When I first went back to work over 3.5 years ago, I felt incredible guilt about being a working mom. I made it public knowledge how much I hated it, how jealous I was of stay-at-home-moms, how resentful I felt at having to earn a paycheck. I felt judged by women who did stay home; it felt like they were all saying I could “make the sacrifices” and stay home too. Except for us, cutting the cable didn’t equal health insurance and I was the breadwinner. It was crucial to our financial health for me to remain working. I was angry at myself for not being able to adequately express the necessity and angry at anyone who suggested that I simply didn’t want it bad enough.
The evenings when I would go to the grocery store or gym before picking up my son, I felt crushing guilt. Why would I spend one extra minute away from him? Didn’t that make me a terrible mother? I felt the other mothers in their sneakers and jeans were eyeing my heels and suits with judgment and snidely thinking, “She leaves her kid in daycare longer so she can go grocery shopping solo.” (In retrospect, I think they were just wishing the grocery store offered daycare so they wouldn’t have to fight over cereal flavors and pop tarts.) I hated anything that identified me as a working mom, from my clothes to my employment badge to grabbing a frozen dinner at 5:30 PM on a Tuesday night. In my religious culture, I was told that God intended women to stay home and be caregivers, that it was my job to pray hard enough and God would provide. I ached inside thinking that I simply didn’t have the guts to trust my faith.
The crushing guilt I felt for two years was my personal hell.
A few years later in January 2012, I had an unplanned chance to stay home with Harrison for a few months between jobs and while I adored our time together, I was back in the office not four months later. It took finding a new career path that fit my personality better (being behind the scenes in digital marketing rather than sales) and joining a great company to really find my groove as a working mom. By loving my job and my company, I began finding fulfillment in my days rather than resentment. I began feeling that even if I wasn’t home with my boy, I still had purpose in society and for my family. The happier I grew, the less guilty I felt.
And I read Sheryl Sandberg’s book, Lean In. I know there is controversy around it but oh, was it a game-changer for me. In the book, Sandberg encouraged me to stop thinking of my career as a burden, but rather an opportunity to grow our culture and myself. I started seeing the daycare tuition as an investment towards my future career rather than my paycheck flying out the window the moment I earned it. And I started asking myself, “What I would do if I wasn’t afraid?” in regards to my career – and then I started pushing harder. I began truly “leaning in” to my career and by finding that fulfillment, I found it easier to lean in to my family and myself as a person.
So for any of you that may still feel that guilt, that may still wrestle with purpose in the workforce, here are all the reasons I love being a working mom:
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