A Working Mother’s Guilt

imageI had to return to work just 8 weeks after Mason was born. I had major anxiety, as I’m sure most mothers do, when having to return to work. For our family it was not a question whether I could or could not return to work. I have mountains of student loans to pay off and we are trying to save up to buy a house. Not going back to work was not a viable option for us.

Prior to going back to work I thought, “How in the world am I going to manage getting to work on time with a baby!”. I was already exhausted from multiple night feedings and I hadn’t even returned to work yet. Mason was still getting up at least twice a night at two months old, how was I going to breastfeed, get ready and be presentable, and be out the door in time?!

However, in between my pangs of guilt I also felt excitement to return to work. To return to adult conversation and having some freedom outside of our home by myself. To return to doing something that I loved and something that I felt was a part of me and defined me. I am a physical therapist. It took me 7 years to get my doctorate and I am not only proud of what I do but I love what I do. I have a powerful bond with my patients as I am there when they are at their lowest and I am part of their journey as they find their footing in the world again.

I also work because I feel that being a full time mom makes me a better mom. Every minute with Mason I cherish. I can not afford to take for granted a single minute that I have with my little one. He is only this little once. He will only want to be held and loved on for so long. From the minute he wakes up, to the time I put him down I have to soak up every laugh and every gummy smile.

Being at work for me is my “me time”. On the drive from one patient to the next, I find time to belt out to my favorite Britney song or call my best friend. Or just contemplate in perfect silence along the foothills of Kentucky on what activities our family will get into this weekend. At work, I get to have adult conversations and get a break from having one sided conversations with Dora, Peppa, and Mickey.

Being a working mom is a constant juggle. While I’m at work, I am constantly thinking of home and of Mason and if he took his nap today and how he is doing with teething today. But while I’m at home, I constantly wondering if my patients are okay, what doctors I need to call in the morning, and what paperwork I need to get done tonight. It’s a constant juggle between calling and taking care of patients with feeding Mason those peas he hates and entertaining my little monkey until bedtime. My life consists of not only having to juggle baby but juggle my married life. I am not only a mother but a wife as well. I never understood when people said there wasn’t enough time in the day until I was a working mother and wife. There will never be enough time in the day to get everything done but as long as my son and husband are happy and healthy, the rest will fall into place.

Do I still worry that Mason’s teachers or babysitter will know him better than I do? Yes I do, but even though my time with my sweet boy is limited I want it to be meaningful. I want to be an example for my son that hard work pays off. I want to show him that it can pay off if you are dedicated to your studies and education. That it is possible to find a career that will better your life and, if you’re lucky, impact someone else’s life.

Do I think that I would be happier if I didn’t work? No. Less hectic and crazy…yes. My patients and my career are a part of who I am as well as being a mother and wife. I hope that an older Mason will look back on the days when he was young and think back on his young(er) working mother who took care of the him and the household and think, “My mom really did it all and loved me all the same.” But until then I’ll continue to kiss and sing him goodnight and hug him every morning. I will thank God every day that I am a working mother who was blessed with a precious baby boy.

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