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Lose the Guilt

Any working mom not in denial experiences some degree of guilt from time to time. We’re guilty for not being at home with the kids, guilty for not being better employees, guilty for serving takeout again, guilty that we don’t do as much as our moms did, and guilty that our husbands do more than our dads did (speaking of husbands ... wait, that’s a different rule), and guilty that our houses are just not that clean—the list goes on and on.

I can think of at least seven other things I feel guilty about right now. But dwelling on the negative is not the point. Instead, I urge all working moms to lose the guilt. If I don’t, it will destroy me and take every ounce of self-worth, confidence, and patience I have. When this happens, the day goes downhill very fast, and I become a guilty, weepy, irrational wreck.

A perfect example was the day before I went back to work after my first son was born. Wanting to prove I was a fabulous mother and excellent housekeeper, I had a long list of chores to be done before our nanny arrived in the morning. Walking aimlessly from room to room in a fog, I was quite busy, but not focused, and accomplished nothing I had set out to do.

That night, sitting in the nursery as my son slept angelically, by the dim nightlight, I could see the dirty floor and dusty shelves. I was a guilty, sobbing mess. I am a terrible mother; the nursery is dirty, for heaven’s sake! Calmly and quietly, my sweet husband gathered some cleaning supplies, and on his hands and knees, cleaned the room in the dark. And I felt so guilty.

In retrospect, I know that the guilt doesn’t get me anywhere. It doesn’t make me a better mother, change the past, help me, teach me, inspire me, or motivate me. Nor does it help my kids or my husband. It only destroys my confidence and satisfaction as a mother and wife.

Why should I feel guilty? I do the best I can.

I’m a good mom. I love my kids and they love me. In fact, they think I’m pretty fabulous (probably because they are still very young). I may not spend all day with them every day of the week, but “quality time,” not “quantity time,” has real value in my life. And, I appreciate that. Plus, while I am at work, I have the best possible childcare. So, I’m not guilty about that anymore.

My boys are my husband’s children, too. He gets home from work first, changes more poopy diapers than I do, and is better at getting them to sleep. And I’m not guilty about that anymore either. Instead, I revel in the fact that I am blessed with a wonderful husband who is a fabulous and very hands-on father.

My mom, also a working mom, always told me that it takes more energy to be angry and hold a grudge than it does to forgive and forget.

When I apply that principle here, it is obvious that it takes far more energy to be a guilty mom than a loving one. I do not know any working moms with energy to spare.

Life is short, and our time is limited. If we let the guilt creep in, we will miss out on the “quality time” and the best aspects of being a working mom. To be a successful working mom, you must do your best at work, and do your best at home. And by all means, lose the guilt, or it will destroy you.

By Pamela Jimenez Castellanos, who lives in San Jose, California, with her husband, David and sons Benjamin (two and a half) and Tayln (one). Since 1995, she has worked in Human Resources at high tech companies.


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