Working Mom Guilt: The Holidays Are The Worst

Today, my daughter’s pre-school had a Thanksgiving feast. All of the children dressed up and made adorable turkey place mats. They held hands and recited prayer in unison. Almost a hundred 2, 3, and 4 years olds sitting down with napkins in their lap and juice in their classes. It’s an adorable and sweet tradition that I’m excited my daughter had a chance to partake in. Unfortunately, the school asks that parents come in to set up, cook and clean up the entire feast. A whole morning in a kitchen with other pre-school moms and dads trying to coordinate this wonderful meal for our kids.

After begging and pleading for time off during a busy holiday week, working moms like myself walked in to that industrial kitchen to find a whole group of mothers who knew every teacher’s name and recognized almost every kid. While I needed directions to find every classroom other than my daughter’s, most parents volunteering were on a first-name-basis with every adult in the building. I realized right away that these ladies spent plenty of time in my daughter’s school, helping out with random projects and events. There I stood in my pencil skirt and heels, ready to bolt back to work the minute we were released, feeling pretty guilty about my work commitments.

And it’s not just the Thanksgiving feast. Our school has plenty of upcoming holiday events that I’m going to struggle to attend including a teacher appreciation breakfast, a holiday pageant and a winter recital. These all take place during my daughter’s school day, which lasts from 9 to 11:30. All I want for Christmas a little time off!

On a day-to-day basis, it’s difficult to juggle work and family responsibilities. During the holidays, when family obligations hit their peak, it’s downright agonizing. There are simply too many worthy occasions trying to steal away a woman’s focus, even during work hours. There’s holiday shopping, which can easily be done from your desk. All you need in Amazon. There’s special treats like recitals, where you hate to disappoint your little ones by missing out. It’s hard for a three year old to grasp the idea of an OSHA audit and why it’s not exactly something you can miss. Why any audit would occur during December is completely beyond me, for the record.

And then, there are snow days. Those amazing blasts of winter weather that leave school cancelled, children ecstatic and parents completely frantic. Where on earth are the kids going to go? Why would the school system close down over a couple inches of snow? And Dear Lord why can’t we just stay home, building snowmen and sledding down hills? Why can’t we make some hot chocolate and cuddle our darlings until the plows have passed and the roads have cleared?

The holiday season has too many enticing excuses for skipping out on work early, coming in late, or missing the day entirely. After almost four years, I’ve stopped feeling emotional every day as I drop my little girl off at daycare. I’m comfortable with the knowledge that she has an amazing time and is well-cared-for while I’m away at work. But this time of year reminds me of the worst days during those first few months, when I just wanted to be home with my baby.

December might be a hectic time for businesses everywhere, but it’s also the most guilt-ridden month of working motherhood. Hopefully, the new year will bring a new resolve. Or maybe having the kids at home for two months of winter break will be enough to boot moms back into the office and out of their holiday funk.

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    • DebMoore

      Yup! I know EXACTLY how you feel! I too am a full time working mom.
      And added to my guilt is that I grew up with a working mom (and dad) and so I KNOW how my daughter feels when we can’t go to school events. (lonely) We (my husband and I) try really hard to go to at least some of the events, but man is it hard!

    • SJP

      I’m a full time working mom of four who are 7, 5, 3, and 18mo. I am sorry to tell you that only gets WORSE. :-( Many of my coworkers still have kids 3 and under and they look at me puzzled when I say that while there is guilt when they are babies, it is so much harder to juggle when they are in big kid school. Not only are their parties & recitals, but how about field trips, parent conferences, and fund raising!

      I do have it good that my husband is the SAHD/WAHD so he is the one always at school, knows all the teachers, students, etc. He volunteers a ton of his time helping with the IT related stuff since they don’t have a full time staff member (small private school). I’ve been with my job for almost 12 years so I have a generous amount of paid time off that I budget wisely so I can try to be there for a lot of the stuff. Sometimes it works out, others it doesn’t.

      • Leigha

        I’m confused as to how fundraising would be an issue. In my experience, parents tend to bring the fundraisers with them to work, giving them a lot of sales and a huge advantage.

      • K

        @SJP, i am also the working mom of a SAHD, my kids are 5,3, and 6 months and i agree its harder once they are in school! and even though my husband can do all the doctors visits, teacher conferences, etc. I still sit at work feeling guilty about it and wishing it were me going.

    • shannon best

      I am one of those moms who attends all events and knows other mom’s names. I am also the mom who makes sure I take a picture of all class parties, plays, crafts, field trips etc. We also are allowed to post pics on our schools app that we use. I am making each family a mini album to give them before school let’s out.
      I feel for the moms who work and miss events.
      -Shannon in Austin

    • Marissa – After Flats

      yeah.. .I’m a mom of 2 cute kids…it’s fun and tiring


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