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The Working Mom's Working Late Dilemma

By ilanawiles |

Even though my husband and I both work, for some reason, it has always been my responsibility to get home in time to relieve our nanny by 6pm.

If I am going to be late, I have to call Mike to make sure he’ll be home but he doesn’t need to call me if it’s the other way around. I’m not sure how or why this was established, it just is.

I’m always eager to go home and hang out with my daughter so this doesn’t usually pose a problem. Plus I work for people who understand being a mom.

However, sometimes problems arise and I need to work late. Last night was one such example.

I had a 5pm call with unhappy clients who wanted to see revisions by the next morning. I called my husband. He also had to work late and suggested asking our nanny to stay.

Now, asking the nanny to stay appears to be an easy solution. But it’s more complicated than that. It means that with the exception of the morning, Mazzy will be in someone else’s care for the entire day.

I love our nanny and she is amazing with our daughter. But I am also very aware of the time I spend with Mazzy compared to the time she spends with Mazzy. I want there to be a balance. My husband coming home while I stay late at work seems different than both of us being gone and our nanny caring for her all day long.

So what did I do?

I left my team at work to fix the problem and I went home.

Once home, I played with Mazzy for exactly an hour and a half before it was time for bed.

Then I spent the rest of the evening feeling guilty that I didn’t follow through at work.

And so it goes…

The classic working mom’s dilemma.

If being a working mother was a sport, anyone have any idea how to win?

Read more of Ilana’s writing at Mommy Shorts.
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About ilanawiles



Ilana Wiles writes Mommy Shorts, a humor blog geared towards new parents. She is one of Babble's Top 100 Mom Blogs and one of The Huffington Post's top 20 women to follow on Instagram. She lives in NYC with her husband, 2-year-old daughter and a newborn baby girl. Read bio and latest posts → Read ilanawiles's latest posts →

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0 thoughts on “The Working Mom's Working Late Dilemma

  1. Heather K says:

    I think it’s fine as long as you and your employer are honest with each other and have set the appropriate expectations. Granted, I’m part time and not full time, but it is understood that I cannot be a project manager, or even a tech lead — at least at the time being. It is understood that if this particular customer (my work is project by project as well) needs someone available 24/7, then I’m not the right person for a lead role. This doesn’t mean I can’t contribute, OR that I can’t go above and beyond or work extra if needbe. But it has to be within the constraints of my family (e.g. I am out the door at 5:30 and/or if my daughter is sick) and everything is in proportion (e.g. if my team is working a 60 hour week instead of 40, I may work 35 instead of 24 or something like that…)

    Don’t ever feel guilty about putting your daughter first, that is winning. It sounds like you have a great work-environment and I’m sure your client got their needs met. Make it up to them with a snarky Mazzy video or some chocolate ;)

  2. Elaine says:

    I’ve been struggling with similar issues working from home. Constantly looking for things to keep my 5year old busy so I can get quiet work time. Then I realised this time where she is so small and wants me all the time is going to pass very quickly. No one will remember w20 years from now that I handed in a project early, but she will always remember that I was there when she needed me…or not

  3. Jessie Powell says:

    I hate that dilemma. I don’t work outside the home anymore, and one of the reasons was that I always felt torn, hurried, in a rush to get my kids, in a much different way than my husband ever did. My work-from-home job only sort of solves the problem, because now I can follow up with work while I should be sleeping and the kids can suffer when I’m a bear the next morning. Sigh.

  4. Leslie says:

    I think in the long run you will not regret the choice you made last night. As women/moms we always feel guilt whether at home or at work.

  5. Mommy C says:

    What about going back to work after she is in bed and your husband is home? My husband does that a lot and it seems to work out well. While he would much rather be at home, he tends to be be really productive because there are fewer distractions at night.

  6. ilanawiles says:

    Mommy C- I would have done that last night but Mike’s friend was in town from LA and he already had plans to see him.

    Heather- I work on a project basis and it’s my responsibility to get the stuff done. I work with a team so they can shoulder the burden sometimes but that’s a hard thing for a control freak like myself to do.

  7. Kande says:

    M’eh. There is always guilt. I bet you regret the guilt about missing work a lot less than the guilt about missing your toddler! You made the right decision. You are lucky your work probably (hopefully!) realized you made the right decision. But just in case you have to make the decision again and need to make the other choice – this post shows how invested you are as a mom, so never fear Mazzy will want her nanny over you. She won’t. I mean, sometimes she may in the same sense sometimes she wants you, sometimes Mike. But overall, in the most important, essential ways – she KNOWS you are her Mom, she KNOWS you love her, she DEFINITELY loves you, and she will always “Choose” you – the same way she knows (knows!!) you will always “choose” her :)

  8. Kande says:

    And also I should add, if our kid(s) do miss us, they do seem to work in unexpected bonding time to make up for it … for example both of mine thought it would be the best thing EVER to wake up at 5am this morning, and to not settle back to sleep so we were all three of us up and starting our day by 5:45am … yayyyyyyawwwwwwnnnn (what was I saying? Hard to type 2 hours later with a toddler still on my lap, as apparently I am STILL super-awesome-fun to be with! Oh well. Suppose is better than the luke-warm work welcome I usually start my workday with … ;)

  9. Nichoe says:

    I never feel guilty about choosing my child over my job. Work will get done. It will, but my son will not just get raised. He’s what is most important.

  10. Heather says:

    Yeah, it’s definitely hard. If I was working full time with full-time responsibilities, it would be a completely different ball game and that much harder. I still think you have nothing to apologize for though!

    I have to say, though, the days I work are my “easy” days. And sometimes I feel like I appreciate my daughter, and she appreciates me, the days we aren’t in each other’s faces the whole time. Those few hours at the begining and end of the day are AMAZING and so full of awesome. I know some wagers of the Mommy Wars like to say that if you don’t have the desire/ability to be the sole-caretaker of your child 24/7, you have no business having kids in the first place, but I think the balance has made me a better and more attentive mother for the time that I AM with her. I think I’ll be a far better mother to her feeling confident about that than guilty/depressed about it.

  11. Trish says:

    Story of my life! I like to tell myself it’s quality not quantity but it’s tough anyway. My husband’s mom was a full-time working woman and mine was a full-time housewife and we all ended up growing up and being fine.

  12. mlk says:

    wow, this is a hard one. yeah, you did make the right decision and the guilt will always be there. as a self-proclaimed “progressive” modern woman, i add another layer to this dilemma. yes, you should always put your family first. yes, you did the right thing. but what does that say about us as working professionals when we do that? men don’t do that. most working men probably don’t have an understanding with their bosses that they can’t stay past 5pm. why do i want to limit myself that way and say that “i’m a mother, so i can’t give you more than those 7.5 hours.” do you get me? look, i do the same exact thing – have to leave at 5pm and i do recall having that conversation with my boss when baby #2 arrived. just worried that we’re cutting ourselves at the knees and undoing what the brave women, mothers before us so courageously achieved. am i totally off? please feel free to enlighten me with your opinion.

  13. Brianna @ RMV says:

    Dangit I wrote a nice long post about how learning to give up guilt is the only way to win yesterday. And blah, how its hard, blah. then the website froze and lost it. TWICE! And since it didn’t ever show up I am going to assume it is lost.

    Anyway sum up: No decision is going to be perfect, but learning to not feel guilty will help. Something I am still working on.

    Oh and my stay at home friends often worry they are smothering their kids so really no one wins.

  14. Kristin @ What She Said says:

    I find that whenever I have to choose between work and motherhood, the guilt is fleeting when I choose motherhood, but lasting when I choose work. And I think that speaks volumes.

  15. Gail says:

    I am a mom and I probably would have done the same thing you did. I do remember when I was a childless working person, and I often felt resentful that I ended up working late for deadlines while the working parents left on time for daycare pick up. As a non parent at that time, I did not understand the juggling act they faced. I’m not sure how it is for your team, but maybe there is a way that you show your appreciation or can make it up to the people who worked late after you left last night.

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