Mommy Wars: My Working-Mom Self Guilt Trips My Stay-At-Home Mom Self
There’s a lot of talk these days about the mommy wars between those of us whose choose to stay home with our children and those of us who work outside of the home. The assumption goes that stay-at-home moms feel sorry for working moms for missing out on their children’s lives while working moms feel sorry for stay-at-home moms for not having enough “adult time” and mental stimulation. As someone who stays at home with my child while also pursuing my career, I find that I quite often experience both mentalities.
Having oscillated between full-time jobs and entrepreneurship for many years, I knew when it was time for me to start a family, I wanted to be self-employed and be with my baby as much as possible. Shortly before getting pregnant I quit my job and launched a new marketing consulting firm where I could draw on all the skills and expertise I had developed throughout my career.
I had this fantasy of diligently working on interesting projects for my clients throughout the day with a perfect little baby who would either sleep all day or quietly breastfeed on my lap while I sat in front of the computer. By the time my daughter was five months old, I realized my little fantasy was just that, and brought on a nanny two days a week (now four afternoons a week). Since then, I think I’ve found a pretty good groove between nurturing my business and my 13-month-old. For me, being a work-at-home mom lets me enjoy the best (and worst) aspects of motherhood while continuing to pursue my career and stay relevant in the marketing field if I ever do choose to go back to work full-time.
Unfortunately, being a work-from-home mother does not exempt me from the mommy wars. For me, the tension and the judgement comes entirely from within myself. My working-mom self feels guilty that I’m not spending enough quality time with my daughter, especially when she and the nanny are off doing fun things or when she’s showing off new tricks that I didn’t teach her. Even though I was only down the hall, I missed her first independent steps, and I have no idea how she learned how to stick out her tongue on command – I didn’t teach her that one, but it’s pretty darn cute. And the worst is when she’s sick or sad and just wants a snuggle with mommy, but I have to brush her aside to go back to my desk to work while listening to the screams down the hall as the nanny deal with my hysterical child.
On the other hand, my stay-at-home mom self feels an entirely different type of guilt. I feel guilty that I’m not getting out there and doing more networking and marketing to build my business. With all the education and work I put into my career, I often feel I really should have a much larger firm and should be out there more. But if I did that, how much less time would I have with my daughter? Then there’s the guilt I have about the time I do spend with my daughter. Even though our mommy-daughter time is limited each day, I know I’m not always 100% present with my her when I am with her (I don’t know about you but hanging out at the playground or playing peekaboo all day can sometimes get tedious).
Every night when I discuss the ups and downs of my day with my husband (a mix of craziness with my child and craziness with my clients), he reminds me how lucky I am to be able to continue to pursue my career and be with my daughter all-day.
The true tension between the two camps in the mommy wars is the guilt we women feel about having to choose one over the other – our child or our career. There really is no perfect answer for we must all make huge sacrifices either way. Even women like me who choose both options deal with the stresses and sacrifices, but by working-at-home part time, I feel that I at least minimize them.