Share this Story

How I finally dropped the working mom guilt

Chaunie is a labor and delivery nurse turned freelance writer, blogger, and author of the book, Tiny Blue Lines: Reclaiming Your Life, Preparing For Your Baby, and Moving Forward in Faith in an Unplanned Pregnancy. She has four young kid...

It's time to let go of your guilt over being a working mom

The other night, while nursing the baby to sleep and texting my babysitter to plan for the busy week ahead, it hit me: I was finally juggling work and family life. Without any guilt.

Throughout my mothering career, I've had many different hats — breadwinner of the family, night shift worker, stay-at-home mom, working mom and work-at-home mom — and through my years of trying to combine work and family, one thing pretty much remained consistent.

I felt like I was failing at everything.

Like many working moms, when I was working I felt like all I could think about was my kids and when I was with my kids, I felt like all I could think about was working. There was no balance, no relaxing and I felt like I was constantly giving everything my half-assed effort. It was not a good feeling.

I wondered when I was going to get my act together, when I would finally figure out when it would be OK to say no to playing with my kids so I could get the dishes done or when I would stop feeling so guilty for just wanting to go to bed at night instead of embracing just one more snuggle before they grew up. Where did I draw the line between savoring every last minute with my kids, my sanity and making a living?

I was spinning in circles, going nowhere fast and wracked with guilt at every turn. Was I working too much or not enough, neglecting my kids at every turn or hovering over them? I needed answers, people.

Strangely enough, I found my balance not through quitting work or focusing more on my kids, but in being honest with myself about what I wanted out of life and what made me the best version of myself. It's unrealistic to think that being a parent means expecting that all of my life decisions will be based on what makes me the happiest, because obviously, my kids come first. But it wasn't until I gave myself permission to ask what did make me happy that I found freedom.

I realized that I had this preconceived notion in my head that to be a working mom meant being miserable. That to some extent, motherhood meant sacrifice and that because most people were happy to have any kind of job, I didn't deserve to dream about what kind of a job I wanted. But slowly, through casting my net into the pool of very talented and inspiring people in my dream field, I saw that the life I had always envisioned was possible and that working wasn't always about crying on your way into your shift, desperately praying that you wouldn't kill anyone that day. (For the record, I worked as a nurse on a step-down intensive care unit, where most of my patients were having active heart attacks.)

I saw that working didn't have to be a miserable job just to get through, but that it was possible to find meaningful work that enriched my life and made me a better person and — dare I say it — mother.

Today, my life is harder in different ways, but I can finally say that I have let go of the guilt I made myself feel for wanting to pursue a job that fulfilled me and the guilt I thought I had to feel for working at all. Letting go of "mom guilt," I learned, was as simple as realizing that it never existed in the first place and that by giving myself permission to be happy first, I am a much better mother to my children all of the time — and not just some of the time.

More on working moms

Nicole Feld on motherhood, the circus and joining the family business
Working Mom 3.0: A variation on the Golden Rule
Working moms guide to busy mornings

New in Parenting

And you'll see personalized content just for you whenever you click the My Feed .

SheKnows is making some changes!

b h e a r d !

Welcome to the new SheKnows Community,

where you can share your stories, ideas

and CONNECT with millions of women.

Get Started