on their “homework.” All of this is happening on a good day! Never mind days where the flu strikes, or snow days descend upon them, babysitters cancel, permission slips get forgotten, the list goes on and on. These warrior women don’t stop, they can’t stop. The entire world needs them all of the time. Their kids need them, their job needs them, they are the most productive machines known to mankind.

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The working mom is in beast mode all of the time.

She carries on day after day, shuffling kids out the door, dragging backpacks and daycare bags halfway across the state, skips meals so that she can get it all done, and all the while she knows that she is missing out. She misses steps, smiles, boo boos and hugs.

How in the hell are these super humans doing it? How in the hell did I do it? It seems like an entire lifetime ago, but I was one of these beast-mode mamas racing around to please the universe. Then I became the Michelle Pfeiffer. Perhaps you have caught her in the news lately. Girl is on a comeback after basically making herself “unhireable.” Years ago Ms. Pfeiffer-aka the hottest 59 year old woman on the planet- was me…she was all of us. She had her killer career, and her little daughter, and son, and it just got too difficult. She made herself unhireable. She could only work certain hours, certain days, in certain locations. She was torn between giving her all at home, and giving her all in the studio. Hollywood moved on, she raised her kids. End of story.

Until it wasn’t. Hottie-Mc-Hotter-son is back in the game starring in a ton of new and exciting roles now that her fledglings have flown the coup, and she finds herself an empty nester. She gives me hope. Hope that I can have it all, just maybe not always all at once. She gives me drive. Drive to keep doing what I love and allow honesty to trump guilt. And speaking of honesty, she makes it ok to say screw it. This isn’t working for me, and I’m making a choice. Sometimes something has to give.

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I remember becoming unhireable. I needed to leave early, couldn’t make morning meetings, had a class party, a field trip, need to work part time, half day, you name it. My school district never booted me (seriously how) but I did bow out gracefully. I couldn’t make all the puzzle pieces fit. I was wracked with guilt having to leave the girls all day long and simultaneously wracked with guilt having to leave my students, parents, co-teachers. Everyone was suffering, so I pulled a Michelle.

I love you Cat Woman.

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Kristin McCarthy
About Kristin McCarthy 27 Articles
The proud mama of four little darling girls in devil's horns. After receiving a Masters degree in Special Education and teaching for a number of years I "retired" in order to stay home with the kids and devote my life to the wonders of domesticity. Somewhere in between scrubbing floors and cooking food that no one will eat I found my way into writing. When I am not busy folding laundry, vacuuming up dog hair and toys and keeping the kids alive I can be found writing on my snarky little blog Four Princesses and The Cheese or for other publications that are kind enough to tolerate me such as Red Tricycle, Suburban Misfit Mom, Sammiches and Psych Meds, Blunt Moms and BonBon Break.

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