When Working Mom Guilt Steals Your Joy

Working mom guilt – the working mother’s worst enemy. The assault is strong and ruthless – its meddling powers muddle the brain, bringing confusion, sadness, and regret.

When Working Mom Guilt Steals Your Joy - Working Mothers - Working Mom Life - Mom Life - Guilt - Dealing with Guilt - Motherhood - Parenting The Gifted Gabber

Been there before? There now? Read on for three thoughts that just might help you to count your blessings rather than lose sight of them when the guilt beast takes over.

My Own Working Mom Guilt

When Working Mom Guilt Steals Your Joy - Working Mothers - Working Mom Life - Mom Life - Guilt - Dealing with Guilt - Motherhood - Parenting The Gifted Gabber

My after-work cuddles on the first day back to work and Little One’s first day to “school”

At the beginning of the school year, after computing how much maternity leave I would be able to take, I was bummed with guilt and sorrow. I would only be taking about eight weeks this time, and that included the three weeks off for Thanksgiving and Christmas. In my area, teachers must use up all of their sick days as maternity leave days. Once those days are used, we are docked for any additional days at a certain rate based upon salary. In my case, I am docked at a rate close to $300 each day I am out on maternity leave.

With my first maternity leave two years ago, I had 42 days of sick leave saved up since I rarely call in sick. This allowed me to have about nine weeks of leave before being docked. This time, because I had already used up all of my sick leave for the first leave just two years ago and had to use most of my 10 sick days last year for SB’s random sicknesses, I only had 12 days of sick leave this time. I took off five weeks (excluding Thanksgiving and Christmas break which fell in the middle of my leave, luckily) and was docked for the majority of it.

To add to the issue, it made sense for me to return to work the first day after Christmas break – today – as I get a new group of students on the first day of each semester. I knew it would be easier to start off a new group of students myself rather than have them get off to a chaotic start with a sub and have to deal with it later. I have been burdened with the idea that LO would be starting daycare at only nine weeks old. She was being jipped!

The working mom guilt monster rallied high.

It would be best to quit my job and stay home. Why should I spend my days with other people’s children while my own children are cared for by strangers? What kind of idiotic irony is this?

Before leaving work for maternity leave two months ago, I worked like a mad woman to get my classroom perfect and detail my sub plans as much as possible for my long-term substitute. It’s possible I am a bit of a control freak about my classroom. I stayed far longer within those four walls than I ever should have, and I took far too much work home once I finally escaped those walls each evening. The same happened before my first maternity leave two years ago. As any other teacher will tell you, there is no possible way to cover every single detail a substitute will need to know in your absence. Not a chance. With more than 130 students, four subjects, club sponsor duties, and English as a Second Language designee duties, I was kidding myself to think I could have done any more than I did.

Yet, the guilt took over that I failed my substitute. I didn’t do enough for her. I didn’t label things as well as I should have. I forgot to leave her detailed information on the difference between a short behavior document and a long behavior document. I forgot to tell her whom she could speak to if she had trouble with our online grading program. There was that particular student whom I should have talked to her about to offer ways to handle his behavior. My explanations on 504s, IEPs, parent contact forms, and computer lab reservation processes were lacking. I totally bombed as a worthy teacher.

I shouldn’t take a maternity leave. It would be best for everyone if I return to work immediately.

While on leave, I worried constantly about my sub, my students, my classroom. Granted, I worried less when I had that sweet little bundle in my arms, but I still felt the sting of guilt every time I received an email from my sub asking me questions about something I had not addressed.

During these two months, I continued to send SB to daycare a few days a week so her structured routine would remain somewhat intact. I also wanted to have one-on-one time with LO just as SB had been given one-on-one time when she was born. The guilt was immense. Every day after dropping off SB, I had remorse and had mind to go back and get her right away. I knew the early weeks with LO would go better with a calm atmosphere free of toddler tantrums for part of the time. I knew it was for the best. Yet, what kind of mother didn’t want her toddler with her 24/7? So and so wouldn’t send her kid to daycare if she was in my shoes. She is a good mom.

I should withdraw SB from daycare for these two months. It would be best for her if she were home with me every day. 

When Working Mom Guilt Steals Your Joy - Working Mothers - Working Mom Life - Mom Life - Guilt - Dealing with Guilt - Motherhood - Parenting The Gifted Gabber
A day “off” from school while I was on maternity leave.

I saw some students around town. They told me they hadn’t learned anything since I left because the sub “doesn’t teach anything.” If you know anything about middle school students, you know they love to use this line when their own efforts have fallen short. There is always someone “not teaching anything.” What’s that old saying? “When the cat’s away, the mice will play?” Although I knew the students were using the situation of having a substitute as an excuse for letting their grades slip, the guilt soared. Why did I think those students could survive without me? What kind of teacher just leaves her students like that?

Again, I shouldn’t have taken a maternity leave. The students would have learned more with me there.

This last week, as my maternity leave came to an end, the guilt monster swooped in again. It hadn’t been enough. The time was too short. I spent most of my time nursing the first few weeks and then moved on to exclusively pumping. Those who have pumped know that pumping means triple the work: pumping, feeding via bottle, and washing bottles and pump parts every couple of hours. For me, pure misery. My entire days of leave were stipulated by round-the-clock misery of pumping. I didn’t spend my time enjoying my baby! And now it’s over. Too little, too late. What kind of mom doesn’t prioritize her time? And now here I am bringing an end to the pumping frenzy as I start back to work. I have decided it simply won’t work with the frantic morning rush, the lack of privacy at work, and dealing with two babies with evening/bedtime routines. And you guessed it! The guilt soars high and mighty.

I should continue pumping for as long as my body continues to produce. A real mother wouldn’t use work as an excuse not to give her baby the very best. I knew I should have quit work and stayed home.

Yes, this working mom guilt monster, the unwanted house guest that he is, hovers still.

As I drove to work from the daycare this morning, blinking fast and furiously to deflect the tears, I realized that life is pretty darn good, and I shouldn’t let guilt blind me from that. Some mothers long for work. Some workers wish for children. Somehow, I’m lucky enough to have them both.

There is no stopping working mom guilt. Some days it will still succeed in blinding us from our blessings. Other days, a half-decent workday and sweet baby snuggles will prevail.

How to Counter Your Own Working Mom Guilt

The next time the working mom guilt monster overpowers your happiness, remember:

  1. There are women who would love to feel the success and independence you feel as an employed working woman.
  2. Many women would do anything to have children to rush home to after work – no matter how exhausted they may feel.
  3. It may not seem like it now, but you are shaping the perspective your children have for working women. It may be years down the road, but your children will someday be proud of how hard you worked to help with your family’s foundation – at home and in the working world.
When Working Mom Guilt Steals Your Joy - Working Mothers - Working Mom Life - Mom Life - Guilt - Dealing with Guilt - Motherhood - Parenting The Gifted Gabber
We all survived the first day back from maternity leave. The snuggles were all the sweeter.

Linking up this working mom guilt post with the lovelies at:

Saturday Soiree (Fridays)

What are your worst experiences with working mom guilt?


When Working Mom Guilt Steals Your Joy


  1. Jennifer says:

    I am a stay-at-home / work-from-home homeschooling mom who used to be a classroom teacher myself! It sounds like you're doing a great job balancing everything. I'm on the other side of the fence, and I have guilt too. *hugs* I guess it's just a mom thing.

  2. LifeAsAConvert says:

    I think it is great that you care so much about your students, but I think also you were taking care of your priorities. Mommy guilty whether working out of the house or in the house rages in all of us. Sometimes I feel like that I work at home I should spend more time with my children, but I have to be real with myself. I can't have everything my way all the time. 🙂

  3. JanealY says:

    When I have to be away from my kids for work (I work at a University), I tell myself, and now, them that I go to work to help other kids and that I hope someday, when they are in college, that other moms will be willing to spend their days away from their kids to help mine.

    We cannot do it all. Don't feel guilty. I'm sure you're doing great.

    Nice post.

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