When All You Feel is Guilt: A Letter to New Working Moms

On letting go of guilt when you work outside the home.

This article originally appeared on Motherly.

Hey there working mama,

Can we sit down and breathe for a sec?

Let’s go find two big comfortable chairs in a quiet cafe in the cutest part of town.

Let’s set our stuff down and give ourselves permission to press pause on the ever-running to-do lists that runs like a news-ticker in our minds. Let’s laugh with some bittersweet laughter at how good that scenario sounds and how far away it feels from reality.

But really—come with me for a sec. Let’s actually pretend that we do get to sit on those chairs and sip coffee that’s actually hot and be the women we were before babies.

We need this break more than anyone but are probably the last to get it.

So if you have to come with me while you are feeding a baby or in the bathroom or sitting in your car during a rare errand by yourself, that’s ok. I’ve done that, too.

I want you to know that I know how it feels. I know how it feels to feel guilty as you dry your hair in the morning and the baby watches you from a bouncy seat. I know the sting that pierces your heart when you hand your precious little one to their caretaker and you catch excitement in their eyes. That irrational fear that your baby will think someone else is their mama. Or that this person is doing a better job than you.

Or—maybe the most painful thought for me personally—that they know your baby better than you do. I know the fatigue that sets in when all you feel is guilty: guilty that you like going to work, guilty that you want to go home early to be with your baby. Guilty when you miss a milestone or guilty when you have to stay late to catch up on a project. Guilty when you forget about an upcoming meeting or guilty that you have to leave early because the baby got sick. Guilty that it’s been three months back at work and shouldn’t this feel normal by now?

I know that sometimes you go cry in a bathroom stall when you are so very overwhelmed—I did the same thing last week. Or the sadness when you overhear your co-workers plan an impromptu happy hour and you can’t join them. I know the loneliness that settles into your heart as you learn how to juggle this new normal. I know you question if you are good enough—good enough at work, good enough as a mom, good enough as a spouse, because I’ve thought and felt and carried all of these emotions too.

Hear me, friend—we may not know each other but I do know this: You were chosen to be your baby’s mama.

All of who you are—your passions, your fears, your job, your living situation, your marital status, your heart, your soul—is being used to create something so, so precious: a childhood.

You are not a bad mama for working. You are not a bad employee because you are a mom.

If you are working a job you hate but you do it because bills don’t pay themselves, you are providing the means to create a childhood with a safe place to sleep and good things to eat. And I pray that one day, you’ll get to do the job you love the most—be it a different workplace or staying at home.

If you are working a job you love and you do it because you are passionate for your cause, you are providing the means to create a childhood where little girls grow up to achieve their dreams and little boys see their moms and sisters and aunts and future daughters as equals.

And either way, you are working because you are a great mother.

You are not alone in navigating this path, even though it can feel so very lonely sometimes. When the days blur together and the routine becomes mind-numbing, I pray that you will choose to see those days and moments as small pieces of a beautiful picture: the childhood you’ve been entrusted to create.

You are brave and I admire you.

Thanks for joining me,