I worked full-time until my daughter was two years old, with most of that time spent in a cubicle where I couldn’t even see the light of day. My cube neighbor and I would joke that a blizzard could hit Sacramento and we wouldn’t even know it. I had a commute that if I left at the right time took me only 20 minutes, but at any other time took me an hour. Ugh.
I enjoyed the job and the people, but the commute and huge amount of time away from my daughter was tough. My husband experienced so many of her “firsts” without me. I longed to spend more time with both of them, but I also wanted a career — I really like working.
The mommy guilt was setting in, but I didn’t want to give up my career.
Quitting my job and freelancing gave me the opportunity to have both — time with my husband and daughter and work that I truly enjoyed — or so I thought…
Business ownership wasn’t all I thought it would be. It was MORE and LESS.
It was more challenging and more work, and it brought higher expectations, more headaches, and more frustration, along with more money. I had had less time than I thought I would have for fun, and family, and friends. In fact, I didn’t really have any “free” time — and when I did take some time for myself or my daughter, I was riddled with guilt.
Plus, my business was so new, that I worked up until the day I went into labor with Carter and only took two weeks off total. I had an almost three year old, a new baby, and I was working almost 24/7.
I used the Boppy to breastfeed at my desk while I was working, or I bounced Carter in the Baby Bijorn while I worked at the island, and Natalie colored, painted, or played Playdough in the kitchen. Or Brian just took care of the kids.
I had guilt. So much guilt.
But at the same time, I wanted to grow my business and I needed clients, so I sought out some local networking groups to begin attending. Now not only was I working all the time, but I was adding events away from the house and away from my kids to my workload.
The Mommy Guilt Was Soul Crushing
I felt like a bad mom. I felt like a failure. I felt like I was letting my kids and my husband down. I felt like I was being selfish. I felt like I was being judged.
But no one was judging me, really. I mean, maybe some people were, like the moms who told me that the local moms group wasn’t a place for me because I had a job. But most people I cared about weren’t judging me. No one was saying I was a bad mom or a failure. No one thought I was letting my husband and my kids down.
That was all me.
I was my own worst enemy. I was picking on myself. I was judging myself and berating myself based on how I thought things “should” be. I was crushing my own soul and was close a breakdown when I received the best advice ever.
The Best Advice For Working Moms With Babies And Toddlers
While I can’t remember who said it to me, this one simple statement was a gift. It had a profound effect on my mindset, my self-love, and my life moving forward…
Embrace the grind while your kids are little. They won’t remember the struggle or the work. They’ll only remember that you were there and that you loved them.
I worked long and hard for several years while Natalie and Carter were little. But we made it work. Today I work on a 27″ iMac and 27″ Thunderbolt display, but back then I ran my entire business off a laptop. So I could work from anywhere.
Now, I wasn’t working from beaches and exotic locations, I was working from different rooms and places in our house.
We kept different toys in different parts of the house, and periodically throughout the work day, we would move from one room to the next, to keep the kids occupied while I worked. It also took me longer to get things done because they wanted to show me things all the time.
- I’d sit in a lawn chair and work outside while they played in the wading pool, drew with chalk, or played with other outside toys.
- I’d sit on the bathroom floor and work while they played in the bathtub and colored with bath crayons, or played in the shower with shaving cream on the walls.
- I’d work at the kitchen island or table while they painted, played Playdough, or did other arts and crafts.
- I’d work in the front room while they played house and made me meals with play food.
- I’d work in the family room on the floor right next to them while they played blocks, Legos, puzzles, or dolls.
- I’d work on our bed while the kids snuggled up next to me or laid across my legs to watch cartoons or a movie.
We made it work and we did it in a way that worked for us.
I was always there, next to them and near them. They received lots of hugs and kisses and snuggles, and I was able to interact with them while I worked. And I was able to let some of my self punishment and mommy guilt go, knowing that they were not going to remember any of the specifics, just that I was there and that I loved them and that they felt safe and happy.
As Natalie and Carter grew up, I embraced the grind and worked relentlessly to build a business that now supports my entire family. As they got older, we adapted how we balance work and play, we set boundaries and rules appropriate for their ages, and we learned a lot of lessons along the way about how to involve the kids in business conversations when it affects our family life.
Is Juggling Work and Family Worth It?
Today my husband and I work together (designer/developer) in our business and work from home, so except for school days, we are all home together all the time and we couldn’t be happier. We regularly go on family adventures, we take lots of vacations, we play a lot, and we’re enjoying the heck out of life. The grind was (and is) completely worth it.
For Brian and I, our focus right now is spending as much quality time with our kiddos as we can, while they still want to spend time with us and enjoy spending time with us — and thankfully our business is now in place that fully supports that.
Sometimes we talk about those early years as parents starting a business with the kids, telling them stories about our past — and that wonderful woman, who so eloquently gave me advice that changed my life, was right. They don’t remember any of those long workdays, all-nighters, or me on my laptop all the time. Carter barely remembers the days when Brian worked at the fire department.
All they remember and know is that we have always been there for them, we have always loved them, they have always felt safe and happy, and that life is pretty freaking amazing.
So if you’re struggling with mommy guilt or daddy guilt right now, I urge you to be kind to yourself and to let it go.
You are a great mom or a great dad. You are doing your best, which is more than enough. And, go for it. Embrace the grind while your kids are little. They won’t remember the struggle or the work. They’ll only remember that you were there and that you loved them.
What About You?
Are you in the midst of babies and toddlers and growing a business? Do you have mommy guilt or daddy guilt now? Did you struggle with guilt over working when your kids were little? How did you get past it? Any tips to share?
I’d love to hear from you!