We don’t live in the 1950s anymore. Being a mom and building a career are no longer mutually exclusive concepts. Unfortunately, society seems bent on making working moms feel guilty about putting their kids in day care so they can build their careers. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve heard some variation of these chastisements:
- You’re not raising your kids, the day care is.
- Why’d you even bother having kids if you’re at work all the time?
- You should put your career on hold and be a stay-at-home mom instead.
And on and on and on.
Excuse my French, but these statements and any others like them are pure and utter bullshit, straight from the bull.
I was in the same boat. I had an established career before my husband and I decided that we wanted to start a family. Sure, we were a two-income household, and he made enough that I could have stayed home with our new bundle of joy, but I hated — absolutely hated — the fact that I was automatically expected to abandon my career as soon as I became a mother.
No matter what we do, there will always be naysayers who are sure we’re doing everything wrong. Here are a few science-based facts that I’ve learned along the way that will shut them up, and a few tricks to help you ditch that working mom guilt for good.
Day Care Is Good for Them
Day care is always the most significant point of contention when it comes to working moms. You get accused of letting strangers raise your child while you chase your ambitions. What most of these naysayers refuse to see is that day care is actually good for your children.
One Canadian study found that children who attend day care regularly have a stronger immune system than those who stay home with mom or dad. Kids are sticky little germ magnets, but the more germs they’re exposed to during their formative years, the fewer sick days they will have once they reach elementary school age. Yes, they will get sick more at day care than they would at home, but all those cold and flu bugs act as an at-home gym for their immune system, bolstering it for the years to come.
Another study, this time by the U.S Institute of National Health, found that day care kids score better on academic tests than those that stay at home. This cognitive boost carries through into their teen years. Not bad for spending a few years at day care instead of at home with their parental units.
This success also serves these children into adulthood. According to one massive Harvard study, girls who have working mothers end up earning 23 percent more annually than those who had stay-at-home moms. Boys with working moms also end up more involved in the care of their own children and spend more time on household chores.
When someone decides to butt their nose in and say you’re putting your ambitions ahead of your children, feel free to trot out these facts and shove them in their nosy faces. Not only will it serve to get them off your case, but it is also immensely satisfying to upend their worldview and may open their minds a little bit.
Ditching the Mom Guilt
Being able to smack your naysayers in the face with scientific facts is satisfying, at least it is for me, but it isn’t always the perfect salve to assuage your mom guilt. With that in mind, here are some tricks I’ve picked up throughout a 20-year career with three kids to help me shake that guilt that always seems to nag at the back of my mind.
- Forget about should: That “should” is always there in the back of your mind. I should do the dishes before I go to bed. I should cook a healthy meal instead of ordering pizza after a long day. I should, I should, I should. It’s a constant mantra in your head. Forget about it, or you’ll spend your nights staring at the ceiling thinking about all the things that you should have done during the day.
- Remember, you too are mortal: There are only 24 hours in the day. If you’re spending 10 of those at work or commuting and six asleep, that leaves you with eight hours to take care of the house and spend time with your kids. Take advantage of that time you have with them. Your kids always come first, no matter what. The dishes will wait for another day. The laundry will be fine in the dryer overnight.
- Take care of yourself: This might seem like an impossible task if you’re also trying to raise one or more small humans until they are self-sufficient enough to head out on their own. Mom self-care is just as important as taking care of your kids. You won’t be any good to anyone if you’re a strung-out wreck living on caffeine and sleep deprivation.
- Say fuck off more often: I’m going to quote the great Dame Helen Mirren for this tip. “At 70 years old, if I could give my younger self one piece of advice, it would be to use the words “fuck off’ much more frequently.” If all your scientific facts and guilt-proof techniques don’t phase your naysayers, tell them to eff off. It’s almost as satisfying as smacking them with study results, and when it comes down to it, they’re your kids. If they want a say in how children are raised, tell them to have their own.
If you’re raising happy, healthy kids and have an incredible career you love, good for you. Climbing the corporate ladder doesn’t mean you need to neglect your family or vise-