Mom Guilt: Can We Really Have it All?

I was inspired by my last hair update as well as Thando’s from Modern Zulu Mom to write a mommy version of an update. My main quest on this new blog of mine is to share more of me and really embrace this platform as a space that’s a more honest reflection of my life.

I had a really rough week last week. When I usually say that, it’s because of one or two things: Kai’s teething so I’m sleep deprived or a meeting didn’t go well or I don’t feel like I’ve spent enough time with my husband. Last week, everything rolled into one, seemingly endless week of stress, fatigue and worst of all, mom guilt. Every once in awhile since going back to work, I get a pang of it but last week it reared its ugly head every day. Increasing in increments until I had a little breakdown at the end of the week. It’s funny how even if only 60% of your life isn’t great, you kind of let it spill out to the rest of your life and then everything feels like crap. Yeah, it was a bad week.

I had to work late most of last week and also on the weekend. Three out of five nights I got home knowing I was walking into a quiet house as it was already past Kai’s bedtime. In the mornings I’d be rushing to go back to work to try and avoid working late again. Kai’s currently going through some separation anxiety and cries when he sees me leaving. Usually, I know it’s ok because I’ve spent the morning with him and will spend the evening with him too. Every time he’d do that this past week my heart would sink. I’d be on my way home praying he was waiting for me to put him to bed, I wouldn’t even mind if he was cranky-tired. I just wanted to have those moments with him. Bedtime is our time. And although me working late isn’t a regular occurrence, it got me thinking about the whole debate of whether working moms could have it all. What is ‘all’ though? Is it having a social life, job, friends, hobbies, partner and family? Or is it being balanced in it? To which for me I’m currently struggling to see how the latter happens.

In my blogging life, I’m also juggling a lot, which I’m really grateful for but trying to figure out the balance there too. I recently took part in the launch of a big brand and was one of the influencers in the gallery they showcased at the event. I’d been looking forward to seeing the final portraits the whole week, only to have to face the fact that I wasn’t able to take that time off of work to attend. I hated calling the organiser to tell her I wouldn’t make it and I had to experience the launch via social media. I was very proud of being a part of the campaign so it was a really hard pill to swallow.

At home, besides me being absent, our water was cut for four whole days because of a burst pipe in our neighbourhood. And to add salt to the wound, on the second waterless day, the power went out. Lovely. No water to clean Kai’s bottles and no power to sterilise them. Never mind the fact that it’s the coldest week of the year so far. So we stayed at my in-laws until everything was restored. I wish it was that easy for the mom guilt part.

Why do we as women feel so guilty when we have to do things other than spending time with our kids? Obviously, work is important, so are our passions, and other things, right? In 2017, people keep saying that women can have it all but I’m currently not experiencing that. I messaged my friends (fellow mommies and wives) on Friday, and told them that I don’t think we can have it all. I feel like, we as women, have to choose. You’re either a doting mom or you’re a career woman. Then you have the judgment of ‘she’s just a stay at home mom’ or the opposite ‘you’re being selfish for choosing your career over having children’. There’s just no winning is there? And even if you manage to do both, one will always be much more of a priority than the other. The world is still very much a man’s world. And as much as fathers are becoming more modern and very involved in childcare (I see you Kevin O’Reilly), society’s expectations on mothers is still much higher than those of fathers. So we definitely bear the brunt of feeling the guilt. We’re not necessarily paid equally, but we’re expected to perform just as well as our male counterparts in the workplace. Yet, when it comes to parenting, mothers still carry more of the load, whether you’re working or not is almost irrelevant. There’s a huge gap in expectations and I wonder if I’ll ever figure it out.

I’d love to know if and how you’re balancing it ‘all’. Please share below.

Photo by Carike Ridout.

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7 Comments

  1. Kelly
    August 12, 2017 / 6:46 pm

    …oww..coming across your blog is what I needed, somebody shedding light into what i am going through. Its kinda of relief to know i am not alone. I have a 7 months old baby girl and a 4 year old boy. Most of My colleagues/supervisors are men,I am of opinion that they don’t understand my motherhood struggles😆, i feel guilty everytime i have to excuse myself from work to attend my babies, their protests makes things even harder. I feel guilty leaving my girl when i go to work including when i drop off my boy at preschool.There are times quitting my job crosses my mind. Maybe i am too much of a motherhen 😢. I am even dreading going to do masters because i ll have to be far from them for a longer time.😰🙈🙈..

    Recently My motto has been ” nobody can love my kidz like i can, work is replaceable and they are not” that has made asking for time off work easier.
    But kodwa if the guilt is permanent i raise my hands🙉🙌. Now its matter of just taking it one day at a time.God help us!

  2. May 24, 2017 / 1:03 pm

    Oh hey Mama, thanks for the shoutout! I’ve had my fair share of breakdowns lately and it’s unsettling – two kids changed the game for me! (although I want one more, lol). I often have fantasies that my life will be “perfect” if I start working half-day instead of full-day but that has it’s own sacrifices, doesn’t it?! I’ve come to accept that there are different seasons – and sometimes you’ll barely make it, and others you will thrive. But the mom guilt is always lurking in the background. I hope the work project was successful. xx

    • Aisha O
      May 29, 2017 / 2:10 pm

      Hey Thando! Thanks for dropping me a line. My work project hasn’t ended, but I’m working on having a better week. I really don’t know how you don’t have even more breakdowns with two kids and all you do. I’ve also fantasised about how perfect my life would be with x, y, and z. The truth is probably there would still be issues and I’m sure mom guilt will live there too. I guess I have to keep working at it. Aren’t we all works in progress?

  3. Mrs Z
    May 24, 2017 / 11:08 am

    The truth as I have heard is that we can have it just not all the time. There are times when you have to work and that will mean spending very little time with your baby and family. Then there will be times when you need to be with your family and your job will take a back seat for a bit and you may not be climbing up the corporate ladder soon. Its however important to to enjoy whichever side you are on so that you are fully present. When you are home, enjoy that time with your son and husband and enjoy it fully. When at work, just try to be present. Am a wife and a mum of two who works, when I heard this concept I was able to make sense of what life had become. Accepting this has made things easier to prioritize, enjoy and even juggle. It hasn’t taken away the mum guilt though.

    • Aisha O
      May 29, 2017 / 2:04 pm

      Sounds advice Mrs Z, thank you. I have to admit it’s a bit hard sometimes to be fully present what with all of the distractions of today. So I have to actively do things eg. put my phone on silent when I’m at home in order to give it my all. But the idea of having it all, just not all the time is right. Something I have to come to terms with which is very hard for my perfectionist personality lol. I want to be the best of everything…I know it’s high expectations so I’m working on it. Thanks for weighing in x

  4. Amanda
    May 22, 2017 / 5:24 pm

    being a working mom, juggling two kids under 4, a husband and a job, you can sometimes find your head spinning, And truth is, NO! we can’t have it all!the truth is something is always going to
    Give, either you won’t climb the career ladder as fast, or your marriage takes a back seat or you feel guilty about not seeing baby enough. As a new parent I went through all the feelings of guilt and shame and worry and wondering if I was doing the right thing being at work while another woman takes care of my kids! But eventually it balances out, the older and more independent they get the easier it gets… trust me!its like learning to juggle! It starts off difficult, then you can do it with your eyes closed!😉….But apparently mommy guilt is permanent! Never ends….even when they are teens 🤣

    • Aisha O
      May 29, 2017 / 2:01 pm

      Hey Amanda, thanks for weighing in. And for confirming that mom guilt is permanent! Just what I suspected…sigh. I’m glad to hear that it dissipates though, without ever really leaving. It helps to hear from fellow mamas, so thank you x

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