No Guilt

May 18 2016 Published by under having it all, motherhood

Working mothers have a lot of guilt. Even before becoming pregnant, women worry about the perception of them in the workplace as women of a certain age – that they will have babies and take time off. They in fact may want to do just that, so the guilt appears before they have done anything.

When we get pregnant it really begins. Doctors appointments, morning sickness, complications take time or concentration away from work. “I should be working harder!” the voice says. “You are letting everyone down!” the voice says. And of course when the baby comes there’s the double whammy of guilt about not working enough and not doing enough for the kid.

I am here to declare myself an anti-guilt crusader. Enough is enough! Working mothers work hard enough between home and work and the extra burden of guilt is unnecessary.

I have started the crusade with myself and have carried on with several of my fellow bloggers. Give yourself a break, feel no guilt.

Here is why:

  1. That guilt isn’t helping anyone! You know you are doing what you can and probably more people than you think see that as well.
  2. Everyone has fluctuations in their work hours and work focus. This is a phase and it will pass. Taking it easy on yourself will get you through it easier than beating yourself up about it.
  3. It is good for the world to have you working. Women bring a different perspective, different temperament to work places (there are lots of examples of how women benefit the workplace). Also, the world needs women to have babies. We currently have no other way to bring new people into the world! Despite this, working American mothers are some of the least supported in the world. You are needed. Don’t forget that.

So next time you start to feel guilty about this or that, stop. Take a deep breath. Tell yourself that you are doing your best. If you need help, drop me a line and I’ll talk you down.


7 responses so far

  • Zuska says:

    Doctor's appointments, morning sickness...Friday afternoon round of golf or lunchtime basketball, morning hangover from last night's "happy hour"...
    Getting women to feel guilty about the productive labor of childbearing is the greatest scam ever.

  • Anonymous says:

    I have a somewhat different view. I think that a lot of this guilt stems from trying to pretend that being pregnant and/or having a small child is not really impacting your ability to do your job. Perhaps for some this is the case, but it isn't for most working mothers that I know. I think the guilt would be alleviated if workplaces could find ways -- and were willing -- to accommodate people who wanted to slow down for whatever reason: kids, elder care, etc. But in many careers, to admit that you need to focus less on work for a while, to reduce your hours, or even to take a few years off very significantly impacts your ability to progress later. In some cases, there is really no way to do that. So women have to choose one or the other, or pretend that they are doing both equally well.

    There has to be a better way.

    (Not that it should matter, but I am a woman with kids.)

    • peirama says:

      I don't disagree with that. I definitely think that workplaces should make accommodations so that people can slow down. However, I think that when motherhood affects your job, you should not feel guilty.

    • Zuska says:

      There are plenty of women with full time jobs who have no options to slow down or take a few years off when they have kids. In fact, most working mothers are in this situation. Just because these jobs are not labelled "careers" does not mean these women don't take pride in the work they do on the job, either.

      There is no way you can work full time and be a parent, and do things the same as you would either on the job or as a parent as you would if you didn't have kids (for the job) or have a job (for the kids).

      It seems like a good question to ask is whether the standards we as a society have for BOTH work productivity AND parenting are in any way reasonable. By parenting, I do not mean just mothering. I mean parenting. A father whose work life is not affected in any way by having children is not, in my opinion, doing any sort of parenting work other than bringing home a paycheck - at least in our society as currently constituted.

      In the meantime, guilt is truly wasted energy. You didn't design the system you have to operate within; the system sucks; your choices are constrained, not truly free, so you can't blame yourself for making "wrong" choices; you do the best you can; and don't forget that your reproductive labors are also productive labors for society at large, although they are not paid labors.

      • gmp says:

        don't forget that your reproductive labors are also productive labors for society at large,

        Thanks you for this, Zuska.

        I can't tell you how many times I have heard online, after an article similar to this one, "Well, kids are a choice (*eyeroll*; as if they were a luxury car). If you didn't want your work affected, you shouldn't have had them. It's not fair to have people without kids pick up your slack." It's often accompanied by "The world is overpopulated anyway. You didn't have to have kids. (The assumption is that we can always import people born abroad.) You had the kids for YOU, it's YOUR choice, don't expect the society to help with paying for their school or college or subsidize childcare. (As if these "playthings" go *poof* once they grow up.) These kids are all for YOU, they are YOUR mess, YOU clean it up. "

        So thank you again, Zuska.

        Also, the guilt that we educated women with good jobs feel is an issue, but we often have more flexibility than others in our jobs and perks such as an office with some privacy. I don't want to downplay that guilt about doing it all well isn't a real problem for those who experience it. But what helps (to me, at least) is putting things in perspective. Namely, we sometimes (often?) forget that a woman in an low-paid, low-security and low-benefits job (think Wa|mar!) can be fired if she can't make the shift because her kid is sick, or because she has to leave the register all the time to go pee when 8 months pregnant, or because she has to have water at her station (despite no food or drink rules) because she's in danger of going into premature labor due to dehydration. There is some serious misogynistic $hit in this society.

        • Anonymous says:

          Thank you so much for putting society first and choosing to have kids! Clearly that's why you made the decision -- no selfishness at all involved. Puhleez!

          And as far as I know, my childless neighbors still pay taxes that subsidize the public school my kids use; I get a substantial tax break by claiming them as dependents, etc. I don't know anyone who is seriously advocating doing away with any of these.

      • Anonymous says:

        "There are plenty of women with full time jobs who have no options to slow down or take a few years off when they have kids. In fact, most working mothers are in this situation."

        Who said any different? My whole comment was predicated precisely on the fact people don't have these options.

        "Just because these jobs are not labelled "careers" does not mean these women don't take pride in the work they do on the job, either."

        Never said this either. Any job can be a career, if that person chooses to make it so. But it's interesting that for you, apparently some jobs aren't worthy of this label.

        "There is no way you can work full time and be a parent, and do things the same as you would either on the job or as a parent as you would if you didn't have kids (for the job) or have a job (for the kids)."

        Let's call a spade a spade, shall we? We aren't talking about "doing things differently"; we're talking about doing less as an employee and less as a parent, because there's no way to fit it all in. But try telling this to the people -- mostly mothers -- that claim that having kids just means that they had to give up a hobby or two.

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