A Reprieve for the Guilty Working Moms

Photo by Meredith Black Photography.

“You didn’t come, Mom,” she wailed. “You were the ONLY MOM who wasn’t there!”

I had no idea what my 6-year-old was talking about when I picked her up that day from school, but her distress was enough to make me start crying. Apparently I had missed her school scout troop’s picnic in the park, which all the other moms had attended.

Feeling terrible at how upset she was and now crying myself, I told her, “I am doing the best I can.”

Shocked at seeing my tears, she sniffled and said, “It’s okay, Mommy, I know you are.

I hadn’t even known about the picnic, but I also knew this would not be the last time I would miss something important to her. Even then, I knew the working mommy guilt would never stop, not with her, and not with the three more babies that followed over the years.

I am guilty: I missed parent visit day at dance. I missed the end-of-the-year field day and carnival, and I missed my son’s yellow-belt ceremony at his school karate class. I missed the field trip to the art museum. I missed the parent volunteer signup, PTA meetings, holiday parties and Easter-egg hunts, the Christmas party and the Thanksgiving lunch. I also missed some big firsts — first words, maybe even first steps, sitting up, rolling over — all those things I swear the sweet daycare women didn’t tell me about so I’d think I hadn’t missed them.

I am guilty: I completely failed as a stay-at-home mom. I went back to work because I like it. I’m proud of what I accomplish. I selfishly don’t want to give up this part of myself! I like how good work makes me feel. I go out of town for conferences. I put our future (college funds, retirement) ahead of their present, being present daily. I let them watch too much TV so I can sit through a webinar. I lock myself in my room to answer a time-sensitive email. I sometimes work on weekends or on vacation or while feeding a baby.

I am guilty: I missed finishing something at work because I left early for a sick kid. I missed realizing it was an ear infection because I was too wrapped up at work planning for a big presentation. I missed a meeting to go to the pediatrician. I worked from home with a sick kid. I didn’t make dinner, again. The laundry is mountainous. My husband and I haven’t spoken more than three times in five days. I am always juggling too many things but holding on tightly to nothing. No one is getting all of my full attention or my best self.


The guilt isn’t going to go away. After nine years as a working mom, I know this — it’s inescapable. So I’m going to use the guilt instead as a reminder:

To put the social media away and cuddle my babies.

To say “yes” — especially when “no” is much easier.

To schedule playdates and fun trips.

To make a lunch date with my husband so we can talk uninterrupted.

To plan a girls’ night out with my friends, even though I’m tired.

To always, always be truly and fully present whenever I am with them.

To kiss, hug, hold and snuggle them whenever they are in arm’s length.

To remember I’m working for them, because I love them.

And most importantly — to care more about them more than I do the guilt.

Meg is a working mom of four and an avid community volunteer. She has worked in corporate communications and media relations for more than 18 years, for a Fortune 500 company as well as a non-profit. She took some time off to enjoy life as a stay at home mom after the birth of her first child in 2008. Her sweet, introverted daughter, was excited to welcome her baby brother in 2013, and then boy/girl twins joined the family in 2016. Meg finds being an “office mama” a constant balancing act and never-ending challenge but enjoys the opportunities it offers her for personal growth. A Virginia girl at heart, she loves Florida’s warm weather, the great quality of life Jacksonville offers her family.


  1. Love this so much, Meg! That working mom guilt is strong. I let my toddler watch too much TV and iPad videos just so I can finish a deadline. But I need to remember also that I’m doing a lot of this work, so I can make extra income and travel more with my family. 🙂

  2. If you are working just to stay “worldly “focused I would say you’re greatly lacking the true meaning of life . Those little moments are the biggest moments ,on your death bed . Stop struggling to be both a choose the one you’ve been blessed with and choose it fully ❤️Your kids will thank you, and from the sounds of it ,your husband will too!


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