Friday, November 30, 2012

On Mommy Guilt...

Wow, it's been crushing lately.  For the record, in case you don't know, I am a working mom.  I love my job and since I work in education, it's easy to see how important the work is that I do.  I'm not working for the money, I'm personally working for the blessing of seeing kids' minds open up to the world around them and to be there for children for whom the adults in their lives are unwilling or unable to be.  Daily, I pick up the pieces as marriages fall apart, I try to be there for kids whose parents are in crisis and I try to be the adult in a child's life when the adults are acting like children.  I am not saying that every child needs this but I refuse to apologize for being a mom who works outside the home - my work is important.  I almost never go out on my own unless my children are asleep, I don't go out to socialize with friends and I avoid all choices that take me away from my children.  I also have the luxury that my schedule roughly matches up with that of my kids so while my son is at daycare during the day, my daughter is only in daycare for about an hour a day because she is in school.

That being said, this year, I have more keenly felt than ever, the struggle of being a working mom.  Because of the nature of my job, I can't go in and volunteer in my daughter's classroom and I can't be a daily presence at the school.  I decided that, since her school doesn't exactly bless me with other chances to be involved, that I would start going to the parent council meetings.  Has that ever been eye-opening.  It's run by a very small group of mothers, all of whom are stay-at-home and all of whom obviously look down on us as being "lesser moms" and "not getting the needs of our children" and that "if we really cared, we could stay home."  It makes me want to scream - "your staying home isn't because of any special accomplishment on your part other than marrying a man who can pay your way."  I don't judge these women for staying home and, truth be told, I'd love to work part-time (that's my ultimate dream) but for us, right now, that's just not possible.  I makes me insane that these women can be so judgemental.  Does staying home with the children really bring that out in women?  Seriously, I am asking that.  I came home after the first meeting and told my husband that I was glad that I was able to go out to work because at least I am out with women who aren't bored and don't have to resort to the "mean girl" some in, some out drama to make life interesting.

All this being said, the mommy-guilt keeps kicking in, though.  Last year, the school scheduled the kindergarten concert in the morning during the school day.  I was shocked.  Every school at which I have ever taught has had concerts in the evening to allow parents to come.  For the 15 years I have been teaching, I have just viewed it as part of my job to stay a few evenings a year.  My husband and I really don't have any childcare options here and my husband does all kinds of musical evenings at his school so I have taken my children with me (and they both love going to my school and being spoiled by my students and fauned over by the parents).  Last year, I took a day off and went, risking being in trouble from the school board.  This year, with all the labour unrest here, I guessed that it would be during the day again and I started to creatively plan how I might get there.  I asked about whether I could take an unpaid day off and was told that there is no way that they would approve it.  Dh and I talked and we decided that he could probably go in late and get a couple of teachers to cover his class, just so that we wouldn't have to tell Pk that nobody would be there to cheer her on.  Then, last Friday, we heard through the grapevine that they were planning the concert for the afternoon of the Friday before the break.  There is NO way that we could sneak out for a bit then and if we booked the time off, we would be slaughtered.  I lost it.  I sent the principal a very pointed email about the fact that they evidently valued one type of parent very much over another and that this was an equity issue that they were excluding parents who work who, in this town anyway, must be the vast majority of the population.  At the end of the day (after some considerable discomfort including the principal emailing the principal at my school!), the concert was actually moved - the principal agreed that they couldn't have chosen a time more challenging for the vast majority of parents.  It is still during the day (with the current labour situation, there are no evening concerts) but it was at least a small gesture.  In the midst of it all, though, I came away feeling like a total failure.  My child was going to have to come away feeling like we didn't care because of the fact that we can never be there for her.  I cried more than a few tears over that.

Why is it so hard to be a mother and not feel loaded down all the time?  I'm sick of it.  I wish I could find a way to just let it go and know that my children get so many opportunities and because Dh and I are teachers during the day, we can be much more present than most parents (off two weeks at Christmas, one week at March Break and 9 weeks together full-time as a family in the summer and only a few hours a day during the work week).  I also don't want my daughter to limit her dreams or to believe that she is less because she is female and I want to send her an example of not feeling limited.

All that being said, though,  being a working mom really sucks sometimes.


  1. Sorry you have been battling the mom guilt. It's such a hard thing and I think we can all find about a million and one things to feel guilty for! I'd like to point out that not all stay-at-home moms are like how you perceive these women. Just as we all know that not all working parents want to be involved like yourself. Women can be caddy and judgmental no matter which side you live on. In the same way that some stay-at-home moms perceive the working moms as being not involved, some working moms perceive stay-at-home moms as women who get their way paid by their husbands. There are many things that my working mom friends and their families are doing because they both work. Luxuries, of course. My family doesn't do those things because we chose this life for our family. We don't drive fancy cars and big take vacations among other things. We are certainly not poor and my husband's job pays well, but it does not mean that we don't sacrifice other wants, friendships outside of the house, or struggle because I stay-at-home and take care of the household duties and supplement all our daughter's education outside of school. It is a personal lifestyle choice and sometimes the choice is already made for people because there isn't another option. We all have our stories and reasons why we have the lifestyles that we live. What is needed is more compassion for those who live this life differently than each other.

  2. A, I hope that in my frustration I didn't convey that I think that all stay-at-home moms are like this. I know many at the school at which I work who are lovely! It's my policy that I don't even judge anyone else's decisions - I have no idea what's gone on in their lives to put them in the places in which they find themselves and it's not up to me to decide what's best for someone else. I have friends who work whose kids are neglected, I have friends who work whose kids a having a wonderful time, I have friends who stay home who are devoted to their kids and I know parents who stay home who ignore their kids. I just know that in this particular environment, this particular group of women are very condescending with us and treat us (the group I go with, all of whom work in professions), as though we 1. don't have a right to be involved in the school and 2. that if we cared about our children more, we would stay at home. These are not women like you who have sacrificed standards of living to stay home, these women are very entitled and in at least one case, she, as a stay at home mom, has much more than me!
    Again, I am sorry if I made you feel like I was criticizing. I just battle this frustration (and I battle it sometimes in my school, as well, where there are staff members who just assume that parents can always be available to the school) when the school environment treats parents as though they are lesser if they work outside the home.

  3. I have to say that I'm appalled, but not at all surprised by these stay at home moms. Although I have all the respect in the world for you working moms, I know there are moms who think they deserve an award for staying home. I also know that there are stay at home moms who think they are better than other stay at home moms. Basically they just think their "shit don't stink". As they say. I have been hurt numerous times by mean moms and I am so sorry you have to deal with that at the school meetings. For us mums you are wrong if you stay home but you're wrong if you work. It sucks. :(