How I Got Over My Working Mom Complex

I had my own working-mom issues. When my kids first went to day care a few years ago, I intellectually accepted this was a necessity. I was going through a divorce. Financially, I needed to work and build my business. But my actions spoke to my guilt: I paid the daycare until 4pm each day, but I told the school that I would pick up the kids at 3pm — buying a cushion of time in the event I needed that extra work hour. Guess what? Each day at 2:15 I would find myself cruising along writing a story or answering client calls. The guilt would kick in:

2:35: Should I call the school and inform them of my 4pm pickup? If I did, would my kids be waiting tearfully, feeling neglected by their overly ambitious mother?

2:48: But I could really use that extra hour to tackle my project – especially since I am wasting all this time feeling like a horrible mom.

And then one of two things would happen: I’d be a “3 o’clock mom” — an advent of my own fantasy in which good moms pick up their children at 3pm. But when this mom did collect her children, she’d then stalk her iPhone while pushing said kids on the swing or worry while going down the twisty slide whether she’d tweeted enough that day. Tweeting thoughts! On the slide!

Or, I’d be a “4 o’clock mom” — a lesser parent but a productive professional (in my own warped mind). But not that productive, because I’d be working with a nagging pit in my stomach resulting from my self-criticisms for failing my own (unrealistic) expectations of myself as a mom.

No one won. My kids got a stressed-out mother, my business suffered and I was a strung-out train wreck. All because I felt bad that I was working and mothering. From the same body.

A friend helped me see how this daily decision to be a “3 o’clock mom” or a “4 o’clock mom” served no one. I read a little history (“The Little House on the Prairie” series is helpful. I’m serious.) and came to terms with the fact I bought into someone else’s unrealistic fantasy about what my life should look like. I accepted the normalcy of my financial need to work.

More than that, I embraced my passion and desire to work — and that it is healthy and productive to embrace these feelings in the same way it is normal, healthy and productive to embrace my love and passion for my children.

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