The Guilt of Not Working

Being a stay-at-home mom is a job. Actually, it is many jobs. Without breaks. Or bonuses. It is the hardest job I have ever done, and I have had 3 jobs at once. So why do I feel so guilty?

Found at

Found at


I think the image I found above is fairly accurate. (Thank you, internet.) Except in the last picture have her doing the laundry while booking appointments on the phone, drinking cold coffee, and filling out school forms on the computer…. at the same time as burning lunch and pulling on her jacket to go get her kindergartner…..and it’s what I do every day.  Day? Haha. Pffft. Morning, I mean, that’s my morning. In the afternoon I also have to do ten more things while figuring out what my son should be doing to be learning or entertained before we go and grab his sister, and then there are 100 more issues and things to deal with. I get to clean up while my kids mess up behind me. Like a snake eating its tail. (Because, let’s be honest, if I make them clean up I am just going to tidy how they cleaned it up anyway. And them helping means I am involved as supervisor/referee anyway!) Sometimes I wish my job was at another house so we could mess up that one and come home to the house as it was left in the morning. I could come home and clean up the breakfast dishes I rushed out on and be okay.

So we have established I don’t just go for coffee, or yoga classes, or watch soap operas and eat all day. And when I do have time to do something for myself? Like, actually sit down for a full half hour? Supreme guilt eats at me until I mysteriously find myself cleaning out the fridge or washing the cupboards. I feel that if I am not doing a task I am not working and I am being one of those lazy entitled women that stays at home to be pampered. I grew up lower middle class. Money was ALWAYS an issue, so I feel guilt that I don’t work, that I am not doing enough to “earn my keep” (so to speak), and guilt that we are okay money-wise. I always answer that my day was busy because it always was, but if it wasn’t I would feel I am not doing enough to keep up the house. This is not because my husband makes me feel guilty about anything at all. This is all on me and my dumb feelings. I always apologize if I don’t get everything done. I feel bad if I had time to sit and read or craft. I always make myself get up after ten minutes of sitting. It’s silly. Plus, there are a lot of moms who work and say dumb stuff like, “At least you didn’t have to work all day and got to see your kids. You’re so lucky!” This really gets my back up.

So why don’t I work if I have this black hole of feelings swallowing me inside? I got pregnant while I was trying to figure out what degree I should take next or if I should move up at my current job. I was at an entry level position. If I went back and paid daycare rates, I would clear about $300 a month, if that. We would have to juggle daycare schedules and shift work and I would make enough to pay for one grocery trip, if I cleared enough hours and could get my old position back. So that makes it seem kind of useless for me to pay someone else to spend the first years with my kids. I have had some opportunities to work from home, but again you have to clear some time and make sure you are devoted to working for those hours. So that hasn’t been possible yet. I think when the kids are in full-time school I might be able to….. so in the meantime I am trying to enjoy my time at home with them.

The guilt though! I put a ton of pressure on myself to work and work HARD to “deserve” my time and position at home. I want the house to be so clean and organized every day for my husband when he gets home. The kids end up occupying each other a lot of the time because I am too busy planning meals and doing laundry and mopping and organizing and all of that. They help with the tasks of course but I don’t force them to do my chores, I have chores especially for them to do. If they help with my chores it takes ten times as long and sometimes it is super fun and sometimes it just makes me super tense. Most of the time they get bored of my chores and leave halfway through. The other day I read to my son while folding laundry and holding him in my lap. I should have abandoned laundry and held him and read to him because some days I look at him out of the corner of my eye and I can see him as a not-so-distant-future 16 year old and I want to cry.

And spending money!! I get seized up with guilt over every purchase. I NEVER treat myself to a coffee because it seems so frivolous and a waste of money. I agonize over every purchase for myself- cheap Hanes underwear included. The other day I really wanted the cool new patterns on cheapie underwear but it was a dollar more for two less pairs and I couldn’t make myself do it. My husband has to force me to go out for coffee on the days when I want alone time and out of the house. When I do let myself loose and spend money, I explain why in a long monologue and have such a great reason and back story to every purchase. The other day I spent $24 at Chapters and justified my purchase for a full five minutes while my husband just nodded and said “It’s fine. Really, I said it’s okay.” You would think I grew up in the Depression. My husband reminds me it is our money, that I am doing an important job but I still feel like he is earning it and I am “just” raising the kids. I mean, other moms raise their kids AND work, right?

I need to kill that thinking right now.

My goal for October is to spend quality time with my kids and not feel guilty if I didn’t have a super stressful and packed day. I will not feel spoiled (even though I am!) and lazy. I will feel lucky rather than privileged, blessed rather than guilty. Or…. I will try!! I will try with every fiber of my being.

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