guilt and the working parent

Parent GuiltI could do a detailed breakdown of my schedule right now but it is pointless. Really all you need to know is that I work and I parent and many times I am working while I am parenting. (or is it parenting while working?) While I accept that this is the way it is right now, this bizarre overlay of ME modes is really great at bringing up the parent guilt.

There is an especially grey area in the hours between picking W up from school and making supper. This is roughly just over three hours of working while parenting.

Yes, I am the parent at the playground checking email on her phone. I am also the parent going down the slide with my kid. I take up to five minutes in the school parking lot before we leave the playground to check in on work projects. I swipe through tasks while W screams from his car seat behind my head, “Let’s GO, Mama!!” But once we leave the parking lot my phone is put away and I lead a rowdy sing-a-long of Yellow Submarine.

Once we are home W and I horse around and play but I am always aware of a clock ticking. Soon I am at my computer working and W is building blocks or creating traffic in the den with his cars.

I am not complaining about working, nor am I complaining about parenting. I love them both. I love that I am, for the most part, in charge of my own schedule.

My problem is guilt.

Would I rather be building with blocks with W on the floor of the living room? Some days. And some days I would rather work until midnight without any interruptions. I feel guilty for enjoying work some days. (and guilty for not always being an enthusiastic, get down on the floor, parent)

Still, the hardest moments of my day are when I have to ask W to settle down or be quieter because, “Mama has to work right now”.


  1. I get it. I work from home too. Luckily, most of the time I can save it up until after the babies go to bed as it is really hard to do anything that requires concentration with two five-month-olds. I really enjoy getting away the one night I teach in person and feel guilty because I am not there for them (evenings are their roughest time). I try to remember that I am providing for my children. That work is what allows me to be able to spend 163 out of 168 hours a week with them and pay all the bills that keep us happy and healthy.

  2. Me, too. But also add in a dose of feeling like I am short- changing both, at least for me!

  3. Right there with you! And, as Queenie said, neither my job nor my kids are getting enough of my time. Not to mention my marriage and myself. It’s a crazy ride, every single day.

  4. I stay at home with my two boys, ages 5 and 3. I was raised by a mother who worked 35 hours per week, and also took 12 credits a semester (to become an accountant) and maintained a 3.75 GPA. My dad worked full time too, and my grandmother lived with us. My mom was wonderful, but I knew seem times I had to entertain myself because “Mommy has to work.” Even though I don’t work for pay, I tell my boys every day, “Mommy is unavailable right now, I need to get my work done.” (There are things to clean, cook, and my many gardening projects to do.)

    I think it is extremely important for kids to learn to entertain themselves!! It is also important for parents to have things they enjoy, be it work or hobbies. If all you love/enjoy is playing with your child, what will become of your life when they grow up?

    I know it is challenging, but try to let go of the “mommy guilt.” You’re a great mom, and W knows it!

  5. It’s a hard balance, but I think you are teaching W lots of great things about hard work and work ethic and perseverance. Plus, being able to entertain yourself as a kid is an extremely valuable skill.

  6. I changed my schedule last year in order to improve on my own working parent guilt. I now start at 7am and finish at 3am. In the summer, I fiddle with that time a bit so we can get outside together, do more things. Sometimes, if I know we have something to do, I wake up even earlier and start at 6.

    I do not open my computer again until they are both in bed. (Unless I’m making a recipe that requires the computer. Does not count.)

    But if you see us out and about before 3pm, especially in the summer, and I’m on my phone, that’s why. I’m working, but they need to be able to play at the playground or go to a parade or any number of things that work doesn’t necessarily wait for…

    I’ve given up most of my guilt. It will be easier when LB is in school all day everyday next year. Right now, he spends a lot of time in my office on Tuesdays and Thursdays and MWF after school, reading and coloring and non-stop-talking.

  7. You know, I used to be a Pioneer Woman fan too and read her blog on a regular basis, but something wasn’t ringing true for me. She held herself out as just a “little ol’ ranch wife” but the truth is, she wasn’t even close. When I learned in reality she was married to one of the largest landowners in the US and had built a custom television studio on their property (cleverly concealed as a “lodge remodel” on her blog), I had to stop and ask myself, how many ranch wives have the means to do that? Don’t get me wrong, there’s nothing inherently wrong with having money, this is America after all. But when you mislead your readers and misrepresent yourself as something you’re not, intelligent people’s radars go up. Most people don’t like being made to feel like chumps.

    I also learned that she has tons of household help, tutors for homeschooling the kids, maids who run errands and tidy up her multiple homes and an entire cadre of people who help her manage her blog. Rumor has it she even has butlers for miscellaneous chores. In reality, there is no Pioneer Woman. All this “little ol’ ranch wife” BS is nothing but a fake internet persona manufactured by Ree Drummond and her Madison Avenue publicists. Ask yourself, how many bloggers are represented by United Talent Agency?

    And the fact Ree has lifted most of her recipes from church and community cookbooks without crediting her sources is very bad form. In 2012 alone, Drummond became embroiled in not one, but two plagiarism scandals. Instead of acknowledging the incidents, Drummond simply deleted the offending posts and acted like they never happened. One such incident involved an Etsy artist. Ree’s cowardice and the fact she never apologized made it appear she was trying to cover up the entire incident.

    Before posting uniformed tweets about a fake internet persona, you’d be well-advised to research the real Ree:

  8. Me too. That’s all.

  9. You should not feel guilt at all! W is so lucky – his mom is with him during the day when other kids are at daycare and they don’t get to see their parents at all during “work time.” Think of that when the guilt hits! I’m sure many moms wish they did not have to work to support their families, but that’s not very feasible anymore. Heck, even back in the 60s & 70s, my mom needed to work. She worked part-time 2nd shift at the hospital and her work days included Saturday & Sunday so my dad could “parent” instead of needing child care.

  10. I hear you on that. It’s never fun to ask the kids to leave mommy alone while she tries to get work done.

  11. in a minute is a phrase I say often. I try my hardest to keep “office hours” but that doesn’t mean my kids want to follow that rule.

  12. I totally understand.

    Working from home brings a special kind of guilt. Guilt that I’m not 100% invested in my kids at that moment. Guilt that I’m not 100% invested in my job at that moment, either.

    I’m actually struggling right now with whether it’s “working” for us, or whether I should try to find something outside the house to do…

  13. Hi there,
    I can relate to the whole guilt thing. One of the ways you can beat this is by having a jar where you deposit a certain amount of money towards your kid’s education every time you have those guilty thoughts. The idea here is to discourage yourself from having these thoughts. You could also have a separate jar where you deposit some money that you can use to enroll your kid into extra classes he might be interested in (karate, soccer or piano lessons…their choice). Just a way of turning a bad thing into a good one.

  14. this is the hardest thing ever, the guilt of not being able to give 100% to anyone. you are doing a wonderful job, in my opinion, of making the best of everything though.

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