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Mommy Guilt, The Most Powerful Emotion

Mom and child

Most of us who spend multiple years in college or in training for a particular career plan on using those skills to obtain gainful employment. Emily at Evolving Personal Finance had an excellent post recently about how she has no desire to retire early because of that and many other reasons. I used to think the same way. Then I was hit by a force so powerful and overwhelming, it could make you walk through fire. If you have never experienced it, it’s called Mommy Guilt, and no matter how hard I’ve tried. It never completely goes away.

I’ve been married to a school teacher for 10 years. It never bothered me that he had 2-3 months off every summer while I had to work. I could have been a teacher if I’d wanted, but summers off was not enough motivation to make me want to spend all day in a room full of children. Honestly, most children used to annoy me, and then I had one of my own. While the whining and unreasonableness that come with kids can certainly be annoying, there is nothing that compares to having your own child.

Suddenly my husband’s off season drove me nuts. I was completely jealous that he got to spend summers with our daughter, and it made me really mad when he seemed to take it for granted and they sat around and basically did nothing all day. Whenever I had a day off, it was planned to the minute as I tried to fit in as much as possible. It actually stressed me out to be off because I was afraid I couldn’t get everything done. No matter how hard I tried, I could never shake the Mommy Guilt.

Well, there have been some major changes in my life over the past year, and now I am working part time. Finally, I get to have a summer to do all the things I’ve never been able to do. My daughter and I get to go to the free kid’s movies that play at 11AM on Tuesdays. I’ll also get to see most of her swimming lessons and actually participate in the summer reading program. Also, we can have a day to lay around and watch TV if we want. I totally understand that concept now and don’t feel the need to have every second scheduled. We’ve already spent a week visiting family, and we’ll get to take an almost two week vacation later this summer. I’ve completely turned into a giant cheese ball because I caught myself driving down the road just smiling the other day. The Mommy Guilt is still in there somewhere, but finally it’s silent at this point in my life.

I used to read stories like this and scoff at the writer. I told myself it was good for kids to be in day care or have a Mom who had a career. I still believe that to some extent, but I think you can have both. While I do not claim to know what is best for anyone else on the planet, I know what was best for me. The key was to actually admit what I wanted, get out of debt, and make changes, regardless of whether or not everyone understands why I walked away from a profitable business that produced money but not happiness. This summer I hope to be the most boring person I know, and I’ll love every minute.

Have you suffered from Mommy Guilt? What would make you walk away from a full time job to stay home more?

Image: Freedigitalphotos.net/digitalart

About Kim Parr

Kim Parr is a private practice optometrist, freelance writer, and personal financial blogger. You can follow her journey to 20/20 financial vision at Eyes on the Dollar.


  1. I think “admit what you want” is a powerful idea. It seems we have trouble to actually admit what kind of lifestyle we want; even harder to actually take positive action towards making it a reality. I’m so happy for you and your new lifestyle setup!

    • I think I’m expected by the professional community to have a certain work schedule and lifestyle, but it didn’t agree with what my heart wanted.

  2. I suffer from Daddy envy – is that similar?
    I wish I could spend more time at home with the little one and my wife, but alas the cost of living requires me to earn money and at the moment the best way for me to do that is to partake in the 9 to 5.

    • When my daughter was your son’s age, the guilt was terrible. I’m sure Dads can have it also. It certainly motivates you to find a way that works better for you, and I bet you will in a few years.

  3. I have definitely suffered from mommy guilt in the past. Now that I work from home, I have a lot more quality time with my kids. They still go to daycare during the day but when they’re home I get to do fun things with them and I’m not so stressed out all the time.

    • When I used to work every day, getting home was like the second job trying to get lunch and school stuff ready for the next day. It’s hard to slow down and enjoy when your time is not your own. I’m glad you have found a better balance.

  4. I know that my wife has struggled with this in the past and still does to a certain extent. We’ve been able to mitigate it quite a bit with both of us working at home and still getting time with the kids. There are times though where it isn’t always nice and neat, but you do what you can. Like DC said, I think it’s a powerful idea to “admit what you want” and that’s awesome you’ve been able to find a good solution for you.

    • That’s interesting that she works from home but still feels guilty sometimes. I think it’s a gene we just can’t eliminate completely.

  5. I feel you. I should have been a teacher then. If we work too much we might not be able to notice that our children are grown ups already. No matter how difficult and challenging work can be, being a Mommy is still the most important job in the world.

  6. I’ve had many conversations with my wife about this. She absolutely adores our four children and loves spending time with them, but she also values her career. She is very good at what she does and enjoys it. I think her guilt springs from comments from other moms who believe (and expect) that a woman’s only priority should be to her family. It’s a painful thing when other women look down on you because you’ve chosen to have a career.

    • I am the worst about looking at other parents and wondering how on earth they are able to do the things they do, like making all home made organic meals or teaching their kid to read at age 3. I have to remember that they may not be as good as taking their kid to national parks or teaching them about saving money. We all have our strengths and weaknesses in parenting skills and I think kids get used to whatever situation they are in and do great with involved parents, whether they work or not. If you stay home all day but park your kid in front of Spongebob so you can post on Facebook all day, are you really any better than someone who works but spends quality time when you get it?

  7. I have friends who have said much of the same things that you do. And some of them have taken their foot off the gas pedal of their careers and slowed down to spend more time with the kids, and seem very happy for having done so.

    • I think one reason why my situation works so well is because I became the boss so early on. Two years into my professional career, I was in charge of a whole office and employees who were old enough to be my parents. By the time my daughter was a toddler, I was ready to step away. It might have felt different if I was steadily working my way up and thinking about having to start at the bottom again.

  8. Fantastic! This is why I get annoyed when people who haven’t experienced a situation first hand blog about it…they don’t understand the emotions of the situation until they’ve been through it. One of the most difficult parts of being a financial advisor was trying to see the world through my client’s eyes…because they were experiencing something (retirement, a death, etc) that I hadn’t ever been through and I had to be a coach.

    BTW, my wife accuses my kids and I of sitting around “doing nothing” while she’s at work (I work from home). I’d love to have that happen one day!

    • Thanks Joe. I’ve found that staying at home doing “nothing” usually involves several hours of things like deciding what snack to have or looking for the most favorite, I can’t live without it, toy that was loved so much it was stuffed down the toilet!

  9. I’m sure you’re not alone! I think it’s probably really hard for most moms (and possibly dads) to make that decision to work or stay at home.

    • I made one decision before she was born, but it certainly changed. Reality and what you had planned can veer apart pretty rapidly.

  10. If I had kids I would stay at home. I know some adults can’t stay around kids all day for their sanity and have to go to work but I wouldn’t want to miss out on anything. Looks like you will have an awesome summer!

    • It has been my best summer in a while. I might go a little batty if I never dressed professionally and turned on the eye doctor brain, but I don’t have to do it every day for sure!

  11. Totally agree with you here, Kim. Mommy guilt is the worst! And the key, like you pointed out, is to admit what you want. I could never handle (emotionally) being away from the kids all day, but that doesn’t mean my choice to be home and home school is for everyone. We all have our own wants and needs, and although parenting is extremely self-sacrificial, you’ll also be a better parent if you take some time to nurture your own needs and goals too. Good for you, Kim, for finding out what you want and making it happen. 🙂

    • Being home more makes me enjoy work more. Everything works better with some balance. Finding that and being able to make it happen is tough, but doable in my opinion. Your kids only get one childhood. I don’t want to have any regrets.

  12. Ah, mommy guilt. Yes, I am absolutely familiar with it and I’m glad you’ve find a way to put your guilt in remission. 🙂 “Admit what you want” – I love that and it’s so powerful when you think about it. I always planned to continue working after I had my daughters. My family certainly comes first, but I love what I do and would not be as good as a Mom if I did not work. Where I live, I am a bit of an anomaly. When I got pregnant, everyone assumed that I would quit my job and when I didn’t – some people were fairly vocal about their disapproval. I can’t say that it didn’t bother me, because I am human after all, but I know in my heart that I made the right choice for my family. My life is hectic and crazy but it works for me. I’m glad you’re enjoying the summer with daughter, kicking back and spending time together. Happy 4th of July!

    • Let’s home it stays there! I can certainly feel it bubbling around the surface at times. My family in the South expects Moms to stay home or at least work a “woman’s job” so you have lots of time off. Here, people have been very surprised at my cut in work hours. I guess I used to work so much it almost defined me. I hope that’s not what I’m remembered for.

  13. Haha, I can’t really call it mommy guilt but I do experience the same thing. Working all day I feel like I need to get quality time in with my son when I can. Luckily for me my work schedule is pretty flexible and I was able to shift it earlier so that I can get home at a reasonable time and have a couple of hours before he goes to bed. It’s tough finding a balance. I’m glad you’ve been able to get there.

  14. Thanks for mentioning my post and expanding on your comments! Obviously I am not a parent so I don’t know yet how I’ll feel about being away from my children for a full-time job. I can only imagine that it’s unique to the individual and probably even changes with seasons of life. My mother, for instance, worked full-time when we were young but became a stay-at-home mom for our later childhood and adolescence. In any case I’m glad you’ve maneuvered yourself financially to be able to do what you most desire.

    • My mom went through periods of working and staying at home as well. I think she liked to work, but also felt really guilty not staying at home. It’s a tough balance and different for every individual. I would never claim to know what works best for someone else, but I think I’ve found my balance for now, although I can see it changing as my daughter grows up and becomes more independent.

  15. The hardest part is making the change and telling yourself what you really want. I’m not a parent so I can’t relate but I’m happy to hear you are in a better place.

  16. This was an insightful post for someone who doesn’t have kids. You gave me some hope considering I’m not too fond of children either, but my mom has also told me it’s different when its your own! My mom worked part time at a school so she was home when I got home, and was off on the same days I was. It worked out great! Out of necessity, she changed over to full-time work when she deemed me old enough to be at home by myself (13). I think it worked out well for us.

  17. We are against mommy guilt: https://nicoleandmaggie.wordpress.com/2010/08/23/guilt-in-parenting-ibtp/

    My kids don’t sleep much, so I get plenty of time with them after daycare/school and on weekends. No guilt at all for sending them to daycare/daycamp during the summer. The oldest can entertain himself now, but the youngest is still really exhausting and gets bored easily. Daycare makes everybody happier.

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