Damned If I Do: Bring On the Work-at-Home Mom Guilt

Baby girl
This is not a face I could bear to kiss good-bye in the morning

I don’t need the benefit of hindsight to remember that making the decision to work at home after my older daughter was born was one of the best things I’ve ever done. I also don’t need hindsight to remind me the past three years have been particularly grueling. Working at home with a baby is hard.

My 3-year-old is now happily in preschool three days a week (hooray!). And I’m still working from home, this time with my 3-month-old baby, Peony. It’s still hard. Not only is it hard, but I feel guilty about it, just like I did when before my older daughter started school.

It seems as if I’m damned if I work at home, damned if I work outside the home. And I know I’m can’t possibly be alone in feeling that.

Like with my older daughter, I didn’t want to put my younger daughter in daycare. While I know plenty of babies who’ve thrived in daycare and realize there are exceptional facilities out there, it wasn’t something I wanted for my kids. I didn’t even really want to pass off my babies too regularly to a babysitter. I’ve always wanted as much time with my girls as possible.

The thing is that I have to work. Not for my sanity or to further my career (although both of those are important to me). No, I have to work to help pay the mortgage, feed my family and keep the lights on. And since I have to work and want to care for my kids myself, that means I work from home.

In an ideal world, it’s an ideal situation. But the irony of it is that while I work from home, I barely have time for my baby. Sure, she’s barely out of the womb and spends most of her time sleeping. But she’s awake more and more, and when she’s awake I often find myself wishing she were asleep so I can get more work done. So I can . . . stay home to be with her. Strange how that works, right?

On the days my older daughter is in preschool, Peony and I barely make it out of the house. I hunker down at around 7 or 8 in the morning and don’t stop working until school’s out at 4. I’m also working late at night and on the weekends to make up for the days when my older daughter is home, at which time we are generally out and about at various activities.

I feel guilty because I don’t think Peony gets enough stimulation on most days. I feel guilty that I’m not spending enough waking hours playing with her. While she’s still nursing and physically attached to me at most times, I worry about our emotional connection and her emotional well-being since I’m so focused on working to pay the bills, so I can be home with her, although I’m home with her and . . . working.

I know I’d feel worse if she were in daycare (let me say this again: I know plenty of babies who’ve thrived in daycare and realize there are exceptional facilities out there — plus, I feel fortunate to be in a situation where I can work from home) or with a babysitter too often so I could go off to an office (and frankly, I was thrilled to leave office life/politics/drama behind).

But the guilt I’m feeling now is still pretty damn bad.

Do you ever feel like you’re damned if you do stay at home, and damned if you don’t?

Image: Meredith Carroll