I heard the ping from my phone, but didn’t think much of it. It was the middle of my work day and it could have been any number of people texting me. But as I glanced down at my smart phone, an unsettled feeling formed in pit of my stomach. My daughter’s daycare teacher was messaging me. Peyton was in tears, missing her “mommy”. For the first time in more than four years, I felt the guilt I’ve heard so much about from fellow parents. But, as I stared in a daze at that message, one thought went through my mind: I am proud to be a working mom and I will not let guilt win.
The message started off fairly standard. The teacher was just letting me know that my daughter was a little more sensitive on this day. But as I continued to read, my heart sank. My child forgot to give me a kiss goodbye and that led to a domino effect of emotions. My little 4-year-old was distraught, in tears because she missed her mom. The teacher shared my daughter’s concerns, and mentioned that my sweet child was worried that I wouldn’t come home from work.
As I sat at my desk, engulfed in my job, those heartstrings were being tugged in every which way. I held back the tears as I stared at the message. For years, my daughter has been perfectly fine knowing that both her mom and dad work. While it’s a constant challenge trying to juggle the work day with being a parent, I’d like to think that we do a good job at it. We work because we need to. We have a mortgage and bills to pay. But we also work because we want to. I have always been career driven. I work hard, proving to my daughter that you can be both successful in a career and make time to have a family. The days are long and the stress can be overwhelming at times, but I’m proud of all we have achieved.
Alone at my desk, I pondered what I should do. Do I sneak over to the daycare to give Peyton that kiss? Or do I call to check in? I settled on sending a message to the teacher, hoping she would pass along my heartfelt words to my daughter. Within a few minutes, the ping of my phone startled me. A video awaited me from my child.
“Hi Mommy, I’m having fun! I hope to see you at dinner. Love you,” my daughter exclaimed as she blew me a kiss.
At that moment, I breathed a giant sigh of relief. There were no more tears from my toddler. Her brief moment of sadness had given way to her typical cheerful personality. I smiled as I watched the video again, her friends surrounding her and waving hello to the camera. I sat back in my chair and looked around me. I’m not the only working parent. Many people face the exact same balancing act, and you know what? We all survive.
As I walked inside my home, my enthusiastic child came racing towards me. She jumped into my arms as she squealed with excitement. Her mommy was home and she couldn’t be happier. We sat as a family and shared tidbits of our day as we ate dinner together. An hour later, my time was up. But rather than dwell on the reality of returning to work, I used my career as a teaching moment with my child. I hugged my daughter and whispered in her ear, “Mommy will always love you and I will always come home.” My daughter planted a kiss on my cheek as she whispered back, “I love you mommy. Have fun at work.”
It’s not easy being a working mom, but over time, you make it work. Whether it’s through a simple kiss or a hug, or a special mother-daughter outing, our children know that we care…even if we have to leave for work. And on those days where my heart may be longing to be home with my child instead at work, I remind myself–the love for my daughter far outweighs the guilt.
A version of this post originally appeared at Perfectly Peyton