Relief for Working Moms' Guilt

8 years ago

Are you a Mom and a Professional? Do you suffer guilt over not being a better Mom? My son, 15 years old at the time, had words of wisdom to pass along and relieve some (perhaps all?) of your guilt.

I returned to full time work as a manager in a Fortune 100 company when my son was 3 months old. By the time he was two I was a full time graduate student enrolled in a program that required two consecutive days of classes with an overnight stay for the first year. When I returned home Tuesday evening I would always bring a special treat from the bakery near the school. I can picture 3 year old Jordan now - sitting in his high chair at the kitchen table, Dad by his side, excitement blazing in his eyes, smiling from ear to ear. "Did you bring me a treat?" Always.

During each of the following 6 years I ran a consulting business, attended classes and worked an internship. Psychology texts became bedtime stories, allowing me to study and us to spend time together. At the age of five he was aware that I was writing a dissertation and asked, "Mom, if you took all the pages and put them in the driveway would it be longer than the car?" Made me laugh. I had him copy all my papers from the computer's hard drive to a CD when he was 10. He labeled it "Psycho Mom." Made me laugh.

I felt guilty that I want' home more, that I didn't prepare wonderful dinners and bake chocolate chip cookies. Friends and co-workers assured me that my son, my husband and I had wonderful relationships and no one was suffering. It was the quality not the quantity that mattered. None of this relieved my guilt very much. But I was compelled. I loved my work, and I did not want to stop or slow down.

When Jordan was 15, I considered a career change so I could spend more time at home. The teenage years are so very important and kids that age so vulnerable in so many way. Jordan, my husband Bob and I talked about the potential career change. Jordan's was incredulous "Why would you ever want to do that? You love your work. You wouldn't be you if you didn't work, worked less, or did at something you don't love as much. You'd be unhappy, and that would make the rest of us unhappy. You would never be happy as a stay at home Mom. Things are good just the way they are." That young man stopped me in my tracks. I had not valued one of the most important life lessons he was learning. Be who you are, your authentic self - and the rest will be okay.

Jordan is 19 and a college freshman. People asked often during this first year how he was adjusting. The word "adjusting" never occurred to me in relation to my son and college. He began doing his own laundry at 12. At 14 he cooked meals for himself and often for friends. He shopped for groceries at a nearby supermarket before he could drive. He loves college - the independence, the freedom, the life.

Recently a friend whose son is also a college freshman discovered that he had not attended classes at all second semester. Instead he slept late, played video games and partied with friends at night. I asked Jordan what advice he might give my friend about her son. "Get him out of there," he said. "That kid doesn't know how good he has it, and they shouldn't be wasting their hard earned money sending him to college right now." My son. I am very proud of who he is and what he values. So much for those freshly baked batches of chocolate chip cookies he missed out on.

We all give our children many gifts. Enjoy the ones you are giving them. Some day they will let you now how they've valued and grown from these gifts.


Dr. Anne Perschel, Leadership and Organizational Psychologist, is president and founder of Germane Consulting. She specializes in coaching high potential women and designs programs that ensure companies realize competitive advantages of talented women by removing obstacles to their success, promotion and retention. You can visit her site at where you will find a rich library of articles and posts on leadership and other topics related to work-life effectiveness.

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