Since she left the White House, Michelle Obama has opened up about everything from infertility to leaning out, and we can’t get enough of her unfiltered take on the trials and tribulations of working motherhood.
The latest example: In a Q&A on Instagram Stories, the former first lady tackled questions on everything from self-care to parenting, but it was her brilliant advice on dealing with working mom guilt that really stole our hearts (again!).
"Let’s be honest, the guilt never goes away,” she said. “But what I’ve had to learn is you’re not being a bad mom because you’re pursuing some of your dreams and as women we have to give oursel[ves] permission to be fulfilled on our own."
Can you hear us singing "hallelujah?"
Working moms know all too well how easy it can be to succumb to feelings of guilt and inadequacy as a parent—especially when late nights or business trips keep us away from our kids. But, just as Michelle says, we deserve the right to chase our dreams and pursue our passions. After all, the vast majority of dads get to have a life outside the home—and most don’t feel guilty about it either.
In fact, plenty of studies confirm that kids raised by working moms turn out just fine. Not to mention, men raised by working moms tend to have more egalitarian views about gender roles and spend an extra 50 minutes per week caring for family members—so working moms raising sons are actually doing a solid for their son’s future spouse! And girls raised by working moms get to see up close what it looks like when women work hard and achieve professional success.
Of course, letting go of guilt is easier said than done, but Michelle also has advice for trying to conquer it all: You can’t. And that’s OK. “Marriage still ain't equal y'all. It ain't equal. I tell women that whole 'you can have it all'—mmm, nope, not at the same time. That's a lie,” she told a sold-out crowd in New York City in December, while promoting her bestselling memoir, Becoming. "It's not always enough to lean in because that shit doesn't work all the time,” she said to uproarious laughter and applause.
So, to recap: You deserve a chance to chase career success. But you’ll never be able to have it all, at the same time, no matter how hard you lean in. So, do your best and let go of the guilt.
OK, we may have extrapolated on the last part, but all in all, we feel like Michelle’s message to working moms is to give ourselves a break—and we couldn’t agree more.
— Audrey Goodson Kingo
This story originally appeared on Working Mother. Working Mother is a mentor, role model and advocate for the country’s more than 17 million moms who are devoted to their families and committed to their careers. Through our website, magazine, research, radio and powerful events, Working Mother provides its readers with the community, solutions and strategies they need to thrive.