Working moms do a lot, so it’s natural that we also feel a lot of guilt….about, well, a lot of things. At work, at home, and in society at large, a lot is demanded and expected of working mothers. Sometimes all that pressure simply builds up and creates these urges to say “I’m sorry.”
The urge to apologize does not, of course, mean you did something wrong. But words do matter. Many of us, for example, use words that can make us sound less confident and capable -- even if we don’t feel an ounce lesser in any way.
Here are 13 things you should never have to apologize for:
1. Leaving at the end of the work day
It’s called “the end” of the day for a reason. You’re going home because it’s the end of the work day. If you didn’t do it before you had kids, there’s certainly no reason you need to start apologizing for going home now.
2. Leaving to pick up a child
You don’t have to apologize for leaving or because you have to meet your nanny or pick up your kid from daycare (because it’s the end of those people’s work days). You are a parent and you have responsibilities outside of work. So go and attend to them. Apologizing is not necessary and actually perpetuates the idea that being a mom is somehow a compromise to your job. It’s not!
Pumping at work can feel awkward, for sure. But do you apologize for using the restroom? What if you choose to drink a lot of coffee and have to go more often than the average person? That may seem like an absurd question, but deciding to nurse is your absolute right as a mom, and needing to pump is a biological need once you’ve committed yourself to breastfeeding while also working.
4. Going to the bathroom a lot when you have morning sickness.
Apologies are best reserved for acts of volition that result in harm -- and we’re pretty sure that feeling nauseated is something you would have never chosen to do. Moreover, you’re actually doing everyone a favor by not retching on your desk (or anyone else’s for that matter).
5. Asking for a promotion
Whether the answer you get is a yay or nay, you don’t need to apologize for having ambition and the desire to advance. If anything, your manager should be thanking you for having the gumption and taking the initiative to shoulder more responsibility. Ask yourself this: would a man in your position apologize for wanting a bigger, more important job?
6. Telling your boss you’re pregnant
We hope this needs no explanation. You may feel guilty about the work that now needs to be redistributed among your colleagues or a freelance temp. And you won’t leave everyone high-and-dry. But this is a special time in your life, and it’s a disservice to yourself and your colleagues to think you should apologize. No matter how you feel, try to reframe things if guilt is pushing you to apologize.
7. Telling your clients you’re pregnant
Again, we applaud your devotion to your work and customers. But relationships with your clients weren’t built overnight, and having a baby doesn’t mean you’re incapable of working for several months of your pregnancy, nor does it mean you’re never coming back. They will survive and manage -- and you should expect them to.
8. Asking for flexible work schedules
If you want to negotiate for flexibility at work, treat it like any other non-negotiable feature of your job. For some people, that’s their title or salary. For others, it’s the location where they work and their hours. If you want something, ask for it. You don’t have to apologize for wanting (or needing it). If you don’t get it, that’s finally a good time to say “I’m sorry”....as in “I’m sorry you don’t appreciate that I can be productive in a more flexible work environment.”
9. That you want to work
It’s not just at workplaces where apologies can slip out of our mouths. At home, working moms can also feel guilty about the time and meaning that work provides, especially if our partners or children are upset about our business travel or just being away for much of the day. But remember that dads can feel guilty, too, and that apologizing sends you and your family the message that you’re doing something “bad.”
10. That you love your job
Most of us have to work for financial reasons. But that doesn’t mean we can’t also love our jobs. And if we love our jobs and spend a decent amount of time and energy on our careers, we can feel guilty for feeling “too” interested in our work. If that’s how you feel (both the guilt and the love parts), that’s how you feel. No need to apologize!
11. That you can’t always make every soccer game or dinner or bedtime.
If you work outside the home, chances are there will be times you cannot make every piano recital, hockey game or be there for bath and bedtime. But you don’t have to apologize. If you choose to, that’s fine, but remember that apologizing sets a tone for your children and partner and implies a level of expectation setting that may not be realistic or sustainable.
12. That you have to sometimes work at night or on weekends.
Similarly, sometimes you have to bring home work. Most children have homework which takes them away from their families in the evening or projects that require them to dedicate weekend time. Adults do, too! So in our view, there’s no need to apologize for this.
13. That you are taking a maternity leave.
Maternity leave is a legal right for many women (though sadly, not all), and if you qualify for FMLA or unpaid time off through a state law, or even better, paid leave benefits offered by your employer, you should not apologize for exercising your rights or benefits. You are having a baby and need physical and emotional recovery, not to mention bonding time. Your work will be there when you return, and taking maternity leave does not mean you don’t care about your job or your career.
Bottom line: if you find yourself apologizing for any of these 13 things, bite your tongue and check yourself. Do you really feel sorry about this? If the answer is no, you know what (not to) say.
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