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My Kids Helped Me Let Go of My Working Mom Guilt

working-mom-on-a-plane“You’re leaving again?” asked my daughter as she saw me packing my carry-on.

More than her words, it was her face that pierced my heart — I could see how crestfallen she was.

“It’s only for two nights,” I explained.

But that didn’t matter to her. It was just one more trip after barely being home for five days. The following morning I cried on the plane and questioned my decision to leave again. I vowed in that moment to travel less whenever possible and I managed to avoid flying altogether for most of the summer.

As a result, it was a summer full of discoveries. I learned not only the power of positive reinforcement but also that being a working mom does have a bright side. I’m not strictly referring to the financial benefits or professional satisfaction. Since my kids were out of school, we had plenty of time to talk. It was through those conversations that I realized that they really were proud of me. In their time away from me they had learned lessons I couldn’t have imagined.

Recently I began traveling a lot again and braced myself for the mommy guilt. But this time it was different, mainly due to the fact that I had seen firsthand that my children value strong female role models. They realize the importance of being self-sufficient and that hard work pays off. By being away from them even for a day at a time (yes, I’ve flown from Miami to NY for just a day!) in many ways it’s done them a lot of good.

For my daughter in particular, being a working mom is teaching her how crucial it is to be independent and that you can follow your dreams. In many ways, her idea of a professional woman is much more realistic than what I imagined when I was her age. I don’t see her questioning whether she can have it all. I think that even at nine years old she already knows that something’s got to give. That for all the success you might achieve, there is a price to pay. Whether it’s long hours, spending time away from those you love, or simply not having the energy to have fun at times. She has never, ever asked me whether what I do is worth it. However, she has asked me whether I am okay and has often hugged me when I needed it the most. I know she wishes I would devote all of my time to her, but honestly, even if I didn’t work I would rather she learn to not depend on me for everything. She needs to realize that she can fly on her own — and that isn’t possible if I am hovering over her every single second of the day.

I have also realized that having a career sets a good example for my son. He is not afraid of a strong woman, and has a great respect for them. I have a feeling that when he’s older, this will help him build healthier relationships. Some weekends we have the best late-night chats (we are both night owls) and he just listens with amazement at the people I have met, the things I have done, and the places I have visited.

I know nothing replaces giving them my full attention or being here to take care of them when they are sick. I don’t lie to myself. But for all the working moms out there who work long hours or have become road warriors for professional reasons, remember to value the positive lessons you might be teaching your kids.

Image courtesy of Jeannette Kaplun

 

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