Mom Guilt: Feeling like a bad mom. Working Mom Guilt: Feeling like a bad mom for having a job. Guilt plagues working mothers everywhere and, while they often blame themselves, friends, family and colleagues will ask working mothers questions that both consciously and subconsciously shame them, as well.
Dr. Susan Douglas, coauthor of The Mommy Myth: The Idealization of Motherhood and How It Has Undermined All Women, writes, “So many devoted moms think that no matter what they do for their children, it’s not enough — and our culture plays into that insecurity.”
While working and mothering at the same time could feel empowering (note that I’ve avoided saying “should” in an effort not to guilt mothers for not feeling empowered, either), women can get hung up on the many nuances of being a parent with a full-time job: how much time should they be committing to their families and their careers, where to focus their efforts and when, and when is it okay to pardon themselves from either to attend to the other?
It’s a lot of work, of course. But it’s about time we stop questioning women’s abilities to handle the load and telling them how they should live their lives. We’ve called on working mothers to share the questions they wish people would stop asking them.
1. Why not quit?
“People often ask me, ‘How do you manage work with a little baby?’ What they mean indirectly is, ‘Why don't you quit and care for kids?’ Although I'm a stay-at-home mom, I don't agree that I should sacrifice my career.” — Dr. Aditi G Jha,MD, head physician at JustDoc.com
2. How do you handle it?
“The standard question I get asked is, ‘I don't know how you do it? Meaning working full time and managing three kids under the age of 10. I wish people would stop asking me this question as I am doing the best I can just like everyone else. We all have our challenges.” — Andrea Khan, chief travel officer at The Family Backpack
3. How do you work such crazy hours?
“I am an immigration attorney and also a candidate for city commissioner in my town; moreover, I’m a mom to two kids — one is 13 and the other three. I have had enough of other people (mostly women) asking me whether or not I feel guilty over the fact that I work crazy hours. I don't see men asking other men the same question. I am the breadwinner of the house, so I am grateful that I have plenty of work because that means I can provide for my family…
"As an immigration attorney, my kids are able to see my skills being applied toward the good for other people; therefore, they know that if they want to achieve anything in life, hard work will get them there.” — Renata Castro Alves, immigration attorney at Castro Legal Group
4. Why have kids in the first place?
“It’s not so much a question as much as it is a snotty response. When a parent is talking about challenges that come with being a parent, you get the ‘then you shouldn’t have had them’ response. It’s just rude. At times I am tired and frustrated because I am trying to raise productive members of society (no small feat), but it doesn’t mean I have to be some weird, everything-is-sunshine robot about it.” — Victoria Liguez, marketing manager, American Mensa.
5. How does your work affect your home?
“The worst question I get is somehow related to, ‘Don’t you think your children would do better if you were home full time?’ Or your kids would be less stressed, less anxious, have fewer issues, your home and family would be more peaceful, etc I absolutely love my kids. We spend a lot of time together, playing, reading, eating dinner together every night.
"However, I also love my job as CMO at Community Health Charities. Many working moms I know feel the same way. Some work out of financial necessity for their families, but many of us also have something to contribute to making the world a better place, and we enjoy using our talents. Because my job specifically is in nonprofits and raising awareness and resources for health, I also think it’s meaningful for my kids to see that — to see that, when they grow up, they can find something they like to do that uses their unique abilities and also makes a difference.” — Amanda Ponzar, chief marketing officer of Community Health Charities
6. Have you even done your work adequately?
“I am a full time working mother with a three-and-a-half-year-old toddler son and an 11-month old daughter. I’ve owned a full-service marketing firm for 10 years, so I had to really get used to two full-time jobs: marketing and being a mom. The questions I always get asked are: ‘Do you really have to work?’ ‘How do you do it all?’ ‘Wow that must be so hard; do you ever feel guilty not being with your kids?’ Or, on the other end when working with clients: ‘Can't you find childcare for 9 pm meetings?’ ‘You haven't slept in days; do you still have that report we need anyways?’
"As working moms, we are filled with guilt — feeling guilty that we are working while our kids are hitting milestones, and then feeling guilty when we are enjoying our family while knowing that we should be working. I have yet to figure out that balance, but I wish people would stop questioning why I decide to work and, instead, realize that there is more to being a mom than just raising our children. Working gives me my own identity. And I wish in the working world people [realized] that you may need to leave a meeting early to pick up your child from school or that a 9 pm meeting is unrealistic.” — Alicia Williams, owner of Aliste Marketing, Inc.
7. Why pay for daycare?
“I work full time 40 to 50 hours per week and have three children under seven years old. I work 100 percent remotely, which makes things unique but [I get] a constant ask from many, many people… ‘Well, you work from home, so don't they stay home with you? Why do you need daycare?’” — Megan Stubblebine, director of client services for Can I Rank? and owner of Get Exposed SEO.
8. How are you so happy?
“I am married with three children (22,17 and 12) — my oldest daughter is 22 with severe special needs (Autism, Epilepsy, developmentally delayed) and, when people find out, they always say, ‘You would never know you had that situation because you're always so happy, unstressed and have a life.’ As if to say if you're a mom in that situation you should be sad, stressed out and not living life. My work is my happy place because I absolutely love what I do.” —f Paula Kinney, interior designer specializing in kitchens for Love Your Nest Kitchen Design Studio
AnnaMarie Houlis is a multimedia journalist and an adventure aficionado with a keen cultural curiosity and an affinity for solo travel. She's an editor by day and a travel blogger at HerReport.org by night.