"I am a mom of a young child with cerebral palsy, and a teacher, " a reader writes. "I love working, and am passionate about my job, although it sometimes has me overwhelmed to the point where I feel like I'm not a good mother or wife. A job opportunity has come up that would require longer hours—I'd be at work from 8 to 5, year round. I'm concerned about my kid being at daycare for most of the day and coming home exhausted. I haven't even taken the job, and already I'm feeling guilty. How do moms of children with disabilities who work full-time deal with the guilt?"
I have been a working mom for as long as I've had kids—that's 15 years now, making me a bona fide pro. While I've had flashes of guilt, especially when I've missed school events because of work or mini milestones, the fact is that we are a two-income family by necessity. My salary helps cover therapies for Max, not to mention, the mortgage payment, keeping our family fed and clothed and All of The Stuff.
When Max was little, work was my therapy. I had a whole lot of anxiety about his development and his future, and my job gave me balance and perspective—which made me a calmer mom. At work, I I still think it does that. Like the reader above, I enjoy my work (I'm a magazine editor). Although I am supporting my family, it's also something that I do for me.
Having a dependable, warm and caring sitter has helped me avoid guilt trips, because I trust that my kids are well cared for. Ours used to sit through therapy sessions with Max. We had notebooks in which the therapists would explain what they'd worked on with Max, and let me and Dave know how to help and enable him. I didn't guilt myself up about not being there for the therapies. I just did the best I could when I was around Max, and took satisfaction in that.
So, that's what's helped with deflecting working mom guilt. As for exhaustion, well, that's just part of the mom gig, whether you work outside of your home or not. Years ago, I left a job that involved late hours, and have been fortunate enough to find a better work-life balance. I try my best to get chores done during the weekday (I've been known to toss in a load of laundry at 10:00 p.m.), so weekends can be mostly fun.
What's been your experience with working mom guilt? What's helped keep it under control?