Working Moms: How to Avoid the Shame Spiral

Around Addie’s 2nd birthday, I posted some observations about her as a real and unique little person as well as some of my reflections on motherhood, specifically what it’s like to be a mom who is also working outside of the home.  It garnered responses like “Wow, someone else is right there with me in this” and “Thank you for sharing, can you do it more often so I feel slightly less crazy?” So friends, back to the blog I go…

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The makers of the Audible are my heroes.  They make my 15-30 minute commute purposeful, might I even say, enjoyable.  It’s a monthly subscription for $14.95 per month and worth every bit of my sanity.  Plus when you’re at dinner parties and people begin to share what fancy books they’ve read recently, you can have something better to contribute that your deep musings on the latest edition of, “Brown Bear, Brown Bear, What Do You See?” (Why does the teacher look so mad? That is such a diverse classroom of children… way to be ahead of your time, Eric Carle!)

My most recent audiobook: Of Mess and Moxie written by Jen Hatmaker.  I’m only three chapters in (AKA one round trip commute to and from the office) and my mommy worldview has already been blown to pieces.  I’ve also laughed out loud a noteworthy amount of times because Hatmaker’s commentary is both moving and hysterical.

My favorite part so far — Jen’s youngest daughter, Remy, asked her to come have lunch at her elementary school sometime that week.  Jen consulted her calendar and found that she had her workdays already booked up.  She told her daughter that she couldn’t come.  After breaking the news to Remy, she sulked around the house for a while and then came up to Jen and said, “It’s alright, Mom.  I forgive you.”

And Jen’s reaction is priceless:

No. Nope. No ma’am. Forgiveness is offered for someone who has wronged you.  Not a mother who has a job during your 11:10am lunch slot…  My work is not a sin against you, child of sorrow. Most moms on the entire earth work, in fact.  I refused to sink into a shame spiral because I didn’t grant my snowflake’s particular wish, especially because we spend most of every day in the same house together.  A few years ago, that would have sent me to the prayer closet, wringing my hands, yet again, at how often I wound my children.  I might have let that seep into my thoughts, poisoning my hope for their healthy childhoods and our future relationship.  I may have immediately compiled a list of all the moms who would have dropped everything, rearranged an entire day to make it happen.  The ones who already eat at their kid’s school twice a week…  Instead I said, ‘Sorry kid.  Have a great day.  See you at 2:45.’ And shocker… she was fine.  You guys, the kids are fine.  We are fine.

Oh, this is gold.  I think the line that was especially sobering to me was “most moms on the entire earth work.” When did not working outside the home become the goal in my mind?? Before I had Addie, I remember pleading with my stay at home mom friends… “I just don’t want to work… I want to be home… How can I make this happen?” But what I was really thinking was, “I SHOULD be home.  To be a good mom, I NEED to be home.”  But how does that apply to all of the women who actually don’t even have the choice?  Does this mean that there are only good moms in countries, family units, cities that have the financial security or family support to even have that choice?  Nay.

But I had a choice – and I chose to work.  And there are moments, I feel that “shame spiral” creep in… What if I can’t always be there to put her to bed because I have a work dinner? What if her hair is a bit “cutting edge” sometimes because I’m not always the one getting her ready in the morning? If she still sometimes cries as I walk out the door to head to work, does she know I still love her like crazy? Am I totally screwing her up by working – moreover, am I willingly CHOOSING to screw her up?  In these moments, I’ll look to Hatmaker’s sage wisdom:

“No. Nope. No ma’am…  My work is not a sin against you…  You guys, the kids are fine. We are fine. ”

See you at 4:30pm, Addie girl.

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