I’ve been avoiding writing this post because I’m a first-time parent and I’ve been struggling with some guilt for returning back to work myself. My son is almost three months old and I returned to work part-time after seven weeks. I was, am, and will likely continue to experience pangs of guilt no matter if I’m at home or at work. Regardless of the way you structure your work-life balance (being a full-time parent, a proud workaholic, or something in between), parenting inevitably comes with guilt. Part of this is self-imposed guilt, and part of it is what we’re socialized with and all the “shoulds” that come with parenting. For example, a woman approached my son and me as I was buying coffee at Wegmans and she asked, “should you really be drinking coffee?” I’m a pretty even-keeled person, but I wanted to snap. A stranger is A) presumably assuming I’m breastfeeding and B) suggesting I shouldn’t be allowed to let precious life water (coffee) touch my lips to keep me sane each day. How rude.
So anyway, there are many “shoulds” parents experience, including if one, especially mothers, “should” go back to work. For those who want to need to and/or want to work, it doesn’t mean you don’t care about your kids. Because working moms are arguably more likely to have to defend their choices,
here are some reasons NOT to feel guilty for being a working parent.
- You like your job
Do you like your job and feel fulfilled by the work you do? If so, that should be all the reason you need to rid the guilt! If you want to go back to work, go back to work! There’s an underlying idea that once people become parents, they’re supposed to give up their needs. Yes, some reprioritizing of needs is necessary, but you can still have dreams, desires and ambitions outside of raising children!
- You went to school for a long time
You may have committed four years, or six years, or ten years, or more to schooling. Your career may have just started and you don’t want those years of schooling to go in vain. If you’ve committed to so much schooling, your identity as a professional is likely pretty strong and it might be hard to take a detour!
- You need money
If you don’t like your job, want to stay home, and money is the only reason you’re returning to work, I feel for you. It’s a tough situation to be in. If you’re in the position where you have to work for financial security, then feeling guilty on top of that is just awful. You need the bills to get paid and this is how you’re making it work.
- Your kid will be fine
We hear the message that kids need their kids at all time. Before I continue, let me say that I’m a HUGE believer in attachment theory, which suggests a strong physical and emotional attachment to a caregiver is necessary for successful development. Going back to work and leaving your children in the care of grandparents, trusted nannies, or high quality daycares can actually help your kids develop secure attachments to many adults. Kids are resilient and capable of independence. They may actually benefit from learning being exposed to other perspectives and other people.
5. Your patience and love for your kids might sky rocket
Work can also be a huge break from parenting duties. The first week I went back to work, I reflected on a few things. I realized how great it was to answer a phone call without being nervous that my son would start crying. It was also awesome to answer emails with two hands. And how liberating it was to be able to eat when I was hungry. I also reflected on how much I love my little guy! Absence makes the heart grow fonder, right? Being away from your kids might help you reflect how much you love and cherish your kids. Work feeling like a break might be guilt-inducing, but it may increase your ability to be patient at home!
6. You’re a role model!
Kids watch their parents all the time. Being a working parent or a parent who is involved in many activities other than child-rearing shows children that you can have a life after having kids. It directly and indirectly teaches lessons about balance, multitasking, and humanity.
DISCLAIMER: This all being said, if you can and want to stay at home full-time, that’s wonderful! It is an exhausting job and I admire parents who can do it. It doesn’t mean you’re a bad feminist. It doesn’t mean you’re lazy. It doesn’t mean you’re not being progressive. Whatever you choose, you absolutely don’t have to defend your choices!
If you’re near me and feeling nervous about being a parent or are struggling to manage, please consider contacting me.