A Working Mom’s Guilt

By Guest Blogger Kami Lewis Levin

I’m really trying to take a more Zen approach to life.  I’d like to be able to let things roll.  I’d like to be able to kick back and relax.  I’d like to enjoy a stress-free, yell-free household.  Those specific behaviors, however, appear to go against the essence of my being.  It turns out, I’m pretty type-A.  With a pinch of OCD.  And a tendency to get worked up.  Like crazy worked up.  Generally about really dumb stuff.

stressed out mom

But THIS is not about your run of the mill dumb stuff.  THIS is important.  THIS could alter the empirical nature of my existence on this planet.  And although it is very much all about me, THIS might well influence other young moms out there to follow along in my footsteps.  Or not.  Much depends on your point of view.

You see, I have been wracking my brain, weighing the pros and cons, desperately trying to come to a decision about THIS.  I’m searching for my happy place, if you will.  For normal people, having the opportunity to choose between two awesome things is a frikkin’ blessing.  For me (I’m totally NOT normal people) — it’s utter torture.  I’m much better at having decisions made for me.  Which is why my husband is in charge of dinner.  And food shopping.  And pretty much anything that involves decision making of any sort.  I swear to God, just watch me painfully deliberate over grape tomatoes versus cherry.  And last week, for instance, the networks had the audacity to run Glee and Lost simultaneously.  I seriously thought my head would explode.

I know.  I have issues.

Ok.  Now back to THIS. Now that you have a clearer picture of moi, this is it:  I’m an educator.  I’ve been working part time since my older son turned one.  That was three years ago.  Now, my younger son is two and I’m thinking it’s time.  To rejoin the workforce.  As a 40hr/week participant.

And I’ve been thinking about this.  For.  A.  Year.

Alrighty then… let’s look at this.  The money would be great.  (Win!)  But most of it would go to daycare.  (Lose.)  More time at work means more productivity.  (Win!)  More time at work means less time with my kids.  (Lose…I think.  Well, more often than not, anyway.) Going full time would make me feel like a more effective person.  (Win.) But a less effective mom. (Lose lose lose.)

I could go on, but I won’t.  For your sake.

My ass (that should definitely be at least two sizes smaller) is sitting on the fence here.  And it’s getting kinda sore, people.

What’s a girl to do? Oh the guilt!

working mom guilt

And, not to compound the issue but, there’s also the deliberation over whether I like my current job enough to push for full time status or whether I want to look for something else entirely.  Like a full time, paid writing gig that would allow me to curse as much as I want.  And that would provide me with bottomless mugs of coffee and plated pastries and a life-size replica of fitness trainer Jillian Michaels to scream at me each time I reach for that second chocolate croissant…


When it comes right down to it though, it’s an issue of priorities.  Am I a mom first or am I something else first?  And if I’m a mom first, does that not inherently make the decision for me?  Is it selfish to want to work full time?  Is it selfish to want to feel like a mom less of the time?  Omigod, am i selfish?  Does that mean my kids like daycare better than they like me?  Hmmm?  (That’s not a rhetorical question, guys.)

I guess I should just suck it up and find out if there’s a full time position available.  It never hurts to ask.



Kami Lewis Levin is a Blogger at The Fence and mother of two children, ages one and three, who works part-time. Constantly caught in the tension between working and mom-ing, it is her intention to use the working mom blog to explore that tension in a way that enables other working moms (and stay-at-home-moms as well) to feel less isolated and more validated.


So ladies, what do you think Kami should do? How do you make decisions? When is the right time to go back to work after the kids are born?


  1. its such a tough choice to know when to re-enter the workforce after kids. The guilt is unbearable. But it sounds like you could be ready. Think hard and weigh all your options and the decision will come to you on what job and when. Just don’t feel guilty about it. Guilt never does a body or mind any good! Good luck!!

  2. Deciding when to go back to work is very much a personal thing. Part of what Kami needs to consider is why are she wants to go back to work.

    If Kami needs to go back to work to pay household bills then it’s a no-brainer and she must work on getting rid of the guilt.

    If Kami wants to go back to work to fulfill her dream to pursue a given career she must readjust her thinking about honoring herself. I urge Kami to network with other working moms who are successfully juggling both for support and tips.

    I have been a working mom for my entire 40 year career. I recently retired and am very happy that I did both. Since I always wanted to be a teacher and a mom, it never occurred to me that I had to make a choice. I taught junior high for two years before I got married, and through the years of raising four children I was always teaching, writing and eventually running a business.

    How did I do it? Good time management and putting my children’s needs and activities at the center of everything. In my book, Color Your Life Happy, I spend a chapter giving many tips and techniques on balancing family and career.

    I admit working and raising a family is not for the faint of heart. You must really want both passionately and seek ways to make it work for you.

  3. Great, great advice! Either way it’s clear my guilt must be assuaged. Regret is so time consuming! Thank you so nuch for reading and commenting!

  4. Kami – I wouldn’t presume to give you advice on this one – I’ve had that particular fence pole wedged uncomfortably in a certain place since my daughter was born, so I don’t have much to offer. I’m also working part time, my daughter is 18 months, and #2 will be here in 2 months. (Yes, I know, what the hell were we thinking?) Anyway, I do have to say that one thing about working part time that does make life much easier is the flexibility to deal with doctor’s appointments, run errands, deal with the house, etc. Just another piece of this impossible puzzle to obsess about – and yes, I can totally relate to your struggles! Good luck!

  5. I am by no means an expert and I struggle with this same issue myself. But the statement that always made sense to me is, “If mom’s happy then everyone’s happy.” I truly believe that some women are meant to be SAHMs and others are not. I’m somewhere in between. If you want to work f.t., you should work f.t. I doubt your children would benefit if you were around 24/7 but miserable, you know?

    Also, my dad said something profound once. (Ha!) He and my mom were both educators and growing up I got the sense it was their vocation, not simply their job. It was normal for me that they both worked. So my dad said he thinks it’s good for kids to grow up seeing that their parents are passionate about and involved with something besides their kids. Makes sense to me…

  6. Hi Abby and Carla, thanks for coming by! I totally believe a happy mom yields a happy family, but I’m not sure which side of the fence makes me happier in this case…your responses are all really helpful in weighing the options.

  7. I’ve worked full time my whole adult life and though my son is now 4 years old, I have to say I STILL am on the fence, occasionally, about whether I’m doing the right thing. If I won the lottery tomorrow, would I keep working full time? Maybe not…depends on how big the jackpot is. But I’d want to keep doing something, for sure, something that I am passionate about. I think if you can find a job that you can be passionate about AND that pays enough so that you clear some sort of actual profit after paying for childcare, then go for it. It’s not like you’re signing up for life. If you don;t like it, you can always scale back. My advice would also be to look for a company with a good set of work/life balance policies or an environment that encourages people to have their own interests and doesn’t frown upon you leaving at 5pm. I don;t think i could have maintained my sanity if I’d kept up my full time pace and still commuted 3 hours round trip every day. It is only through the internet & telecommuting for some of my days that i was able to maintain my sanity. Important to note, however: my child is NOT home with me while I telecommute. You’d still have the childcare fees, you just would cut the commute time. Good luck! I’m sure that whatever you choose, you’ll do it well and with humor. Just try to do it without a side of guilt. (I do the same thing, argh)

  8. I’ll be bold and say if you’re on the fence about doing it full time then continue on part time and find some more activities to do with your kids until they’re school-age. Then your time with them will be more active, you’ll be more engaged and they’ll appreciate it more. Once they enter school, you will have less time with them and more time to work. I love working and could easily delve into a position where I get to travel, spend 60+ hours at the office. But, the kids are little once and will need me to physically be there less and less as they get older. I think of it as an investment, I invest my time in them now, they’ll hopefully return the favor later on. I just enrolled my 3yo daughter in preschool at a daycare 3 days a week while my son is in elementary school until 3p each day so I can work part time. This gives me flexibility with my work to be there 5 days if needed and a few more days at home with my little one while she’s still little most of the time.

  9. That is a very personal choice, I agree with a couple of other comments when they say that your kids will benefits a lot if you are happy with yourself, they will learn about self esteem and how important is to fulfill your dreams. My mother used to work all her life, and I never felt myself neglected, she never missed any game or concert or parents meeting at school, she knew all my teachers and would help me a lot with my homework, also one thing that some people doesn’t think is that when kids go to daycare or preschool, they mingle with another children, and that is important, when i was a child, I was diagnosed with asthma at a very early age, my mother didn’t wanted to send me to day care because she was afraid of my health, and my doctor told her, that she should put me on daycare for me to be able to learn how to socialize with other kids, and learn to be independent, now one thing is important is that the company you work for have a good work/life balance policy, for example, the company I work for is a big electronic company, actually one of the biggest in the world, and they have a policy for working mothers, that they can work from home whenever they want. The key is to have a balance, and it looks like you have been blessed with a husband that is willing to share responsibilities. You have to do what makes you happy, if your kids see you miserable 24/7 they will be miserable also


  10. Momtrolfreak, I totally hear what you’re screaming. I’m lucky though. I love my job, my boss is amazing and I work flex hours. It’s a great situation. Which makes this decision more complicated. I mean, why mess with perfection?

    Erica, thanks so much!

    dm, I thank you for your boldness. you’re probably right. Maybe I should just keep things as they are. Kids are only this age once. But on the other hand, it’s a lot of pressure to enjoy every single moment, you know? Still thinking…

  11. As a mom who’s about to re-enter the (outside of home) workforce in a p/t capacity, let me say this. For ME, working will make me a BETTER mom. I tend to take too much for granted when I spend so much time with my kids. Being away from them 20 hours per week will make me appreciate THEM more, ME more, and being home more. I might not be here for every meal, playdate, and tussy-wipe ;), but I will appreciate those things all the more when I am present.

    And the kids will appreciate my presence more too. And they’ll likely get more presents with the meeeeellions of dollars I’m going to bring home.

  12. You are not alone!
    I am so glad I read your post. My kids are 3 and 2, and I have fluctuated between working part time and not working (sometimes not by choice) and freaking out. I think you have to first of all forgive yourself your flaws – we all have ’em. And you have to be happy because if you are happy your kids will be happy. And believe me, vice versa. And let’s not even talk about the effect of an unhappy and unsatisfied wife on the marriage….
    You cannot ignore who you are and what you need because you had kids. Yes, you have to be less selfish (believe me, I struggle with it every day) but if you can carve out time for YOU and your kids,everyone is better off.
    Only YOU know what you need and what you can do, and YOU have to be honest with yourself…
    And finally, blogging helps! You are not alone.

  13. Kami- as always I enjoyed it! Good luck it’s a bitch of a decision but once you make it you will be good! It’s hard, but it’s rewarding too! Plus we have to freaking pay for the kids so there’s that too..

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.

Subscribe to our Newsletter

Weekly Tips for Empowered Living and Erica Diamond’s FREE Self-Care Resource Guide right to your inbox!