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Working Mama Guilt: Asking too much of the kids?

Last week, I reached a tipping point where too much was too much.  Posted on my Facebook page:

Just when my mama guilt was at 200% for too much travel & work in the past two weeks, I shared with a colleague, who told me that two decades of all work, no home resulted in a broken marriage, estranged children, and much loneliness. Signal to recalibrate. Worse: when my daughter came home just now, she said, "Mom! I never see you anymore."

The reality is that I work.  Have to.  The reality is that the hours can be long and late.  Have to.  The reality is that I have to ask my kids to step up and help me.  Have to.  Aged 12 and almost-9, I have been asking them to ready themselves in the morning when their dad and I have to leave super early.  They feed themselves breakfast, get themselves dressed, and get themselves to school.  In the afternoons, sometimes my older child can be home alone from 3 to 6pm.  And, sometimes, I will leave instructions on how to heat up dinner, maybe a casserole that needs to be warmed for an hour.  And in the largest request for my children to be independent: I asked them to come home from school alone, to fix their after-school snacks, to get homework done, and to get themselves to their after-school lesson (2.3 miles away, via bike, via well-known safe route), then to get themselves back home again.

To be sure, these are pretty tall orders, espcially for our pre-teens.  Also to be sure, I would have come up with alternatives if I could think of any (ask a neighbor for a ride? Tried two who couldn't.  Get a cab? Cost - and - would it was just as (un-)safe? Reschedule? Couldn't finagle that either).  Whenever possible, we do plan for homework groups or calling on neighbors to try to fill in where we cannot.  As we all know, it takes a village.

As the product of two working parents, the oldest of three, I was left alone with my siblings a lot.  From a young age, I cooked, cleaned, helped shuttle to after-school activities, in addition to my own homework load and my own after-school activities.  I also helped care for a younger cousin (or two) often.  I am sensitive to the loneliness that can stem from being alone after-school for too long.  I am sensitive to asking for too much from our youngsters from such a young age.

Then again: Can it be all-together avoided?  Is it all-together bad to ask them to contribute in this way, taking ownership over self and activities, playing large part in meeting family needs (like preparing dinner)?

Comments

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You really, really need to ease up off yourself. While this is a lot of responsiblity, your 12 year old is more than capable (many 12 year olds babysit). My 12 year old takes 2 buses every day to and from school--and has taught friends nearby how to do the same. This now includes attending yoga class on her own once a week, perhaps your children could do the same?

There is nothing wrong with expecting your children to contribute to the household in this manner or be more indpendent. Actually, you aren't even asking all that much of them. Even in the suburbs, a generation ago, we were FAR more self reliant than we are now. Since much of my childhood was spent in NYC, with a single mom who worked nights, I was very self reliant and enjoyed it.

While your children certainly miss you, you can seek to make the time you do share more richer and more positive---I'm sure they understand that you work all those hours so they will have casseroles to heat up and a roof over their head. My daughter was pretty understanding of all of this when I worked a 60+ hour work week (and she was 8 then).

As for your friend who claims it caused her marriage to end and her children to be estranged probably had a LOT of other issues going on there. Even if it WAS the heavy workload, maybe she was more attentive to her job to exclusion of everything else? Or I think there were other issues. Because otherwise that speaks to someone with a very selfish family who didn't support them (and again, we wouldn't hear nearly so much if a man did the same thing) or recognize the sacrifices she made to give them a better life.

There are plenty of kids who have a full time, stay at home parent and they have plenty of negative childhood memories, as well. I've met many very messed up adults because their childhoods were TOO idyllic and they managed to get past the shock of reality.

You sound like a good, loving mom. Your kids will be fine. Stop guilt tripping yourself.

I grew up exactly like your children and swore mine would NEVER live that life. In fact, reading your post made my chest tighten.

Wow, Anon way to help out and judge! BTW, everyone's life and childhood is imperfect. Your children probably wish you were LESS involved in thiers

I don't think it's judgmental for someone who suffered from circumstances to grow up and want to give their children a different life. I think that's very honest. Anon expressed a very important point of view--she grew up in a similar way and it was painful for her. Zumpie, I think that your criticism about "your children probably wish you were LESS involved" is painfully harsh. I realize you're sensitive on this topic, but that's not a reason to insult someone else.

I grew up with a bit of both sides of this. My dad worked long hours and was rarely around. And yes, that did affect my relationship with him. How could it not? If he had been consciously trying to address that distance, it would have mitigated some of the effects. There is no way it could have mitigated all of them.

My mom was home when I was young. After my parents split, she went back to work. We were all expected to step up and take on responsibilities, including getting siblings to school, making dinner, and being self-sufficient in getting to and from activities. Homework had always been something we did without parental supervision, so that didn't really change. I had friends, both at the time and in college, who were surprised and sometimes appalled at our responsibilities. But it worked. Five kids were fed and dressed, got to and from school, etc. And while my mom made good use of neighbors and friends' parents and all, there wasn't a good substitute for having us pitch in (our ages ranged from 6-13, FWIW).

The original poster's children may be doing fine with the independence and responsibilities. If she's consciously trying to address the effects of separation, I think that probably goes a long way. And she and her husband may be able to succeed in their marriage as well. That doesn't mean this lifestyle is going to work for everyone.

And as always, there's good and bad that comes from growing up this way. The relationship with your parents is different, but you learn to be independent. I learned a lot about cooking. I learned about managing my time. I learned about managing people. Do those benefits outweigh the cost of being distant from my dad? I don't know.

Ummm, okay, I think anon said something downright hateful to the OP, who is clearly hurting, but you're offended by what I said? For reals? Anon's post was completely judgemental.

FYI, I currently work from home and haven't worked long hours for over 4 years---and yes, my daughter is generally thrilled when she gets the house to herself.

Look, the question isn't "should parents work long hours" but "should I work long hours"? This is glossing over all the people who don't have any kind of choice about it and can only do the best they can . . .

After that, it's about what works for you and your child (and your spouse). You're all individuals and so the independence and alone-time that some kids thrive on is overwhelming and crushing for others.

So to have an adult write in and say "being a latchkey kid was horrible for me" is valuable information and not judgmental. She's presenting her perspective based on her own individual experience, and she wasn't generalizing beyond that even. Surely you don't think that only people with positive experiences as latchkey kids are allowed to respond here?

And that's my message to the OP--if you don't have a choice about the hours you work, then just do what you can to foster a close relationship with your children regardless of the quantity of time spent together. And if you do have a choice but your kids are thriving, then let go of the guilt. Just because this situation was bad for someone else's kids (or marriage) doesn't have to mean the same for you.

Hmmm, we'll agree to disagree on the first part---though I gotta say, "latchkey kids" and all the other stuff aqbout this post comes across as very, very dated, like 1972 dated, having a conversation with my born in 1906 late Granny dated...

But the rest of your post was supportive of the OP, which was my point, too.

I sincerely hope that everyone who's chest is tightening reading about kids growing up with parents who work long hours is writing their representatives about laws preventing long hour workdays and boycotting businesses that overwork their employees. Momsrising.org is an organization that advocates for family friendly changes.

@Eve, while that's a nice idea, the fact is there simply ARE certain jobs that require longer hours and more dedication. While I'm certainly a very pro-labor person, the fact is most jobs with a fair amount of responsibility require a greater than 40 (or sometimes even 50 or more) hour a week commitment.

There are relatively few managerial or professional jobs that don't expect that level of performance. I doubt you'd be able to find any company to NOT boycott at that point. It's why salaried managers are "exempt" employees

I shared the same experience as 'anon', and I feel the same way about working/earning less to be with my kids. They are still pretty young, though, so that could change for me in the future. That being said, I think the biggest thing is to check in with *your* kids. You mention your daughter saying she feels she never sees you--is that an occasional sentiment or something she says often? Are saying they feeling burdened by these responsibilities or do they seem okay with it most of the time? See what they say over time. And, remember, “There's no way to be a perfect mother and a million ways to be a good one.”- Jill Churchill

Anon, I don't think your words were hateful at all or even judgmental, just not seeing that in them at all. Some kids may thrive with a busy parent on a full-time schedule and their independence, and for others it may be truly not ideal and they may be lacking in parental connection, etc.. If one has to do it that way, then all you can do is make the best of what you can around the things that you can't change and know that everything you can do does matter and is better than not doing what you can. And yeah, maybe feel a bit of guilt, cause we all have that for our own reasons. I can always wish I had more time to give or more things to give to my child, but ultimately, I think just that we want to give is what matters the most. They may not have the best time of it all, but we do what we can and that does mean we are doing a good job. And yeah, I also think there are many options out there for flexible job scheduling- even at 'managerial' and 'professional' jobs... at least evidenced by those that I see every day. No, it's not going to be possible for *everyone* but at least it's becoming more common for those who might be able to use it.

Both my parents worked long hours, my dad wasn't home much because of the military but I have a great relationship with him as an adult. My sisters and I were home alone after school once I turned 12 and was considered 'old enough' to be in charge of them. It was fine, we were thrilled when mom got home, but I don't even remember feeling like we were getting less love/attention because she had to work past the hours we were in school. I think the additional responsibilities are a good thing for a child - it gives them an early appreciation of how hard parents have to work to keep things going (at home and at a paying job).

@spottie - just curious, who do you know who works ar a professional position (not saying they don't exist, just saying there are fewer than you would think).

Have you ever held or interviewed for a management level position? From what your past posts have indicated on this, you're a SAHM, who worked in more of a clerical position--but I could be mistaken.

The other thng about jobs that DO have flexible hours (and even Eve's website had a very good post pointing this out), it shouldn't always be assumed working moms (and again, most moms do work outside the home) will be the ones to put the brakes on their careers for their families. Unless, of course, you agree with Mitt Romney.

Another kid to a single working mom in NYC, this was my life from about nine years and up (when I informed my mom that I was too old for afterschool and I wanted to go home instead). Cut yourself some slack. You are obviously not neglecting your kids! They have two parents working hard and that is a fact of life for plenty of kids. They are old enough to pitch in, take some responsibility and be productive members of the family. It's good that they miss you (a little). It means they love you and notice your absence (and don't take you for granted!). In a generation that is being hand-held right on into college orientation, your kids will be more self-reliant, better at time management and more comfortable with shouldering adult responsibility than many of their peers. And they will not take your hard work for granted, because they will have a taste of what it is you have to do every day. I agree 100% with zumpie. Make the time you have with them special and whatever you do, don't act guilty! Your kids are doing amazing things and they deserve your pride and your gratitude, not your guilt. My only piece of advice, having been on the kid end, is to take the time to stay connected to them and know what's going on in their lives, especially as they head into the tween and teen years. Cell phones have made that ten thousand times easier than it was for my mom and they need to know that even if you aren't physically there, you are still looking out for them and thinking about them all day.

@zumpie - I currently work in a high tech company (very large corporation) where I hold a technical lead position (equivalent to a manager level position here). I am expected to get my job done. Some weeks that requires more time than others. But, it is also extremely flexible. If my kid is sick, I can leave at a moment's notice. I can work from home if I want to. I have a friend who holds the same position as I do and she works 28 hours a week. We are asked to travel - not required to. So, there are positions available that are "professional" and "managerial" where you can have a flexible work schedule. A lot of people here have different schedules (4 days a week, or 6 hours a day) to accomodate their families.

I have been thinking long and hard about this (OP here). Anon: that feeling of chest tightening is the same feeling I have. As I mentioned, I was left alone from a young age (I recall being left, at the youngest memory, around 7yrs old with my <6mo old baby brother. It was for a short while, the in-between time from when my mom had to leave for work and my dad would get home. But, it was the start of my many moments as the child left as the "responsible" one).

I am a resourceful person, significantly because of those early years when I made dinner for me and my brothers, cleaned up after ourselves, managed our homework and bedtimes. This isn't to say that those moments alone weren't lonely.

I appreciate the reminders to cut myself some slack and go easy on myself. It is true, I am not neglecting my kids. And, I am always checking in on them, whenever possible. When I was away evening, my daughter had to be home alone from 3-6pm. We checked in every 30-45mins via text or phone ("what do you have for HW?" I'd say. "Math, an essay, reading", she'd say. then: "Why don't you write the essay and text/call in 30 mins" and so on...). I leave detailed notes on ideas for things to do and general timelines. I leave out essays, short stories, worksheets, and a joint-journal.

In the end, it is key to keep checking in to continue to ask: "Am I asking you to do too much?" I have another busy stretch coming up, and I am trying to enjoy our short moments together by crafting for Halloween & Dios de las Muertos. I let them know that I had to ask them to manage themselves again, solo, next week. They sighed, but they eventually said, "OK".

So... I appreciate hearing the commiserations, for this indeed helps me feel like I am not alone in this struggle. I also appreciate hearing the affirmation that - at age 12 and almost-9 - it is not at all absurd to be asking them to be stepping up and taking on these responsibilities.

Are jobs are not easy, mamas, whether working inside the home or outside. Thanks for all the support.

It's tough no matter how you slice it. My tween and teen years were "independent" and chock full of the responsibility this post talks about. I remember being so jealous of kids whose parents were involved in the PTA, of the kids who got a ride to practice instead of taking the city bus. But, because life's a bitch, those were the experiences that I credit for helping me be who I am today. Perhaps more importantly, my seeing my mom work hard to go back to school post-divorce was such a gift to me. Oh how it sucked at the time, though.

And who am I today? I have a job that is "professional" (what a loaded word THAT is), not full-time (by choice), and flexible to some degree. Mama to 2 boys, constantly conflicted about whether to work more so we could be more financially comfortable, whether I am involved too much at school, or not enough, and what kind of future couch-time my choices give my kids. Mama guilt sucks balls, and we all have it. I wonder if this is unique to our western and/or American culture, or if it is a universal mama experience?

@ liz, even still you have weeks in which you work more than others---and that's one industry.

If you're an attorney, a salaried healthcare professional (though here you have many jobs that are hourly and professional), a CPA with a big 3 firm, work in hospitality, education, politics/government, retail, many sales jobs, banking and most other companies, it simply doesn;t happen. There might be lip service to it (frequently the companies I've worked for that claimed to be the most family friendly, were the ones that expected the most dedication from their employees).

Even with companies that DO offer flexibility, you've now stagnated your career. Which might be okay---but might not be, depending on the idividual.

@kcb - this is absolutely neither a western, industrialized problem (though seemingly Europe is/was better at it---but is that more grass is greener?), nor a modern one. In more primative cultures, very little girls (like 6) look after their younger siblings all day while their mothers work in the fields, etc to literally put food in their mouths. During the industrial revolution (and before) children worked in factories or the younger ones looked after their siblings while the older ones and their parents did so.

BTW, did a bit of research about the whole "latch key kid" history. It started in the 1940's during the war, when Dads were off fighting and moms were working in munitions factories. What's interesting is the nostalgia they would've had then for a "mom at home" society, would've included suffering through a depression and child labor. Oh in mid-Victorian times, a possibly laudnum addicted mother.

What we now look at with nostalgia was the 1950's--which was something of a bubble and again, filled with female oppression and substance abuse, versus empowerment. The fact is, I think many families have been two working parents for more time than we realize, as a matter of survival. It's all a balancing act.

Not to mention, there are millions of children who would be thrilled to have two working parents who care about them or even one. There are far, far worse things to grow up as than a "latchkey" kid. Ask any foster child if you don't believe me.

Not to get into the whole "working long hours" debate, although I do agree that most people who have major jobs that allow them to support the family don't have a lot of choice about working at least 40-50 hours a week....

But having your kids do things for themselves? What is wrong with that? My three and a half year old gets himself dressed and ready for school by himself every day, eats his breakfast (which is set out for him the night before) without supervision, etc. He also unpacks the groceries, helps me clean and do the laundry, puts away his toys, etc. I expect him to be doing a lot more to help by the time he is 9 or 12!! Really, as others have said before, it's the children whose parents wait on them hand and foot that will be at the real disadvantage when they grow up. OP, be proud you are teaching your kids valuable life skills about responsibility and adulthood!

kcb, i just have to say thank you for mentioning the sucky aspect and ultimate gift of seeing your mom go back to school post-divorce. i'm newly divorced, working full-time (with pretty good flexibility) and went back to school this term. i'll be at it for several years. my kids' lives have changed enormously in the last few months. it's hard. i'm asking more of them than i ever have. i feel guilty but also like i'm doing the very best i can. a strange positive in the new equation is sitting around the table at night doing homework together. there's a fellowship in that i didn't expect. and i hope so much that they look back at this time and see that we can change our lives when we want to.

your response gave me some solace in an insane week.

I had a stay-at-home mom who was horribly abusive. I used to wish she would get a job like some of my friends' moms had because if she wasn't home, she couldn't hurt us.

What's most important is that you love your kids and you let them know it. The rest will work itself out.

Absolutely nothing wrong with working full time. Your daughters will understand if they don't already. As long as their homework is getting done and you still have some time with them most of the evenings, you shouldn't feel guilty. I know it would be ideal to work only during school hours but that isn't possible for most of us. Particularly with our public schools having radiculously short day, short year and what seems like every other day being late start or "in-service".
Regarding the marriage - Does your spouse support your decision to be at the current job? If you make decisions together, I honestly can't imagine how this could take any toll on the marriage. And as a side note, I wouldn't marry a guy you says woman has to stay at home. That said, the spouse could suggest that I consider taking a job with less travel, less crazy hours etc, but in the end this is a mutual decision.

Sorry to hear Another Anon's story, but this is a very good point. It is not about simply being at home. At the end of our life we won't get a medal for "being at home". Success is well adjusted children with good social skills and good study skills (homework etc). These skill are equally exhibited by children with working parents and with a stay at home parent, so no need to feel bad about working.

IMO, you're peddling backwards. Working long hours and hardly seeing your kids-for what??? To buy them extra material things? News flash: they would rather be with you. I get that you need to work, but I'm going to venture to guess that you're working hard to have the"finer"things and not just the basics. If I were you, I'd change things before my kids feel lifelong resentment and you wind up an old lady wishing you had simplified things for what's more important.

@Cranky crank - or maybe to simply keep a roof over their heads. Also, why should women be the ones to halt their careers and stay home? I'll assume the old lady you speak of is yourself, because your attitude is very circa 1950's.

Women have choices nowadays, that includes fufillment beyond being a wife and mother, if it's what we want. And that's a good thing.

Oh also, @another anon. I am really just so sorry to hear about your childhood. My heart kinda broke when I read it. I really, really hope your life is better as an adult and you'v e been able to heal a bit.

Sometimes I wonder how much kids will want the opposite of what they have, at least until they're grownups and have some adult perspective. As parents, I think we can never truly know what will make a lasting impression, positive or negative (beside obvious over-smothering or neglect). Now that I'm an adult (43) with an 8 year old, I can see that some of the things in my own childhood that affected me greatly (both positive and negative)were the result of unintentional actions from my parents. In this modern day and age, we parents overthink every little thing about our kids' lives. The reality is that beyond providing a loving, supportive home, we can't control how our kids experience life and, even, us.

I think the balance, and tone, has to be set by the parents. If you have a demanding job that you have to work at or just that you value for other reasons (being independent, paid for your work, etc.), that's just the way it is. You can stay connected to your child in many ways and your child may grow up to want to work that hard or not. That will be his or her choice. What I think you should watch out for is your messaging. Don't be guilty. Be positive and point out all of the positive things about your situation. Also, just model for your girls that your job is important to you. Not more important than them, but important.

My daughter has started to complain a lot about going to aftercare. She happens to have a lot of friends whose parents have more flexible schedules than ours or babysitters/nannies that pick them up at school. I know her complaints come mostly from her friends getting to go home after school every day. Do I waste any time feeling bad about it? Absolutely not. She just has to go. I don't believe that she will be scarred by going to aftercare. But, if she is, if it's the thing that she carries with her into her adulthood as the thing that she won't do to her kids, so be it. It could be a lot worse than that!

I married well... gosh that sounds so retro. But as latchkey kid in charge of two younger sibs and having to make the family dinner by the age of ten... I wanted the other side for my own kids. I have "been there" for my kids in a way that my parents never were for me. I just re-entered the workforce after 16 years at home to help my eldest with college tuition. My 16 year old son gripes a little about the dishes but he's old enough to understand and not feel so alone and resentful the way I did as a teen.

I had to work and I worked low-paying clerical jobs with the least amount of flexibility. Guilt, try dosing your feverish child with Children's tylenol so you can get a few hours in before day care calls and you have to leave work after receiving a lecture about "accountability" that the "professionals" enver got with sick kids. The girl on the phones can't usually make up hours in the evening.

OP, I know you spend a lot of time with those kids, and I know that tweeners can helpfully stick a knife in your heart. And asking the questions means you're always thinking about it. I had was raised by someone (not my parents) who worked full-time and had no interest in participating in my childhood life. And in the brief times that I lived with my parents, they were even less interested though they had more means.

I swore that my child would have an active, interested mom who participated as much as possible even though she didn't play well with others (Which I realize is probably more of what kept my mom-substitute away than scheduling) so in my case it meant forgoing the better paying admin job in the burbs because of commute times or working while schooling because of away time. And the kid felt like she had an involved parent, which she complains about and alternately gives kudos about. Mom-Daughters, hmph!

I mean some things I would reconsider. The kid was chauffered (sp?) everywhere til 7th grade, when I realized she'd hardly crossed the street by herself. I, rode MUNI buses alone at 6 years old.

Maybe the more useful conversation is how to connect with your kids and build a good relationship when your hours are limited. There's a huge swath of the population that works inflexible, long hours out of necessity. And there are others who have made the choice to put in those hours. So then what?

(The complementary conversation would be how to connect with your kids when you are around them all the time so that time together isn't special.)

I totally agree with J ...and...I am like the first anon -- lived this life and my chest tightens. That said, it wasn't necessarily the extra work or responsibilities that were the issue, it was that when my parents *did* come home, they were so exhausted/uninterested, that they immediately turned on the tv and zoned out. Weekends were spent on projects that they were interested in around the house. There wasn't really space and time for a relationship with me and my sister. Today, I work a fair amount, although not full time, and my husband works a crazy number of hours, but when we are around, our kids are our focus. So, I don't think it's about the hours but rather how to build a relationship with your kids.

I would love the conversation about how to connect with your kids when you *are* with them. This fall, I went from working 24 hours/week (managerial job that's supposed to be full time, but I have understanding employers and also 15 years in my job and place of employment) to 30 hours a week. Before, I would work three long days, then have two weekdays with my kids (plus weekend, of course). I increased my time at work because my child's healthcare (he has autism) was costing us more than we made, and we were falling behind every month. Now, I feel a lot like It's description of her parent's, above. I work 5 shorter days, and I am there to pick up my kids from school every day. But I don't have those leisurely, "what shall we do?" days with my kids anymore. I feel like a large percentage of my interactions with them are about either getting a household job done or getting them dressed to get ready to go someplace. I feel like we have lost the days of art projects and make believe games that can go any direction. I am constantly telling them what to do and how to do it. I hate it.

So, when most days have to be about housework and getting out the door, how do you keep the relationship with your kids?

Thanks Zumpie for attempting to negate my opinion based in lived experience. The added ad hominem is truly a reflection on your character. You clearly believe that you are the only poster permitted an opinion and your experience/opinion is normative and the rest of us are disordered. There are plenty of people who grew up as I did and struggle with coming to terms with the fallout. My chest did tighten as I read it and I realized perhaps I should say no more since it affects me so deeply. It without a doubt influences my parenting choices. Clearly, those lived opinions are not welcomed as they do not fall in line with the approved narrative that it 'doesn't matter' and they will just 'turn out fine'. As for my children, that you would choose to say what you did about them and me based on my comment demonstrates that you are a petty and vile individual.


I sometimes wonder if the feeling we experience around this isn't always guilt but that's what we are told it is? In my more thoughtful moments I realize sometimes I have regret, anger, sadness, jealousy, maybe a few others when it comes to the work/family balance. I don't know if that helps with the OP perspective or not, but I try to keep in mind the idea that guilt is about doing something that we know is wrong, and so I don't think it's always the right word for what I'm feeling when this comes up. My going to work isn't "wrong" per se, but I have had to evaluate some of the finer details at times.

SJ, I experience some of the same loss you describe but it isn't necessarily because of work. Part of it is developmental. When the kids have to go to school, we naturally lose some of that easy rhythm. A couple of the things I do to bring that pace in when I can is play on the playground after school instead of rushing home if possible, doing homework in the kitchen while I'm fixing dinner, keeping after dinner family time sacred for reading together, and saving chores as I can for after bedtime. I also try to keep phone/computer off so I can stay engaged and not distracted. Not always, but when I'm trying to be present.

kim, great point about how many emotions are tied up in these questions. every one that you call out is part of my experience. guilt is a handy one-syllable bucket, but maybe not accurate for me either.

@Anon - Honestly, not negating your experiences, just thinking you need to grow up, get past your "painful" childhood (and can guarantee you plenty of us have experienced way worse) and stop feeling sorry for yourself.

If it makes me petty and vile that I think, as adults we should move past our childhoods (and please note, I'm not talking about people growing up with abuse, trauma, etc, but average stuff like two working parents, divorce, disappointments, etc) and deal with life, then I'm proud to vile and petty. I find you rather emotionally crippled and self pitying.

And I still think it was a crappy thing to post when another woman was clearly grappling with guilt about it.

And again, looking at children who are abused, in foster care, live in desperate poverty, are homeless, have substance abusers for parents, etc---should put things in perspective for you.

ooopppps, posted with my initials. I fully claim my post above as zumpie

thank you, always anon. Moderators, care to chime in on this one??

I *really* love the idea of being super-careful with the word "guilt." I don't feel mostly guilty for working (how much, when in the day, and where I'm leaving out purposely, given the ugly turn here). I feel angry, resentful, mad, sad, relieved (!), happy, content, proud, envious, and (ooooo, hold onto your hats) sometimes (GASP, oh no.....) tight in the chest.

Re: OP's post and the whole how-does-how-your-mom-lived-during-your-childhood-affect-your-parenting emotional tussle: I'm with ProtestMama: Mothers and Daughters, meh!

Wow Zumpie, just wow.

@Anon with the crummy childhood, I get it. I had one too. Dad passed away when I was 5, and mom worked long hours every day. I was a latchkey kid by the time I was in second grade, walking home alone, letting myself in the house after school, doing my homework, watching TV, making my own dinners (TV dinners), taking care of my own baths, bed time, etc. Mom did her best, but honestly, it sucked. She was tired when she got home, and liked to read in her room so even when she was there, she wasn't present. And extracurricular? Yeah, didn't ever get the chance to join any sports teams, or take dance or gymnastics, or anything. *she* didn't have time for it.

So yeah, it makes me sad for kids who go through that now. At the same time, I recognize there is a middle ground. I am a part time working mom. I have a professional consulting job, and am very fortunate to chose my clients and make my own hours. It means I can be at school to volunteer, attend field trips, and pick my kids up at the bell. But I also recognize the importance of hard work - My kids earn allowance each week for doing chores. I like to sleep as late as I can, so my kids are pretty self sufficient in the morning. We all get up at the same time, and they get themselves ready (including making their own breakfasts) while I get myself ready. I am there to help if there is an issue, but for the most part, morning prep is on their own so that we can all walk out the door on time. They are 5 and 7.

Of course your childhood will influence your ideals as parents. We emulate the good things, and try to parent differently with issues we didn't like. But, as long as you are doing your best, and not going with one extreme or the other, isn't that OK? OP, I think it sounds like you are doing a good job. The only thing that I would say is that if even your husband is complaining about your hours, it may be time to sit down with him for a heart to heart look at your priorities as a family.

@Anotheranon - do we know that anon had a truly "crummy childhood" (and I definitely feel sympathy for anyone who has lost a parent, particularly as a child) or did she merely have two full time working parents? Or a single, devoted parent?

From what age on? I'll agree 7 is entirely too young to be by yourself at home (and has been illegal for at least as long as anyone of child rearing age has been alive), but 9 or 10 is a very different story.

Because to me, if a kid has loving parent(s) that's pretty much the whole pie. Whether in single or two parent homes nowadays, most moms do work, with 3/4 of them working full time. Under the "crummy childhood" argument, 68% (or more) of our children nowadays have "crummy childhoods". I really doubt they feel that way.

I definitely feel bad for you, because your childhood does sound very lonely---but I suspect your dad's death (understandably) played into that. And your mom sounds like she might've been pretty depressed.

@Zumpie - I guess for me, it doesn't matter what, exactly, made Anon's childhood crummy. If she felt it was crummy for whatever reason, that was a true feeling for her, regardless of what anyone else thinks. And it's OK for her to post that feeling here.

One thing we do agree on - if you are doing your best to be a loving parent during the time when you are with your child, that's what's really important.

@anotheranon - glad to hear we agree on something!

I'll also add, my impatience stems from what was a truly crummy childhood including being physically abused, shuffled between relatives, both parents floating in and out of my life, frequently being treated as deeply unwanted and "not good enough", sometimes living in deep poverty, including being homeless, later a step father was a raging alcoholic and I was the scapegoat in my family well into adulthood.

Ironically, the period in which I was seemingly in the most stable environment, living in Kansas with my upper middle class great Aunt and Uncle, was actually one of the most painful. My Aunt stayed home full time and wasn't physical, but I was routinely manipulated and expected to conform to their narrow expectations. I was also regularly told how "grateful" I should be (frequently by both my then absentee parents) for the mind games that were played on me daily.

Yet I moved past this as adult. I've made peace with my mom and we have a very close relationship now. While I haven't seen my father since I was 19, I've accepted that's his fault, not mine.

I would never, ever wish this level of pain on anyone---but the closer to hell you've been, the more trivial everything else seems.

And for the record, there are countless others who have had it much, much crappier. Somehow I knew my poverty was only temporary and I had faith things would work out. There are millions of children who don't even have that hope to cling to. There are children whose parents sexually abuse them, are hopeless drug addicts, violently abused, etc.

THOSE would be crummy childhoods and there's an ocean between that and imperfect (which is everyone's).

I don't think this is what this is about. Anon took offense to zumpie suggesting that her kids may wish she was around less, ala the grass is always greener, and anon lashed out in response, calling her a "petty and vile individual", so before everyone jumps on zumpie's caustic response, lets all remember that she was personally attacked for nothing more than pointing out that anon's post was potentially quite hurtful to the op (which it was) and not terribly helpful to someone looking for supportive suggestions on how to make the best of her situation.

BTW, you can feel whatever you want, based on your personal experiences, but implying that the op is somehow neglecting her kids emotionally because she works full time or that they will feel a lifetime of resentment, just because your own childhood was less than stellar, or even worse, that it is her own desire for material things over time with her children that is keeping her at a full time job, is misguided, antiquated and downright offensive. Stay at home parents can be neglectful. Full time working parents can be loving, supportive and attentive (like mine) and why isn't anyone suggesting that op's husband cut back on his hours? Let me guess, because he must make more money (not in my house) or he must care less about spending time with his kids (not in any house I spend time in). Really, I'm glad for all of you moms who decided that you wanted to stay home with your kids and have the means and support from your partners to make it happen. I don't have any issue with that choice and I would never begrudge a fellow mother (or father) for making it, but when you start implying that working mothers, like me, are somehow doing less for our kids, that we value our roles as mothers less, that we are damaging our kids in some way, that working is something we are doing "to" our children, then you are judging me, my mother, many of my friends and family members in a way that is completely uncalled for.

Ema, the OP was Olivia. If you look at her follow up post of Oct. 30, it appears she was not offended by Anon's post; in fact, she shares Anon's feelings (apparently several posters do). Also, her question was not whether she or any mom should work, but whether she needs to change anything she is doing, based on their ages and experiences of lonelines/responsibility. The vast majority of responses here, including Anons, have addressed that, based on their own experience and ideas.

It took me awhile to find that post on civility; that's because it was exactly one year ago that the umamas administrators started talking about moderating this site in response to a wave of personal attacks. To quote:

"What we're going to do is this: start enforcing our community standards. No personal attacks will be left published, even if the comment is half-helpful. Arguments among commenters will not be tolerated, unless they are civil and constructive. There is never -- ever -- a reason to tell another parent she is being a bad parent."

It did strike me, Olivia, that my experience growing up might be helpful to you, although perhaps it may seem trivial to others. My older sister and I were pretty much on our own after school starting when I was about 11-12 and she was about 13-14. She was in charge when we got home. If she was having a bad day or she wanted me to do something I didn't want to do, she might rough me up. I couldn't practice my musical instrument during her TV time, or basically any time we were home alone because she didn't like the "noise." (She didn't dare say anything when my dad home, but then I couldn't practice after dinner because my dad was generally napping after a long day.) I'd been a pretty good music student up until that point; my teacher had a lot of trouble figuring out what happened to my "motivation." After school, we were supposed to share dinner and cleaning duties, but it ended up falling to me, which was fine because I liked to cook. Needless to say, my sister is a charming, interesting and hard working woman, a favorite among all our relatives, who grew up to be a great person with a big heart. When we were in our mid 30s, one day she spontaneously apologized to me for her behavior. But at the time, she was a teen who really hated the role she'd been thrust into. So, my advice is to make sure not just that you maintain your relationship with them, but that you really keep an eye on what happens between them.

Funny, I emailed the adminstrators about civility as well. So many posts have turned from a civil discussion to one in which one or two commentators dominates the tone. It's unfortunate, and not how, I'm sure, we all want to connect with each other. While we've had our heated debates, at least there weren't insults and judgement.

What we can all do is, at least, ignore incendiary comments and continue as if they aren't there.

@always anon: Yes... Yes, yes, yes. That is exactly what I wanted to say, but you said it all, and said it perfectly.

I have been on both sides of the spectrum... I have worked full-time, part-time, juggled full-time school and part-time work, back to working full-time (with zero flexibility) and now, I stay home and work very part-time from home.

I have two kids, 13 and 9. My most recent and longest bout of full-time work was from the time my eldest was 9, until last winter. Between work and commute time, I was away from my house nearly 60 hours per week. My kids were dropped off at school on my way to work and I picked them up on my way home... they went to before-care and after-care. In spite of my education, I was forced to take a paralegal position that offered no flexibility, no juggling of responsibilities, nothing -- even when I was injured and couldn't type. They did hire a temp to cover me for two weeks after a surgery, but it ended up being more hassle than if I had just taken an extended weekend and gone to work against doctor's orders... she made a huge mess of so much that it took me weeks to clear everything up.

I suffered from tremendous frustration and yes, guilt, while I worked at that job. My kids were miserable... they were literally at school from 7:30 until almost 6... they were at school longer than I was at work. Who wouldn't be frustrated and miserable in that situation? We didn't live close enough to their school that they could walk, and I didn't make enough money to afford a nicer, closer place. I also couldn't afford a nanny, or regular babysitter, and activities were out of the question.

We're almost equally poor now, but at least I don't have to pay for parking/driving every day (which I had to do, because the bus wouldn't get me to their school to pick them up before their after-care ended), and I can afford activities for them. Their attitudes have improved, their behavior has improved, they are far less stressed ... everything is so much better.

I also understand where the first "anon" is coming from, though from a slightly different angle. In spite of the fact that my mom was a SAHM, she suffered from mental health issues. I was taking care of my younger siblings from the time I was ~7, including changing diapers and making meals. I got myself ready for school, got my sister dressed and braided her hair (my mother made me) and made our breakfast and lunches. There were four of us kids, eventually, and I took care of each younger one as if they were my own. When I got home I had to make our snacks, chop wood (in the winter) take care of our animals and perform household chores, including washing my youngest sibling's cloth diapers. After that, I did homework (when I was in the higher grades). It was a tumultuous, abusive household and child protective services did end up becoming involved. I remember my mother begging the social worker at one point to take me and put me in foster care, but they never did. It was hell.

So many times I wished my mother would have a job so we could have some reprieve from her and her moods. On the other hand, I remember fully how stressful it was for me to be in charge of everything and, honestly, a lot of the things I had to do really should not be a child's responsibility until they are much older. My desire for my mother to have a job was not because I wanted to be in charge of everything or because I loved being "independent" (because I really wasn't independent... I wasn't choosing those things, she was forcing me to do those things, there would be hell to pay if I didn't do them, and if my methodology of say, folding towels, was different than hers, she would lose control). I wanted her to have a job so I would have some breathing room from the crazy.

So OP... if your kids are healthy and happy, then don't fix what isn't broken! :) If they are feeling strain and/or are taking frustrations out on each other because they have not or cannot communicate their stress to you, then it is probably a good idea to have a family meeting and figure out better ways to deal with whatever may be stressing them. Kids aren't always forthcoming about what is bothering them, so it may take you approaching them and letting them know you are open to hearing about it... they may also try to not "burden" you with their feelings, because they know you are working hard and that you love them.

But even if it is the case that they are feeling a bit of stress or pressure, you shouldn't feel "guilty". Guilt is a useless emotion/feeling, really. It is toxic and debilitating. Furthermore, you aren't doing anything wrong. You aren't abusing them. You are providing a loving home. You obviously love your children and care about them. So all you have to do is make sure that you communicate with them. Find out if this arrangement is working well... if it isn't, find out what about it isn't working, and then you all can work together and find ways to fix it. Just remember to keep the lines of communication open and let them know you love them. That is the most important thing, and their feeling loved and secure in that love is what they are going to remember and appreciate when they are grown. :)

It's an interesting article, but I am a GenXer and I still think she comes across as a big, whiny, cry baby. With a published book, a spot on NPR/Huffington Post and a failed marriage, she's more what she claims she'd never be (a successful divorced mother, with the career of her choice).

She also ignores that 78% of all mothers in 2 parent households work, with just 10% of those working part time. The most astute observation came, not from her, but in the comments, saying basically, "guess what honey, someday your kids are gonna bitch about how you ruined them, too. No matter what you did".

And as ema so eloquently points out---why should women be the ones giving up their careers, their dreams, etc?

After leaning on me to go to college, why wasn't my career this that and the other (oh and at 21, with no boyfriend, pressuring me to get married!!!), once I had a baby, my great Aunt thought I should be home full time (and viewed my husband as one step up from a pimp). Which makes zero sense---why would you do all that so in a few years you can dump it to be home permanently?

And again, why should it always be on the woman to do so?

Hmm. Also interesting. The similarity in the experience of several posters, and the comments by kcb, have me thinking about this. http://www.theglobeandmail.com/life/the-hot-button/for-generation-x-its-all-work-and-no-kids-study-finds/article617574/

Hmmmm, I agree interesting---but it ignores that many moms are older moms because they also get married older. Less so here than on the eascoast, particularly NYC. I fot married at 27 and that was considered youngish average.

When my husband and I first moved here, we were shocked by how many already divorced with two kids at 23 parents we met! To us, that was like something from the Eisenhower era.

But I probably agree with it more than the previous article (probably because it's closer to my life). What's even more interesting is that the two kinda contradict one another.

I have been a single mother of my 8 year old son for 4yrs now. My husband chose to leave me for another woman because she is wealthy and ready to have my husband at all cost. My husband forgot we both say "FOR BETTER OR FOR WORSE" to each other as man and wife. I love him too mucg but there was no way i could stop him and he was even filling for a divorce. Since then i have been taking care of our son single handedly until i saw much talk about this spell lady ([email protected]) who have helped marriages come together and relationship. I contacted her and she promised me 2days that i will have my husband back and at the actual days which this priestess told me, my husband came back begging with his knees. I have never seen my husband beg me for any reason, but that day he did.
To cut this long sweet story short, [email protected] has helped me reunite my family and am happy with my husband. This spell lady is great i am a sure witness.

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