Mom guilt is real. Mothers feel guilty for working while their children are home or staying home with their children while they feel they “should” be working. Some mothers just feel guilty for how they choose to parent, and debate endlessly whether they’re doing a good enough job — especially when others are quick to offer their unsolicited two cents.
In fact, often, mothers feel guilt from the shame that child-free people place on them. That’s why we reached out to mothers to share what they wish they could say to their friends who have chosen not to have children.
1. “Don’t say you ‘understand.'”
“The number-one thing that I would want to say to child-free friends is, please stop telling me you understand,” says Rebecca Green. “You absolutely cannot understand the time constraints, the stress, even the joy or what it is like to raise a child, discipline a child, grieve with or over a child if you have never had a child. I am not a doctor so I could never say to my doctor, I understand that procedure, diagnosis, treatment, etc.”
2. “Things are different now, but I still love you.”
3. “Motherhood helped my career.”
“Don’t be afraid of what motherhood will do to your ‘professional self,” says Christine Michel Carter. “Motherhood didn’t hurt my career; it helped it. And I think you should be defined by motherhood. Motherhood shows leadership ability. For your personal brand, it validates your patience and problem-solving skills. You ARE willing to take on new opportunities. You ARE willing to assess the situation and look at all possible solutions. That is motherhood on a daily basis! We are constantly approached by these little people, who are our internal stakeholders. We have to think of all of the possible outcomes to please these stakeholders and set them up for success. The skills you acquire as a mother are undoubtedly transferable.”
4. “There’s always time to work out.”
“Fitness is one of my biggest passions in life and, in order to get my workouts in as a mompreneur, I have to squeeze them in whenever I can,” says Liz Jeneault, VP of marketing at Faveable. “I’ll even work out three separate times during a day if I have to (if, for example, I’m unable to work out for a long chunk of time instead). I do anything possible to get my workouts in! I’ll even sacrifice sleep for it. That’s why, when it comes to fitness, the one thing I wish I could tell my child-free friends/family is that they don’t have an excuse not to work out, because they have so much more free time on their hands! Many people blame their busy schedule… I’m working from home, caring for my daughter full-time, looking after the house, and I still find time to work out each day. I think my child-free friends should just remember to always try to put their free time to good use! Don’t just lounge around because you don’t have a child who keeps you constantly on the go; get up and move!”
5. “My time is not my own.”
“The number-one thing that I think, but don’t say, to my child-free friends is that, [if/when you have kids,] your time is not your own anymore,” says Erica Jabali, a blogger and copywriter with three kids. “So, their casual requests to go to dinner or get a coffee actually require a ton of planning and grooming on my part. From getting a sitter to prepping for my time away and then the extra grooming to feel like I won’t embarrass myself in front of my still-cool, child-free friends, so that I can sit there and listen to them complain about their last date while trying not to fall asleep or think about what my house will look like when I get home.”
6. “Motherhood is worth it.”
“Having children is wonderful; there are perks to not [doing it], but being able to mother is so beautiful, and I love it,” says Melanie Musson, a writer for ExpertInsuranceReviews.com. “If you decide to have children someday, it can be the most fulfilling path you’ve traveled. I’m not saying it’s all roses, but the thorns are worth it!”
7. “Leaving the kids isn’t always easy.”
“The number one thing I wish I could tell child-free friends, and have them understand, is that it is very difficult for me to be apart from my daughter — even when I’m overwhelmed and exhausted, I still usually don’t actually want to be away from her,” says Natasha, a former classroom teacher turned WAHM and blogger at The Artisan Life. “People assume that it is easy or no big deal to find someone to watch your child, but even if you can find quality, affordable care, it isn’t easy to leave a young child with someone else. My young toddler still nurses frequently and has always refused a bottle. Even though she’s a year old, if I’m away from her for more than a couple of hours during the day, she wants to nurse all night long. Sacrificing my sleep simply isn’t worth it for me to have dinner out or go to an event without my daughter.”
8. “Enjoy this time.”
9. “Let me complain.”
“The number-one thing I would want to say is: Please let me complain without judging me,” says Emilia, blogger at pursuetoday.com. “I know you don’t understand where I am coming from, but one day if you do have kids, you will get it. And yes I am actually more tired than you and more overwhelmed.”
This article originally appeared on Fairygodboss. As the largest career community for women, Fairygodboss provides millions of women with career connections, community advice and hard-to-find intel about how companies treat women.