Why You Should Feel Great as a Working Parent
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Every so often I’ll get a note from a parent who’s feeling guilty that they have to work so much and can’t be home with their little kids. Maybe it’s a mom who has to go back to her job just a few short weeks after she’s had her baby. Maybe it’s someone who’s dying to homeschool but has an intense job outside of the home. Or maybe it’s someone who is working a part-time job or side hustle from home and feeling guilty that they’re on their phone or computer when they could be spending quality time with their kids.
So often these parents write to me saying they feel bad that the kids don’t see them as much as they could or that their attention is going elsewhere other than just their children, and they’re asking me what I think about this and what they should do.
Sometimes parents are worried about going back to school to finish their degree or taking a job they’ve been offered because of how it might impact their relationship with their child, and they feel guilty about all that time spent elsewhere.
I feel really passionate about this subject. First of all, I’m allergic to dogmatic one-size-fits-all parenting advice, and when people make blanket statements such as, “Mothers should be home with their babies,” I think that’s missing so much nuance and it’s really doing a huge disservice to all of us parents who are unique individuals with unique circumstances. Our needs, aspirations, goals, beliefs, value systems, cultures, origins, and resources are all different. Therefore, the answer is always going to be, as Magda Gerber said, “It depends.”
It depends on your long-term goals, values, temperament, likes, and dislikes. Is it wonderful to be a stay-at-home parent? Yes. Some parents want that lifestyle and make it work, and that’s wonderful for them. I 100% support any parent who makes that choice. Is it also wonderful to have a job, career, business, side hustle or anything else? Yes. That’s equally wonderful in a different way. They are both 100% valid lifestyles, and I don’t think one is better than the other – although one might be better than the other for you.
Parents will choose to work for so many reasons: because they have to put food on the table, they want to upgrade their lifestyle, they need to pay off debt, or simply because they enjoy it and it fulfills them. There are so many different reasons that people seek outside work apart from being home with their children beyond just the fact that most of us need to do that in order to survive.
My point here is that there are two things you must remember, and I would suggest that you try to replace any sense of guilt with these two ideas.
Number one is that you are providing for your children. If you are running any kind of business, side hustle, job, or career, you’re providing for your children and building security for your family. That is valuable and part of good parenting. That is what responsible parents do to care for their children. In other words, making money is part of parenting because it’s the part where we provide.
If your financial resources aren’t enough to cover the lifestyle you desire for your family, and you’ve decided to earn more money through your job, you should feel proud of that and grateful that you have those opportunities. I don’t think we should feel guilty that we’re spending time providing for our family. That’s just part of being a great parent. Parenting can be the active caring for our children, or it can be making sure that they are well cared for in a school, with a babysitter, with your partner, or with grandma, while you go and do the other things that you need to do.
Now, hear what I’m saying here. I’m not saying that good parents must work. Some don’t have to or choose not to for whatever reason. I am saying that if you do work, that is part of your parenting and is a good thing you are doing for your children, and I don’t think you need to feel guilty about that for a single minute.
Here’s the other thing that’s really important about working and why you should feel great as a working parent. When you’re out there doing your job in whatever capacity that is, you’re modeling for your child what it takes to be an adult in the world, to succeed, to do meaningful work, to provide financially, or whatever it is that you’re doing. Maybe you’re volunteering. Maybe you run a big business. Maybe you have a simple job that you love that puts food on the table. Maybe you have several jobs that you hate, but they put food on the table.
Whatever it is that you’re doing, you are modeling for your child what it means to work and why we do it. If you can do that in a way that is actually helpful to them, showing them that you’re grateful for the work, that you put your best foot forward, that there are some hard days when you don’t feel like doing it but you do it anyway. Those types of things are modeling incredible skills for our children and their future, and actually building their own perception of what work is, what it could feel like, and what it could look like.
When is it that we just kind of roll up our sleeves and do the hard work even though we don’t feel like it? And when is it that we leave a job and take a risk on ourselves to build a business? That’s not a bad thing at all, and it’s nothing to feel guilty about. That’s something to feel grateful for and proud of. And again, it’s a tool that we use to model for our children what it takes to be an adult and to work in the world. So I want all my stay-at-home moms and dads to feel really proud and at peace with their choice, and equally, I want all my working parents to feel really proud and at peace with that choice.
Remember, there’s often an opportunity to switch between these two, to take some time off for maternity leave, to switch jobs in a way that caters better to your family lifestyle. In today’s day and age, there’s quite a lot of flexibility for many of us within our jobs. But even if you’re working night shifts or seven-to-seven on the weekend, remember that you’re providing for your children and modeling for them. And those are never things that you should feel guilty about.
If you enjoyed this episode, I’d love to hear whether you work or stay home and why you feel great about it. Leave a comment below or join me on Instagram @parentingjunkie!