On (Working) Mom Guilt.

Luke is sick. Has been all week. We had Monday off for Martin Luther Jr. Day, and he woke with a cough that got steadily worse through the day. Tuesday morning, I woke up at 5am for my school day as normal, got myself ready, the big boys, and then went to wake Luke up and get him ready too (he’s generally my “late” sleeper). He seemed a little tired and weepy, but I was ready to push through and was honestly in a bit of a rush to get us to school on time (I abhor being late). I was totally tunnel vision. ***MUST GET OUT DOOR*** My husband leaves later than we do, so he was holding a very limp-looking Lukey against him as I buzzed around the house barking orders at everyone then trying to morph those orders into a fun game like the toddler drill sergeant I can lean toward in the mornings. The need to run a tight toddler ship and all. Mike asked me a couple times if I wanted to stay home with Luke because he didn’t seem like he was feeling all that well. Nope! I answered. He doesn’t seem like he has a fever. He’s good. It’s just a cough. We’re going to school. My husband defers to me on these things (as he should. lol).

I was finally finished corraling everyone and everything, so I leaned in to grab Luke and I finally stopped to take a look at him. He had his eyes closed and was leaning on my husband’s chest with his arms slack at his sides. His cheeks were flushed and an audible wheeze was rattling in his chest. I felt his forehead and, of course, fever. Enter Mom Guilt. Hit me like a ton of bricks, as it tends to. He was so very clearly not ok. I was so ready to just push through and get us to where we “needed” to be at any cost, when clearly home is where he needed to be. 

I know, I know. You’re thinking – “It’s ok mama! You realized! You did the right thing in the end.” because you are my sweet, kind, supportive readers. But if you’re a parent – you know what I mean. The guilt that you’re not doing the right thing. That you didn’t immediately realize what was best for your child because you were thinking about what you “needed” to do for work. Anyway – I’ve been home all week because that cough has since turned into pneumonia. Breathing treatments, steroids, doctors visits every day and the threat of the Emergency Room if he didn’t get his oxygen levels up. Still can’t believe I almost sent him in to school like that. 💔 mom guilt of the most extreme case and gosh does it burn.

But that’s not all – on the other side…you have working guilt. I’m a teacher – an elementary school librarian – and did you know there’s a teacher shortage? There’s a substitute teacher shortage too. So while I’m out – no one is covering my classes. Teachers just don’t get their planning when they have media for fine arts. A whole week of letting down 40 teachers. No one covering my morning or afternoon duties, my lunch duty, my various extra classes that I cover. I can only imagine what they’re saying. “I wish I could take a whole week off too, but I’m here doing my job like I’m supposed to.” No, maybe they don’t all know that my son has pneumonia and he needs me, but it doesn’t stop the guilt. And it won’t be the last time I’m out this year. I’m sure of it. Just as it’s not the first time I’ve been out (we had a nasty run of RSV earlier this year, croup cough another time, and several weeks of quarantines for contact tracing at the beginning of the year).

I was chatting with Mike’s sisters and mom the other day, and his sister who has four kids and is also a teacher told me something I just really needed to hear. “You will never look back and wish that you had been working during this time. Luke needs you. I used to feel so guilty about missing school for sick kids, but not anymore. I remember missing a lot of school when ours were young. It’s just a phase.” And she’s so right! But it’s sometimes hard to tell your mind something that your heart knows. Anyway – I’m sure that Luke will be better next week, and I’ll be back at school, and in a few weeks I’ll go through this spiral all over again when he or one of the other boys picks up something else. For now, I’m going to try my best to enjoy the baby snuggles, being home, and hot coffee on tap.

5 thoughts on “On (Working) Mom Guilt.

  1. I so feel this. I’m a mama and a teacher too, and this post made me teary. Thanks for articulating the tension between those two roles. ❤️ You’re doing great!!

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  2. I read this quote that essentially states: “society expects women to work as if they have no children, and mother as if they have no work” and it has always stuck with me. Took me a long time to diminish the guilt as well. You go mama!

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  3. Thank you for this! Going through the same thing! It’s not easy, but reading yours and others encouraging words help a lot!! You’re not alone Mama!

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  4. Ooof. The tears welling in my eyes as I read this. It always helps knowing we’re not alone in this adventure of motherhood.

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