First of all, congratulations on becoming a parent. Second of all, how does that feel? Chaotic? Messy? Confusing? Exhausting? Joyful? Fulfilling? Let me guess, it’s a weirdly beautiful mishmash of all the above, isn’t it?
I have been through exactly what you’re going through when I conceived my twin girls. I am a copywriter in one of the leading advertising agencies in California. After the pregnancy thing was over, I couldn’t wait to get back to the office since I absolutely love my job.
My colleagues are my best friends in the world and that place feels like a second home to me. I worked from home for most days for the first two years. After that, I rejoined my office and the regular shifts felt so damn normal to me.
I felt like myself again. The endless cups of espressos, laughing with the colleagues, racking my brain to come up with great content, debating over what to order for lunch felt like breathing pure oxygen.
Having said all that, I did feel multiple whiplashes of guilt leaving those two little girls alone at home. I resented myself for not being with them 24/7, not changing their diapers, not feeding them, not playing with them, not being able to soothe them when they’re crying. The frustration grew exponentially with every passing day, up to a point where I even typed my resignation letter.
It was the unconditional love and support of my husband along with a few sessions of therapy that prevented me from emailing that resignation letter. Mom guilt is a more prevalent issue than you think. Almost every working mom feels it at one point. But there’s a silver lining. You just need someone to put your worries into perspective for you. Since you stumbled upon this page, let that person be me for the next couple of minutes.
You Made the Right Choice
Repeat after me (not loud or people are going to think you’re crazy) “I made the right choice by continuing my regular job post-pregnancy”. Don’t just say it, mean it. Because woman, you did nothing wrong. You are not a bad mother for wanting to do something that only concerns you and not your kid.
You can be a nurturing mother and a no-nonsense working woman at the same time. So what if you can’t swaddle your newborn to sleep on weekdays and watch ‘em growing on a wireless network baby monitor instead? It doesn’t make you a horrible mom. Don’t forget that you are an independent working woman too.
And babe, your kids won’t grow up being distant or resentful to you just because you were in office 5 to 9. My mother was a journalist. She could hardly manage time for me and my brother, except on certain weekends. Despite that, I think my brother and I can unanimously agree that she was and is still the most loving and caring mother we could ever get.
Self-care and Good Parenting Are Mutually Inclusive
Overparenting, i.e being near the kids, looking after them all the time, isn’t synonymous with quality parenting. Please throw that BS into the trash right now.
You are not selfish for wanting to take some time away for partying with your pals or engaging in your hobby. Do what makes you feel good with zero guilt. Self-care is also a form of great parenting because if the mamma bear doesn’t get her shit together, the baby bears will eventually bear the brunt of it (the pun was completely unintentional).
It’s Ok to Prioritize Work over Kids Sometimes
I said sometimes, not always. See, there will be days when you might not be able to keep your promise of going out to a mall or playing Jenga and eating pizza with them all evening. Yes, that’s going to suck big time. You kids will naturally feel upset, or even pissed, if you will.
But you have to talk to them and explain why mommy had to finish her projects urgently. If the nature of your job requires you to be at work on a short notice, you have to do it. This is something you need to explain to your kids. They are kids, they are not stupid.
If you feel horrible for ditching them for work on a certain day, make up for it as soon as you can. The next time you get a day off, spoil them a little, play stupid games with them, have a heart-to-heart, cuddle them to sleep.
Stop Beating Yourself up for Not Being a Mommy Genius
All women are born with motherly instincts, that biology. All are born mommy genius who knows exactly what to do every single time, that’s BS. Nobody can skillfully handle every challenging parenting situation without some trials and errors. If your diaper changing skills require a lot of honing or you are bad at picking up hunger cues, for example, it’s ok.
It’s normal. You will learn these things with time and practice. Now, if you are not particularly fond of playing with your kids even when you’re free, that’s a different issue and it’s not as big a deal as you’re making out of it. Different parents connect with their little ones in different ways.
Do you think I like playing peek-a-boo or prancing around the house with two toddlers at the end of a long, exhausting day? No. Does that make me a terrible mom? Also no. Instead of pretending to enjoy their baby-appropriate games, we do things we both can enjoy.
I take them to the kitchen and let them help me baking brownies, read them stories and on weekends, we do Zumba together. I love watching them trying (and adorably failing) to match my steps. So there you go. If you enjoy playing with kids or mess up certain parenting stuff, don’t feel guilty for it. It’s more normal than you realize.
Independent Playtime Is Pretty Important
Children who get adequate playtime without parental supervision grow up to become smart, confident and intelligent adults. I am not saying this to console you. There is plenty of scientific evidence to back up this statement. Independent playtime allows the children to take the driver’s seat, be their own bosses, be creative and most importantly, be responsible for your own actions. Do I need to elaborate more?
The Bottom Line
There will be people, mostly your fellow moms in the neighborhood and maybe your in-laws, who will pass crude remarks about your decision to continue working. Well, to hell with their remarks. Everyone has their own challenges and they tackle them in different ways. The dynamics between your kids and you are none of their business. So let their snide comments go to hell and stop feeling guilty for doing what you have to do. Everything else will eventually fall into place.