When I initially returned to work after staying home with my children, I found myself apologizing for being a working mom.
Emergency call from school? I’m so sorry for interrupting.
Have to leave at 5:15 p.m. as child care closes at 5:30 p.m.? I apologize! I wish I could stay.
Stain on the shoulder of my shirt from the messy hug I got from my son. Oh no, it’s so unprofessional – I’m sorry!
Before children, I was able to dedicate myself to work and make my life work around work demands and expectations. Working late was not an issue, emergency phone calls were rare, and my clothes were actually clean 99.9% of the time.
My (unrealistic) expectation when I returned to work was that I could still fit my life around my work. NO! Now, my work needs to fit around my life as there are tiny humans that rely on me for just about everything.
As a good daughter raised in the Midwest (my parents may disagree with the ‘good’ part), guilt is a common feeling. So common, that I instantly felt guilty every time my new work picture didn’t match my old work picture.
Finally, I started to pay attention to people’s response when I would apologize for mom things impacting my work life. And they didn’t mind!!
Every time I apologized, the response was supportive and encouraging. Usually, it was delivered with a smile, and sounded something like, “I understand.”
I also was given the gift of a supportive, yet challenging, supervisor who did not even have children. After apologizing once again for my mom life moving into my work life, she told me to stop feeling guilty for being a working mom. Wow! That instantly got my attention and I remember just looking at her with a blank stare.
“I know work is important to you as you have proven this over and over again. Yet, your family and children are much more important than anything you will do here. You are only a terrific employee for me if I allow you to be a terrific mom first.”
(Let’s just stop for a moment here and send a wish out to the universe that all supervisors could be like this.)
Of course, at first, I didn’t think I was feeling guilty for being a working mom. I felt guilty for letting my mom life interfere with my work life. Oh, but wait… I guess I am feeling guilty for being a working MOM.
(Cue the “A-ha Moment” music!)
Now, I am proud to own that I am a working mom. My work is better because I have to learn to be more focused and efficient in order to get the most out of my work time. My mothering is better because I have fewer moments so need to make the most of my time with my children.
There are still emergency phone calls, flexing schedules around children activities, and stains on my clothes (more often than I care to admit.) But I don’t feel guilty about the times that mom life creeps into work life.
Rather I have spent time building up my work relationships and credibility so that when mom life requires work time, there is an understanding that it truly is important AND I can be counted on to still produce great work.
Co-workers know that I carry my cell phone everywhere but only take emergency calls during the work day.
My supervisor knows that if I have to leave work a little early one day, I will make up that time another day.
Everyone knows I carry a stain stick in my purse!!!
There is absolutely nothing about being a working mom that I need to apologize for!