Mom Guilt: Returning to Work Full-Time
Returning to work and leaving Addie was so hard! The mom guilt I felt leading up the start of my job was overwhelming and crippling. Mom Guilt when returning to work full-time is not talked about enough. Here is my experience:
My Fear & Reluctancy:
Aaron and I first discussed me returning to work around Addie’s first birthday in January 2018. I knew that as my student loans started to kick in and as our savings started running low, that work was imminent. I knew that I would need to start contributing financially to our family.
I was scared though. The start of the conversation would start a flood of tears and I would close off the conversation. I did not want to imagine leaving Addie with someone else for 8-9 hours a day while I worked a job I wasn’t sure I wanted or was qualified for. I felt inadequate at home as a mom and a wife. The last thing I wanted was to be surrounded by new people, learning a new job and feeling inadequate there too.
Looking back, I can tell you that in January, I was absolutely not ready emotionally to return to work. The thought would trigger panic attacks and floods of tears. How was I supposed to leave the tiny human that I grew inside of me for 9 months, and then spent every day - every single day for the last 12 months keeping her alive and getting to know her.
Aaron and I held off for as long as we could before I started looking for work. I think deep down he felt like he had to tread very lightly around this subject, because he knew just how fragile I was. When I graduated with my Master’s Degree, we sat down for the talk. Loans payments started in 6 months. I had six months to find a job. But, childcare and preschool enrollment happened in 4 months. If we wanted full-time child care, we had to make a decision in July/August at the very latest.
I told Aaron (and God), that I would only return to work if it met my very specific requirements. I wanted a job where my boss understood the importance of family and the fear of adjusting to working after having a baby. I wanted a job close to Aaron. I needed a job where my paychecks could cover childcare and then some. I prayed without ceasing for these specific requirements, because I knew I needed them to be able to be successful.
Getting the job:
I started applying for jobs in April 2018. I applied for any job that a Master’s in Psychology mildy qualified for. During this time, I felt guilt over going to graduate school. I felt guilty for dropping my first grad program and leaving the therapy world. I felt like I had screwed us over financially by chasing a dream and then changing my mind. I felt guilty for not having enough job experience and for taking a year off to be with Addie. There was immense guilt over the fact that I was not helping carry the financial burden and that I did not want to leave Addie.
I felt like a bad wife for not helping financially. I felt like a bad mom for wanting to help out financially. I felt like a failure for not feeling content at home.
Struggles with being a stay at home mom:
On top of feeling the financial burden of being home, I felt like I was drowning at home as well. I felt guilty for dreaming about working in an office and getting a break from changing diapers, nursing and keeping the tv turned off for fear of making Addie addicted to screens before she turned one. I felt like I was going stir crazy at home and did not know about free activities outside of our home that were age appropriate for Addie.
There was a huge amount of guilt I carried around feeling that I wasn’t adequately stimulating Addie. I felt like I was doing her a disservice staying home with her, because I did not know how to help her learn and grow. I felt overwhelmed by our apartment, cooking meals and trying to provide quality one on one time with Addie.
You guys, I felt so guilty for every emotion I felt. I felt overwhelmed and completely alone.
I struggled with these feelings of guilt until July, when I got hired at my current job. My job started in August 2018. I wanted to share the background of guilt I felt leading up to starting my job, because I am assuming that if I felt this way, that someone else might too. And if that is the case, I do not want you to think you are alone. You are not alone.
Starting my New Job:
For the first three weeks of my job, Addie stayed with my sister during the day. Her preschool/toddler program wouldn’t start until the end of August. I think this transition was a God-send! I knew that Addie was getting one on one attention with her auntie and I focused on learning my new job.
Once Addie started her toddler program, I started taking Addie to school every morning. I am unable to pick her up daily, so my husband does pick up. It was important for me to have a part in her schooling, so I do drop off.
One woman told me that she would never have been able to leave her kids while they were Addie’s age. Comments like this one, made me feel horrible. It made me feel guilty for needing to return to work. I would go back to the vicious cycle of guilt I mentioned above. I felt awful for leaving Addie, even though she seemed to adjust well to school. I felt guilty for not being able to provide all that the preschool had to offer.
In order to combat the Mom Guilt of leaving Addie everyday, I took the time to get to know her preschool and her teachers. I also learned the names of each of her classmates, so that I can ask Addie how they are doing. I ask her teachers what she likes to play with, what her favorite activities are and who she plays with most often.
I have shared with my coworkers, that it is hard to miss out on Addie’s daily activities. I am very fortunate in the fact that almost all of my coworkers and supervisors are parents. The majority of them are moms and used to be teachers. They have been able to share their story and how they handled adjusting to returning to work after having kids. Talking about the mom guilt I felt and hearing that other women felt it too, made me realize that I was not - that I am not alone in this.
Another way that I have combated the Mom Guilt of returning to work is protecting our time together as a family in the evenings and on weekends. We do not go out as often as we used to. We do not pack our weekends full as often any more. I have realized that if I am intentional with the time I do spend with Addie that she will not feel as if I abandoned her or that I was not present for her life. So when we are together, I stay off my phone. I get down on her level and I let her be apart of whatever I am working on.
I still feel Mom Guilt. It comes up when I am at work or when the email about classroom volunteers goes out. But I also know that the time I spend with Addie has become much more intentional now that I am working. I also know that Addie loves her teachers, her classmates and her playground at school. She thrives and her need for social interaction is being met well with Preschool. My sweet compassionate daughter has learned so much while at her preschool. I am speechless at the 2 year old she is and what she has learned from other people. When I start to have mom guilt creep up while I am at work, I think about those things. I think about the positives that have come from her attending school and I remind myself that Addie is loved by her teachers and loved by me. She has a tribe of people supporting her and loving her. That is what I want for her.
How did you combat mom guilt when you returned to work? Do you still struggle with it?