Get Rid of the Mom Guilt

Melissa Roja Lawlor
Jan. 9, 2013

Susan Wenner Jackson shares how to get rid of guilt as part of the Interview Series

Susan Wenner Jackson is an expert when it comes to fighting mom guilt - literally! The creator and author of Working Moms Against Guilt is involved in a daily crusade to wipe mom guilt from the consciousness of working moms everywhere. According to Jackson, the important thing to remember is that we are human, not parenting machines who never need a break. She shares with us her best advice for defeating mom guilt when it starts, and why it's okay to not want to be with your kids 24/7.

Tell us about your family and your blog.

I'm married to Jerry and we have two children, Cassie, 6, and James, 3. We live in West Chester, Ohio, a suburb of Cincinnati where I was raised. My blog, Working Moms Against Guilt, is the combined effort of three friends and I sharing our opinions and experiences of working motherhood.

Have you ever experienced "mom guilt"?

Sure! A couple of years ago, my husband and I went on a much-needed getaway trip to Florida, leaving our children with their regular sitter for 5 days and 4 nights. My son, about 5 months old at the time, got sick. He had a bad cold, making it difficult for him to sleep, eat, etc. and keeping the sitter and her family up quite a bit during the nights. I felt so horrible! Part of me wanted to come home and just snuggle him, but we would have lost a lot of money on a flight change and hotel deposits -- plus the sitter insisted we stay. We had a good time despite the guilt, but I was very glad to return home and care for my sniffly little guy.

What are some things you do to balance work and life, as well as take time for yourself without feeling like you're taking time away from either?

I am fortunate to have a flexible job/employer, which allows me to take care of "life stuff" when I need to -- whether that means working from home when I have a sick kid or stepping out for a long lunch to be the room parent at my daughter's school. That flexibility is everything. Without it, I would definitely struggle with the balance issue. I also have a fabulous crew that whips through my house like a cleaning tornado every other Friday. That is a godsend! Once a month, I take 2-3 hours to spend at a local salon for a manicure, pedicure and facial. Worth every penny.

So many things today can make moms feel guilty --it's hard to squash it! What are some things that make you feel guilty as a mom?

I feel guilty when I lose my temper with my kids. Not only is yelling totally ineffective as a parenting behavior, it also happens as a result of me being tired, at my wit's end, hungry ... in other words, not being there for my kids as a 100% mom. But I'm human, and it happens, and when it does, I am the first to apologize and take responsibility before moving on.

There never seem to be enough hours in the day. What is the first thing to fly out the window when you're in a time/schedule crunch with your kids?

Laundry. There are always piles that need washing, drying, folding, put away. And when life gets busy, laundry just piles up. Sometimes I have to dig through baskets of clean laundry to dress myself and the kids. At least it's clean, right?!

One of the hardest things working moms do is handle the guilt with leaving their children in the hands of another to work How did you handle going back to work? What made the transition easier for you, and/or for your child?

In the beginning, my husband was our daughter's caregiver while I was at work. So that made the first year much easier than a lot of working moms have it. When we found our regular sitter through a family friend, we quickly established a strong bond of trust with her and eventually a great friendship. Later, when my daughter went to preschool, we both felt good about the teachers and school. So the lesson is, if you feel comfortable about who your kids are with and where they spend that time away from you, you minimize the guilt.

Do you feel a certain peer pressure, either from relatives, friends, or other moms? Tell us about that and how you handle it.

I think all moms pressure themselves (and sometimes each other) based on what they observe other moms doing. Usually, the pressure I feel most strongly is to have an organized, clean house at all times, serve healthy, home-cooked meals every night, and plan educational, bonding activities to do with my children every weekend. These three things never happen as often as I like. But I have to remind myself that most of the time, what I do for my family is "good enough."

In your opinion, what makes moms feel guiltiest? And what's your best advice for moms (and you!) on how to cut yourselves some slack?

It's getting better, but I think many moms feel guilty if they don't want to be with their kids 24/7, and they actually like to work and spend time apart from the kids. There is something programmed in our DNA or culture (or both) that makes us think, "Good moms prefer to be with their kids to anything else." Which is totally not true or realistic!

We are not parenting machines who can churn out endless love, patience and teaching day in and day out. We all need breaks, in varying amounts and forms. And there is absolutely nothing wrong with it! As corny as it sounds, it really does "take a village to raise a child."

For more helpful tips on how to defeat mom guilt, visit our Interview Series: Banishing Mom Guilt »

Susan Wenner Jackson is the co-creator and author of the blog Working Moms Against Guilt. She lives in West Chester, Ohio, with her husband and two children. You can also find her on Facebook and Twitter.

Photo used with permission from Susan Wenner Jackson.

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