“Having It All” and Missing So Much

Do you ever feel like you are adding to your to-do list faster than you’re crossing things off and then end up with very little time to yourself? Ever feel like your career actually fulfills you, but that you’re still missing out on so much? Or better, are you frustrated with your job, and still feel somewhat absent in your kids’ life?

Welcome working moms. Welcome guilty moms. Welcome multi-tasking moms. Welcome frazzled moms. Today’s Blog post is for you.

working mom

The media icon for the woman living in the 1950’s was a domesticated housewife and mother who cooked, laundered, cleaned and sewed all the while looking fashionable with that big smile on her face. Fast forward to today. The media icon today in an entirely different woman. What do see in the latest Glamour and Vogues magazines? You see a tall confident woman, designer clothes, wearing her role as a career woman, mother, wife and domestic goddess, with that “I can have it all” look to her. So what’s the difference between then and now? While both may be illusions of perfection, the real career woman today is mostly exhausted, completely overwhelmed with the second shift at home, and struggling with guilt and stress.

And while many working women today feel very fulfilled in their career, many are not. But the one commonality between the happily working moms and the unhappily working moms, is the feeling that they feel they are simply missing out. I spoke to a bunch of working moms, and these were some of their complaints about balancing home and career:

“You miss things as a working mom. If you have an 8-6 job like me, with little flexibility, you simply cannot be everywhere, and I have missed out on much.The list is too long”

“I work to help pay for some of the bills in our house. And while I enjoy my career as a real estate agent, I feel like I am missing out on a lot. If school gives me enough warning, I can make ballet recitals and basketball games, but otherwise, I miss out. My parents help out with some extra curricular activities and thank goodness for my mom who can take my kids to many of their programs. But sometimes, I wish it was me more often.”

“I miss going for lunch with my girlfriends. And the gym has become a thing of the past. I have neither the energy nor the time to go to the gym anymore.”

“How do I feel about working? I could use a foot massage, a romantic evening with my husband, and Mary Poppins to clean my house! To those lucky women sipping lattes and strolling downtown with their friends, you have it good.”

“I cry every time I think of my 1 year old in daycare when I should be home with her. I am working out of necessity, not out of choice. If I won the lottery, I’d be out of here!”

Sound familiar? Perhaps.


We all have different situations at home, but it’s true, many working women feel they are simply missing out on too much. The number of women leaving the workforce to start flexible, home-based businesses has risen dramatically in recent years, in part due to these tremendous feelings of guilt and lack of time. I say it’s the fine balance between necessity and priority.  When I was working my insane hours, I was constantly conflicted when I left my little one at home to go to work. If I left and he was fine and happy that morning, it upset me that he was bonding more with my nanny than with me. If I left and he was crying and she would have to peel him off of me, that would kill me too. It was like a lose-lose situation. But these are the facts, and I wasn’t alone. A poll showed that 68% of working moms are conflicted between working and raising a family (CBS Poll).

And even recently, those old feelings of guilt have started to resurface for. Juggling the book writing and editing, the launching of the new site, and Blogging at times has taken me away from the boys. Not nearly as much as before, which is why this is the perfect balance for me, but it definitely has. And thankfully, I have incredible support from two sets of grandparents and a loving husband, but I’m starting to feel the exhaustion set in again and the “me” slip. I’m not complaining, as this is what i signed up for, and this is what completely inspires me, but as women, we still have that responsibility of  “the second shift” at home, and it’s a lot.

second shift

Listen, there are also women I know who don’t work and still don’t spend a lot time with their kids either. No judgement. I think we all have to do what works for us. And to also make the best out of any situation. If you’re working, and feel like you’re missing out on too much, you may have to re-adjust your priorities. You may opt to drop one work day a week (and that day’s pay) if you feel the pressure to be everywhere is just too great. The beauty in life is everything is a choice. And that choice is entirely your own, and can be changed at any given moment in time.

So to all the working moms out there, tell us, what do you fee like you’re missing out on? How would you like your life to look in a perfect world?


  1. Every working mom feels she is missing out, because SHE IS. there is only so many hours in the day to do everything. for me, it’s the “me” time that suffers. Everyone gets me – job husband and kids. There is no time left for me. That’s my biggest complaint about working. That and complete exhaustion! I love your posts.

  2. “If I left and he was fine and happy that morning, it upset me that he was bonding more with my nanny than with me. If I left and he was crying and she would have to peel him off of me, that would kill me too. It was like a lose-lose situation.”

    This describes me to a “T”. It’s a tough, tough thing that we working Moms do every day! I love my career (not to mention I have to work as I am the majority income) but there is a lot of sacrifice. I miss my kids and for the most part I KILL myself to be everything to everyone. I don’t want my kids to miss a thing because I work. Not one thing so when I am with them I often turn in to crazy super human Mom who tries to pack in all the love at night and on the weekends that I would if I were there during the day! It’s an exhausting semi-psychotic merry- go- round of crazy! There is zero time for me or my husband.

    Loved the article- thanks for speaking for the working women who get smacked around at lunches and in the media!

  3. I agree with Jenn, it is definitely my “me” time that has gone to the wayside. I recently went through a moving transition (moved out of my parents house after 6 years!) and had the luxury of live in grandparents so taking a yoga class after work wasn’t a big deal. Now I feel like I get off of work rush to my parents to pick up the little guy and we are home getting ready for the next day. In the evenings I think I can get things done but I usually end up going to sleep pretty soon after my son does. Everything comes with a trade off, before I had more me time I felt the guilt of not having enough time with my son, now that the scenario has changed I have lost my me time. Delicate balance that must constantly be weighed and assessed to make sure that we are doing the best we can to accommodate all aspects of our lives 🙂 whew I’m exhausted just thinking about it! Thanks for blog, love feeling like I’m not alone in this battle for more time 🙂

    My life in a perfect world would be working part time that would allow me to actual go back to school and still have time to be fully involved in my son’s life. His father would actually have something to contribute financially and in physically helping with day to day (he is currently unemployed and only has our son 2 weekends a month, doesn’t drive, and has not contributed financially in years) like picking up from school or taking him to baseball practices. I don’t need to live beyond my means, but I do need to be able to take care of us and that fact alone requires a full time job. One day I may be able to live in my idea world.

  4. I think this whole working mom thing is changing so much — it’s becoming more and more apparent that trying to do it all and have it all, ALL AT ONCE, is only making us exhausted and not happy. I have seen so many posts and articles about this very thing lately. Quite the opportunity for companies out there that are willing to offer flexible working options I think!

  5. I agree with Eileen. Companies can retain valuable talent by offering flexibility to their employees. I work for a nearly all-woman company, Wisconsinmade.com. Most of us are working moms. All of us work because we need the income to support our families. Our female boss has ‘been there-done that’ so she makes it a priority to help us juggle child-care and parent-care. Some of my co-workers job-share. Others work remotely. When my children are sick, I work from home. If my employer wasn’t flexible like this she would likely lose us. And that would be bad business for her because we are now so experienced at our jobs. Plus, losing staff is bad for office morale.
    I think as more women run their own businesses, these new leaders will change the typical work-place and work-day in ways supportive of women’s multiple roles. But women must make these changes. Male employers won’t unless women insist! It’s not all that different than in early 1900’s when women had to insist on getting the right to vote.

  6. Thx for sharing everyone, this helps I’m not the only one here. My sweet 2year old gets very clingy when I have to work extra to contribute more to the household bills. My husband is underemployed. It just makes me tired that I have to face making up for the whole week with getting my daughter in order after other people care for her. Her diet suffers, physical activities, routines, that Mom’s touch that softens life’s blows. Working moms ALWAYS have to make up for it on the weekends. I think under the age of 5, kids belong with MOM. Maybe I haven’t found the right sitters, but most caregivers won’t do things the way Mom wants. I’m talking about knowing the child’s temperment and treating as such with respect.

    Thanks for listening, I could go on and on about how I HATE to work!!!

  7. You hit it on the nose… I struggle with this daily. I have a stronger support network than ever before and the balancing act is a tough gig. I read your blog before I started a blog… thank you for inspiring women to have the courage to live with passion.

  8. For twelve years, I LOVED going to work. I identified with working – I was my work. BUT I had the support of my parents and my in-laws to keep my family and home moving along with me. It hurt that my mom treated my working like a playdate, a big joke. She never worked, she didn’t understand. After my second child, she moved away and my in-laws took over helping with the kids – driving, picking up, babysittig, popping in at school to be the mystery reader or going to concerts. I joined them when I could, but my work came first. With the third child the in-laws were still a huge help at first, but soon time was catching up with them and suddenly we were without a backup plan. For a couple of years we poured money into child care and tried to maintain the work and family balance. But this wasn’t a balance. I can’t say that I feel like I’ve missed a lot, but I do feel like I’ve let everyone down. There are just so many things I didn’t do. I never volunteer for events at school because if I did, I would end up as a no-show because work got in the way. Then I felt awful for doing that not only to my child, but to the teacher or homeroom mother or whomever I had volunteered to help. My kids stopped asking me to bake for a class party because I couldn’t get it done. I didn’t have the energy to help with homework, check backpacks, go to school events, meet other parents, but I made up for it by scheduling myself to teach Religious Ed, so I’d have to be there with my kids, and to run a youth group or church play, again, forcing us to spend time together, even if not everyone is thrilled with the activity. All that did was add extra stress as we tried to finish homework and eat dinner quickly before rehearsal or class.

    This past year, I took a position as a Director of a Child Care Center. My youngest was in Kindergarten half the day, so I could arrange for the bus to bring her back to the day care after her school day ended. I brought her with me in the morning, drove her to Kindergarten at lunch time, and met the bus out front at 3pm. It worked nicely, and although I usually put in 10 hour days, I could have the kids there (I had my son get off the bus at the daycare also) and I could flex my time as needed. I know that I put in an enormous amount of time for very low pay, but I appreciated the flexibility and was thrilled to be running a school that really was meeting the needs of the kids and the parents. After she moved up to first grade, I switched both of my children to go to the afterschool program so that they could stay at their own schools with their friends rather than come to me at the day care. My oldest was now in High School, so she had her own events after school. Without them there, I felt myself stretching my time and became more obsessed and less of a parent. I wanted the school to succeed. My son was failing middle school, my daughter was having tantrums and was showing more anger. I was stressing about work and from 6 am until late at night I was online, on the phone, texting, and communicating with emploees and staff and co-workers.
    Happy New Year, and the owner suddenly turns the school over to corporate. Overnight I go from self-starter to being micro-managed by 7 people. I have to sign in every day and call in my attendance, I have to send daily reports on my productivity and email a list of what I’ve accomplished each day to my area manager. My world is upside-down in an instant, and now I’m working even longer and harder to try to please them, to try to keep up. I get home at night and I’m exhausted and angry, and I sit on the couch and suddenly have three children and the dog sitting as close to me as they possibly can. They just want to be near me, to be touching mommy. It is the saddest, most pathetic thing I can think of. Suddenly, I don’t want to work any more. After 14 years of being a working mom, I need to work on my home. I still want to work, but I can see how running a household can be a full-time job. I certainly wasn’t doing it well before, and I want a clean house, I want laundry to get put away, I want to have the energy to walk the dog. And I definitely want to get away from CORPORATE. And I know that, for me, the only way to balance work and family is to work ‘mommy hours’ and work primarily from my home.

    I have worked in many offices, and I have learned that I do not take well to corporate, to micro-management. I need to work for myself, make my own projects, my own results. I like working with a team, and I have been lucky in finding great people to work with. I get things done, and I know that this is the time to take my job security into my own hands. I like to work. I HAVE TO make money. I know there are other moms out there who are in the same situation, and I hope to find a way to help these moms find a work/family balance, too. I know we can do this – and I love your post – it’s always refreshing to find people who understand what we are going through (MEN certainly do NOT!) Thanks for the space to vent…

  9. So not working sucks only because there is no money, and because there still never feel like there are enough hours in the day. I have to remember to be strong and not give in and let kids/hubby stay home. They tend to do it more now because they know I am here, it seems. I read somewhere the only way to have job security is to be your own boss, but I don’t want to sell makeup or jewelry or kitchen tools… I want to do the work I am good at and figure out how to help others do the same…

    I am finally getting into a good groove – being able to complete home stuff and research work prospects, and though it has taken almost a month, I’m finally moving forward.

    I LEFT WORK. I resigned. I gave up, and at first I felt like I failed because I let these idiot children from corporate wear me down. I slept for the first week – not only because I was depressed, but because I was exhausted from the stressful three months that led up to the separation. My body was worn out and I neeeded that sleep. I filed for unemployment, and spent the second week trying to figure out ‘what to be when I grow up’. But with that mindset (really, I felt like a lost kid) I wasn’t going anywhere. I scoured want ads and craigslist with no direction and no hope of finding anything because I was feeling that I had failed because I left a bad work situation and didn’t feel that I could go back to work – who would want me?
    Week three, I realized I wasn’t a failure, and I started listing all the things I had done and once I saw that list of all my skills and talents I remembered why I like to work. Now I was sending resumes and inquiries to jobs in every field I’ve ever worked in. But I was realizing that I needed to be there for my kids more – working from home was clearly becoming the only option for me. I am lucky to have connections to be able to teach with a small consulting firm, but I need regular, full-time work. A phone call to a high school friend provided the surprising insight and kick in the pants that I needed. Now I am focusing in on that light at the end of the tunnel, and looking forward to contributing to my community while contributing to my bills again. I also am excited to finally feel like I have a job to go to every day, even though it is just outside my bedroom door… and I also feel like I have found the balance that will make my family work again, too.

  10. Love this post – it sums it all up. The juggle, the guilt, no time for yourself. I tried to be a stay at home mum (well was working a couple of days with my husband in his business) but it reached a point of such huge frustration that it blew up in the form of throwing a fish at my husbands head once he came back from ‘yet another trip’ while I was juggling everything else. Sounds ridiculous but it triggered the beginining of everything for me -to get out there and discover what I wanted to do. It was a process, and if I have learnt anything it is that if you want to get of this constant frustration then you have to create a bespoke business for yourself that fits your core values. I had never considered what mine were so it was no surprise life was frustrating. Or alternatively find a job that fits your values. For me though mine were freedom of geography, time and my family – so working for someone else was never going to fit. It doesn’t mean everything is sorted now but at least I know what I am working towards and time with the kids is part of the business plan!

    Thanks for this post and reminding me of why I am doing all this!

  11. It does feel like a War sometimes, doesn’t it? But I think inasted of the Mommy War, it should be called the Mommy War With Herself, because I think that’s when the war really starts. There have been times when I feel 100% sure that being at home is the right thing for me and our family, and then comments others make to me just roll off of my back. However, there have been many times, especially recently, when I find myself wondering if we’ve made the right choice, and then things that people say really get under my skin.I think my greatest fear as a stay at home mom is that I won’t be able to get back into the workforce when my children are older. I am doing what I can right now (maintaining my professional contacts and doing freelance work from home) to keep my skill sets sharp, but it’s still a gamble. So when the host said that she thinks that kids will see their working moms as strong, smart, involved mom that are smart enough to be out there working and who are good role models, it was one of those remarks that gets under my skin. I do worry about the message I am sending my kids and I hope that I am also able to show them that I am strong, smart, and involved in contributing to society. Even now in my role as a stay at home mom, I strive to show them these things, but I still to worry about what they will think of me someday.But these feelings that I get, these emotional reactions, they aren’t really about what she says to me, they are more about the insecurities, fears, and indecision that I have as a parent. I have these same fears when it comes to getting my baby to sleep (am I doing it the right way?), supplementing with formula (and feeling guilty as she sucks down a bottle), and disciplining my toddler (am I too strict or not strict enough?). Every step of the way, we make choices that other people will judge and comment on, and it’s finding our own confidence and ability to feel good about these decisions.As you’ve said before, sometimes there are no right decisions and what is right will change and evolve as my family changes and evolves. At the end of the day, I think my children are lucky to have me as a mom, not because I stay home, but because I love them with all of my heart and live each day doing the best I can to do the best for them. I know you do the same and that your children are equally fortunate to have you as their mom.

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