Learning to Fight "Mom-Guilt"
In our household, equality is of the utmost importance
First of all, Hi. It’s been …awhile.
I know half of you are probably like:
You were gone? Didn’t even notice
A quarter of you are like, well, you haven’t said anything because you’re *poof* gone
And the last chunk of you are my understanding angels who didn’t say anything except: “Take your time sweetie, we luv u”
Thanks for allowing me to take time with my daughter, to experience maternity leave for what it was, and to refresh my mind with a long-awaited and much-needed writing detox. To be honest with you, my fingers feel alien right now as I type this blog post. What is writing, really?
Actually, we all know writing is just finding different ways to include em dashes into your sentences — I’m pretty sure.
Yesterday was my first day back to work after taking a 10-month maternity leave. If you’re American reading this, you’re probably like “Damn, 10 entire months?” and if you’re in Canada you’re like “Why did you go back to work early you crazy person?”
Either way, you’d be surprised to hear that I voluntarily went back to work one month early. You are probably surprised because society has unsurprisingly tricked us into believing that as women we should aspire to nothing more than being a stay-at-home mom no matter what your goals or professional hopes are.
Because of this, I now have a lovely little side effect that comes with the realization that I won’t be able to spend my entire day by my babies side.
It’s called “mom-guilt” and it is a cruel damsel putting you in distress.
What the hell is mom-guilt?
Mom-guilt is a mindset — and a ridiculous one at that. Mom-guilt causes women to feel doubt in their abilities as a parent, anxiousness about the job they’re doing, and in its name — guilty if you do not enjoy every moment of motherhood. If you’re a mom you likely know the feeling well.
If you feel mom-guilt, you’ll assume that if you’re not breastfeeding, not teaching your child a second language, not taking them on enough vacations or not spending enough time with them that you’re a bad parent. Personally, I’ve been feeling this emotion since my daughters birth.
As someone who started missing work about three months *cough* three hours *cough* after starting maternity leave, I’ve often felt like a bad person. Seeing other moms feel completely satisfied with being a mom and only being a mom is hard for me. This feeling weighed heavily on me in the first three months of becoming a parent. I was struggling with the loss of my old life, learning how to create a new environment that didn’t include alone time, and doing it all with a new body that felt completely different. In other words, if you don’t feel mom-guilt, please teach me your ways.
Society doesn’t deem a working mom to be normal
For a bit of context, I’ll give you background into my personal situation. In our city, we haven’t been able to find daycare options (affordable or not), and therefore would have limited options when it would have been time for me to go back to work at the originally planned date.
Knowing we were in a tough spot, my husband volunteered to step back from his day-time position to stay home with her. For the summer, he’ll likely go on parental leave himself while we figure out the ideal schedule and continue to look for childcare. Once fall arrives, he’ll be working evenings and weekends.
When we told people that this would be our new setup, our friends and family were completely understanding. However, outside of this circle, people had a hard time understanding why I would be going back to work and why my husband would be parenting full-time. Questions such as: Is Alyssa ready to go back to work? Does Nic know what he’s signing up for? and Why is she ending her maternity leave early? became daily conversations that were quite frankly, no ones business.
People assume that because I want to go back to work that it means I don’t want to spend time with my daughter. People assume that because my husband was working that he doesn’t know how to parent on his own. Sadly, these people are living in a reality that is becoming less and less common. For those of you still living in this reality, women don’t have to stay home and manage the household, and men don’t have to go to work and manage the finances. It’s not a black and white design. There are a multitude of colors that you might actually like more than you’d ever realize. We’ve never followed this trend.
In our household, equality is of the utmost importance. I support my husband in his dreams and plans and he supports mine just the same — including my desire to get back to work.
Working will make me a better mother
We’ve all seen the articles that say children who have working mothers will advance further in their careers and earn more money on average, than their counterparts. In fact, you can just read the information yourself:
Women whose mothers worked outside the home are more likely to have jobs themselves, are more likely to hold supervisory responsibility at those jobs, and earn higher wages than women whose mothers stayed home full time, according to a new study. Men raised by working mothers are more likely to contribute to household chores and spend more time caring for family members.
Personally, staying at home all day singing Itsy Bitsy Spider, pointing at a picture book, and making peanut butter toast is not my favorite past-time. Do I love getting to watch my daughter develop, learn and turn into a tiny adult? There is nothing I love more. However, my personal development doesn’t love it quite as much. I start to feel sluggish, lonely and depressed when my world becomes limited to one task.
10 months was honestly my personal limit. And on the flip side, my husband hasn’t gotten to spend those same moments or build those same memories for himself. It’s time for their relationship to develop and it’s time for me and my working relationship to get back on track. This way, when I’m finished my work day I will have a ton of energy to devote to her and only her. My mind will no longer be distracted by emails (or the lack thereof) and worries about stagnant website analytics.
How I plan to fight mom-guilt on the daily
It’s easier said than done when I say I won’t let the mom-guilt get to me. To be honest, I think it’s unavoidable. If I see a photo, hear another baby laugh, or fall into a moment of longing to be with her, it’ll be hard. Very hard.
But that’s when acknowledgement and acceptance come to play. It’s good to acknowledge that these thoughts exist and that they’re normal. It’s also good to accept that I am missing moments that I might not miss if I were a stay-at-home mom. A large part of being a parent is accepting that you’re not always going to be there to experience their firsts.
In order to provide the future we want to provide for our daughter, we both need to work. We both need to build a career and set financial goals that can give her a well-funded RESP, and the ability to afford curricula’s that she is interested in. This is when I can thank my realistic mindset that reminds me that although it might be difficult, the less time I spend with her now, the more time we’ll be able to spend together in the future.
Most importantly, the key to fighting my daily mom-guilt will be making the most of the time that we do have together. Morning cuddles, afternoon swim sessions and evening playtime are all so much more important than they used to be. A lifestyle that allows me to develop professionally but still provides time with my family is something I think most parents strive to find — and that will be a huge priority for me.
Get you a team of supporters who are sister serious about your happiness
For those of you who don’t know much about myself and my husband — we currently live in a city that is 7-hours away from our closest relatives. However, our families are extremely supportive in helping us in any way that they can — including flying out to spend a few days at a time taking care of our daughter and spending time with us.
Will our new scenario be easy? Absolutely not. Come the fall, my husband and I will be working from 7am - 9pm in shifts, which means that we might not get a ton of alone time together. However, we both know that this is temporary and important for our future.
Fighting mom-guilt isn’t something you have to do by yourself. Tell your friends, tell your family, and tell your partner that you are feeling this way. To be honest, they’ve probably felt similar emotions or currently feel this way themselves. Another great support system includes the amazing community of personal finance bloggers who are also moms. They know how much importance financial security provides and can also relate to working a full-time job while trying to juggle multiple hobbies.
I’m happy to be back to the blog
It’s been a long while since I’ve had a routine with blogging and creating videos, but I’m finally feeling ready, I’m finally feeling inspired and I’m finally feeling capable of managing this part of my life again. So, welcome back. Thanks for your patience. And I’ll see you next week.