I Feel Guilty Leaving Work for My Kid

ReadathonA school event I didn't missIf you're a working mom whose kids went to school for at least part of the holiday week, you probably had to make some tough decisions. Were you going to take time off to go to that holiday play or were you going to work on through, hoping your kids would understand? I have almost always been in the second camp. And the truth is, it's not always because I can't go to my daughter's school functions. I just feel guilty asking for time away from work to do something with my kid.

It's not the working mom guilt you're used to hearing about. It's not the feelings moms are supposed to get that they're slighting their kids because of work.


I've felt that kind of mom guilt too, and it hurt worse than I ever expected. But more often, I struggle with when it's appropriate to ask my boss for a little leniency. It shouldn't be. I work at a company with the name "mom" in the title after all. And indeed when a co-worker pushed me to ask for an altered schedule on Tuesday so that I could go into my daughter's school for a special read-athon morning, the answer was an immediate "yes."

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I recognize that I'm blessed that this is a place where motherhood is valued. But that doesn't erase the guilt. It didn't make it any easier to ask.

My father was working quite literally round the clock when I was a child to grow his own business, to help feed our family. Most of my "Daddy and me" memories are of us out on a job, me serving as his gopher.

I should be clear that these are happy memories. We would stop off for my favorite meal of grilled cheese, fries, and an orange soda (I later learned that the days I was helping him out were the only days he got a lunch), and he would listen to me chatter about my life while I watched him get commercial kitchens running again. Or I'd run off with a farmer to pet his cows while my father fixed his bulk tank.

I knew that my parents worked hard, but being introduced to it at an early age gave me a unique perspective on work. I recognized what it did for my family. I realized it was what people like us "did." And, if I have to be really honest, I thought it was fun.

Of course now work isn't always fun (although sometimes it is). But I'm still inclined to work through situations when I'd prefer not to be there because I saw firsthand what happened when my parents worked. My brother and I got to eat.

I saw too the delicate balance between working and not working. My father was self-employed. He didn't get paid vacations or paid sick days. We were always well-cared for, but it gave me a hearty fear of life without employment.

We live in a country where motherhood is still treated as an inconvenience by too many employers. Moms might be raising the next generation of human beings, but what is that really worth? Not much to the employers who try to skirt the federal family and medical leave act.

I have a steady job with good benefits, but it wasn't always this way. And so my heart is in the same place as the waitress who knows that if she misses a shift for her kid's holiday play, her paycheck will be one shift short. It's in the same place as the grocery store clerk who fears that if her kid gets one more ear infection and can't go to daycare that she will lose her job entirely.

Moms like me don't put work first because we don't love our kids. We put work first because we are always afraid that one day the other shoe will drop and we won't be able to provide for our kids. To us, to me, that's much scarier than missing out on her dressed as a vegetable.

All that said, Moms, I have a message for you. The morning I spent in my daughter's classroom this week was one of the best moments I have had with her in a long time. We read Babymouse books and cuddled. We had a special moment that was just about us. And I wouldn't trade that for anything. 

If you are lucky enough to have a company that values moms in the workplace, take advantage of it. Don't let your fears rule you.

Do you feel guilty taking time away from work to be with your kids?


Image by Jeanne Sager

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