How it Feels to be a Working Mom


Last Friday, I returned to work after almost eight months of masquerading as a stay-at-home-mom. In July, I gave birth to my third son, and I had the opportunity to take an extended leave from work through an educational sabbatical. This experience has been the closest thing I’ve ever experienced to being a SAHM. For the last few weeks, I’ve been prepping to go back to work, and that’s led me to reflect on what it means for me to be a working mother.

The last eight months have been the most trying and most fulfilling months I’ve ever had as a mom. First and foremost, and this truth cannot be overstated, the patience required to be home with your kids all day long is truly awe-inspiring. There were days when I collapsed in a heap of tears when I just couldn’t handle the frustration of managing my kids’ behavior while nursing a newborn, preparing meals, and corralling everyone to take a nap. There have been weeks when all three are sick, when nobody is sleeping well, when my two older boys, best friends who had become sick of being each other’s chief playmates, turned into mortal enemies. When you are home full-time, there isn’t an escape when you get overwhelmed; you just have to dig down deep and find the will not to lose your mind completely.

stock image: canva

When I work, at least I get the break from 7am to 3pm five days a week, when I don’t have to be a mom and I get to be something else. I get to create and teach and communicate with other professionals, many of whom are my friends, and play a different role. It’s a relief because it gives me the reprieve I need to be a more patient, kinder, intentional mother. I work because my family has come to depend on my income, but we could downsize and take less vacations and quit cable and I could quit my job. I work because I like to.

While being a working mom gives me a much-needed break, it also means I’m racked with guilt most of the time – guilt that I’m missing some of my kids biggest moments, like when I tell the daycare teachers that my son took his first steps, and they nod in a way that lets me know this is not news to them – guilt when I can’t take a day off of work to attend the Santa Cruise downtown or accompany my kid to Disney on Ice – guilt that somebody else is raising my children, aiding them in their learning and teaching them necessary social skills. I work on managing that guilt, and I’m lucky because I love my children’s daycare and the people who work there, but the feeling is always present that they are doing a job that should truly be mine. And of course, there’s the sense that I basically do everything just okay. As a SAHM, I could pack a picnic lunch and plan a day at the park, make a casserole for a friend whose going through tough times and get my thank you notes written in a timely manner. For the first time, I had moments when I truly felt like a great mom, friend, daughter and wife. When I’m working, something has to give, and it’s usually a little bit from every role I play.

Through my reflection, I’ve basically arrived at this conclusion. It’s never easy to want to be in two places at the same time, and that’s everything about being a working mom. I want to be home, and I want to work, and that dilemma could pull me apart. But instead of focusing on what’s hard about it, I’m choosing to thank God for how lucky I am to be able to do both. I know there are so many women only a short time ago who would have given anything to have the choices I have now. I get to pursue my professional goals, which makes me happy, and therefore, a better mom in the long run, and when I’m home, I get to be a mom to three amazing little boys. I’ve chosen a career that gives me a nice chunk of time with my kids, and as long as I’m purposeful about it, I can enjoy both parts of my life.  That’s not an easy goal, but it’s one worth working towards each and every day.

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A resident of Penn Township, Pa, Sam Westerlund is a public educator and writer. She is also a wife and mother of three boys, ages 6, 5 and 1 and stepmother to two boys in their twenties. Her work commitments and “modern family” keep her busy, but in her spare time, she loves to travel and is an avid reader of both fiction and non-fiction. Her passions are sharing authentically and openly about the joys and struggles of parenthood and connecting with others through the medium of story.