How many times since your first child was born have you asked yourself this question? Many devoted, loving mothers feel guilty because they work. How often have you told yourself that you should be home with your children instead of investing so much time and effort in your business or career? Do those around you never miss an opportunity to remind you that "time flies" and that you should be enjoying your children while they are young? Even worse, if you have a career that you love, the level of guilt may even be higher than for someone who is doing a job mainly because they need the financial security of a steady income. Working mothers often ask themselves: Aren’t my children more important than my career and shouldn’t I be able to give it up for them?
Here’s a scenario that many of you will be able to relate to:
When Wendy had children, she chose to spend the first six years of young family life working at a part-time job in order to have plenty of time to raise her twin girls. Truth be told, this job she settled on because she wanted to have the option of spending more time with her children is a bit on the boring side. Now that her twins are older, Wendy is planning to return to school to pursue a master’s degree in a field that interests her. She’s excited at the prospect, but, at the same time, she can’t help feeling guilty because she thinks that her kids should be enough to provide her with a fulfilling life. To make matters worse, this sentiment is often expressed to her by many of her extended family and friends.
Wendy is not alone. A Pew survey found that most people believe that children are better off if their mothers don’t work outside the home. However, here’s the paradox: Studies tell us that both mothers and children benefit when moms work and earn. So, isn’t it time for us to realize that being a working mom has many advantages (and disadvantages)? Should we learn to accept the mommy guilt that usually accompanies us when every time we leave our children to interact with the corporate world? After all, the modern age is the age of the working mother. Often, this isn’t even by choice; it generally takes two incomes to make a go of things. And, here’s what research has found:
- Between the ages of 2 and 11, the number of hours a mother spends with her children makes no difference to their eventual academic or psychological success.
- The pressure for moms to spend as much quality time with their children as possible can produce so much stress that it can actually create worse parenting.
- A mother’s level of education and career achievements have a greater impact on her children than the number of hours spent together.
- Children benefit significantly from more unstructured play time and the opportunity to bond with caring adults who are not their parents—i.e., grandparents, babysitters, day care providers.
Working Moms Are Happy Moms
Isn’t it better for your children if you’re happy? Here are some significant benefits of having a career:
- The exercise of your intellect by participating in a field that interests you.
- A sense of satisfaction not reliant on your children's success.
- Your own income and family financial security.
- Spending time with other adults.
Your Life Is Not Just Your Children
It’s OK to inwardly confess that you sometimes find endless hours with your children to be less intellectually stimulating (although no less meaningful) than time spent with adults in other settings. In fact, spending too much time with your kids may, at times, lead you to resent them. You may end up frustrated because you crave more time at work or more time out with your friends or significant other, which can lead to unrealistic expectations from your children demanding they "compensate" you for your sacrifices on their behalf. It helps to recognize that despite being a loving mom you are a wonderfully complex woman made up of many important parts. All of these parts need to be nurtured so that the whole (you!) can function well.
The Cost of Dropping Out
Working mom guilt may lead some mothers to put their careers on hold for a few years. They drop out of the workforce or take part-time, less-demanding, and lower-paying jobs. The reality is that over the long term, it’s tough to catch up, and women’s earnings can plummet if they have been out of their chosen careers for several years.
The Mommy Tax
Both sexes earn approximately the same when they land their first jobs after college. But the mommy tax gets imposed in the following ways when working women begin to have babies:
- They may get less desirable assignments because their supervisors believe they won’t want work that involves long hours or travel.
- Part-time women workers receive lower raises.
- Flex work leads your boss to believe that you’re not one hundred percent committed to your career, so you are overlooked for promotions.
Being aware of these facts will empower you to make the right decision for you and your family. It's no less important to keep in mind that many women believe that those formative years they chose to spend at home with their children were their best investment!
The Future Belongs to Millennial Moms
The good news is that mommy guilt over having a career may be on the decline. This is because, instead of indulging in destructive guilt, millennial moms are harnessing their mommy guilt to help them focus on the areas in their parenting they choose to invest more time and energy in. They have grown up accepting the idea that they will work outside the home and are showing the way to becoming successful working moms. They are using their guilt to motivate them to infuse their parenting with passion and purpose. How can you harness the mommy guilt you feel to help you create everlasting memories of time well spent with your children? Be creative, be consistent in investing in parenting your children with passion despite your hectic schedule, and discover the joys of being a working mom raising happy children.