The Hidden Face of Mommy Guilt

This week I had the good fortune to stay home with my daughter while she was in bed sick. She had a fever and a cough. To most working moms, this would appear to be a guilt-free scene; I didn’t have to be at the office or on a business trip. Instead, I had the opportunity to lie with her, to tend to her myself.

guilt photo


If you walked into this scene – the precious five-year-old tucked into mommy’s bed with her blankie watching television, the mom lying next to her with a laptop in her lap, typing away to meet a deadline, you would never assume that the mom might be turning this scene into a festival of guilt. Here is a peek into my mind:

Will she care that I am not watching Martha Speaks with her? Will she notice when she laughs and I don’t laugh with her? Should I be watching her watch TV? Should I encourage her to read a book with me instead?

I asked once about reading a book but maybe I should have asked twice. Should I be making homemade soup? No, that would just keep me away from her in the kitchen. My husband can pick some soup up on the way home. Ok back to work. But the thoughts return.

I take computer breaks to dote on her and get her water, plump her pillow, check her temperature. And then I begin typing again and wonder… would a stay-at-home mom sit here watching her daughter watch TV? Or would she be doing things while her daughter watched TV? Will my daughter heal faster if I watch with her while holding her hand? I stop typing and watch Dora with her. I take her hand.

Is there a perfect way to care for a sick child? Am I crazy?

Ah, the irony. I spend my days speaking, writing and coaching women about how to avoid the traps of working moms’ guilt. “You are keeping your family financially secure, you are a role model…”  Sure I conquered mommy guilt at work, but then this week, like a Whac-A-Mole, that guilt has seeped out into a new area.

Why it is that we are so hard on ourselves? Why are the expectations we have for ourselves so unrealistic? There was no way for me to stay home with my daughter without working at all that day and I really did have the best of both worlds.

Yet imagine how much better that day would have been if I had released my guilt and simply enjoyed the fact that I could be home with my daughter and caring for her. When that day comes, I will have completely conquered my guilt.

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