How to Be a Happy Working Mom
Mom guilt. For some reason, it seems we can’t escape it. Whether you have to work, choose to work, stay at home, work from home, it doesn’t seem to matter when it comes to feeling that we should be doing something else. Or maybe just more. Whatever the situation, it’s pretty rare that I talk to a mom that feels that what she is doing right now is enough.
Let me start with this: Being a working mom is absolutely the right decision for my family.
This decision is more than just a financial decision. I’m not getting into the nitty gritty of it today, but just understand that me continuing to work is an intentional decision and the one that I believe is best for me and the well-being of my whole family. Despite the fact that I know this, I still succumb to the mom guilt.
I am fortunate enough to be a teacher and have weeks and months off at a time to spend with my kids. I have a job I LOVE teaching high school theatre. Even though it sometimes stresses me out, I love working with the kids and having a creative outlet. I love teaching students the real value of the creative process and developing their skills in communication, critical thinking, and collaboration. Yet, there are things that are still hard. It’s still hard when my kids don’t want me to leave. It’s hard when I have events at school and have to go back to work. It’s hard when I wonder if my kids will think I care more about other people’s children than them.
I’ve always been a workaholic. Even before kids, my husband was convinced that I cared more about my job than anything else. This isn’t true at all, but it is challenging when there are so many demands on your time and you are really the only person that can do them. Being the ONLY theatre teacher at my school means that no one else really knows what is going on in my classroom and there is no way that a substitute can take over directing plays, running the shop, coordinating fundraisers and all that goes with it.
However, there is one thing that makes me a happy working mom: My kids win. Every. Time.
When my oldest was a baby, one of my very wise friends gave me great perspective. We have the same life consuming job, so she really gets it. She told me that no matter what, she chooses her son. If he has an awards assembly or performance at school, she takes the time off to go. If he’s sick, she takes the day off and doesn’t think twice. When my oldest kids were babies, this was hard for me to take. I had no more sick days! They were all used on maternity leave! How could I take days off for those things?
Then, my oldest started Kindergarten around the same time I had my 3rd child. There were ZERO sick days available when I went back to work after Thanksgiving. In the middle of January, I was faced with a choice: go to my daughter’s first awards assembly, taking half a day off, or go to work. I NEED my children to know without a doubt that THEY are my first priority. Yes, I was docked a significant amount of pay for going to see my daughter walk across a stage and take a piece of paper from her principal. Was it worth it? ABSO-FREAKING-LUTLELY. And I will do it again and again as the years go by.
I realize for some people, it sounds like a luxury to be able to skip a morning of work. I know some moms that are barely making it and missing a shift is not an option. However, I cannot express the amount of freedom I have found in this. If there is anyone you can switch shifts with, get a substitute for or ask to work early or late for, I think it is worth it. At the end of my life, it is not my job, my boss, or my students that will be there for me. My children. My children will be there and they will know that they ranked first.