02 Mar Guilt to Great: A Working Mom’s Battle

My heart sank. The winter musical that my five-year-old daughter had been talking about non-stop, was scheduled for the same day I was to speak at the Massachusetts Conference for Women. I had committed to this speaking engagement more than six months earlier and there was no turning back. My excitement about the 8,000 women event was quickly replaced with tremendous guilt.

For the next week, every time Ella practiced her songs, I relived the sick feeling – the nausea I experienced when I thought of sharing the news: That her mom wouldn’t be in the audience that day. I needed a plan. My husband and I spun in circles. He would get to the show early, he would get a great seat, he would record it. It wasn’t enough. In the many shapes and sizes of mommy guilt, this was Mount Everest.

On Friday I dropped Ella off at Kindergarten and cried. Guilt, the working mom’s predator, had sunk its teeth into its prey. I felt completely alone in my pain, foolishly forgetting that my experience was not unique. And then, I had a moment of clarity.

As with any challenge, I needed advice, and who better to get it from than a mom who travels for work. So I did the thing working moms need to do more of, I leaned on another working mom, my friend Tory Johnson.

Tory is a devoted mom of two who has an intense travel schedule. She suggested that I attend the dress rehearsal instead. Genius! Why hadn’t I thought of that? Thrilled, I hung up the phone, ready to spring into action. When the dress rehearsal arrived, I was shocked to find three other parents in the audience with me, two dads and a mom. Did they know Tory Johnson too?!

Working Mom: 1 Guilt: 0

And then, the business trip happened.

As moms, we tend to look at a clock and think about what our children are doing at that exact moment. At 4pm EST on that particular day, my oldest child was in Los Angeles performing in her first school play at the same time that I was in Boston giving a talk on work life balance to a packed room of working moms. I stood there to speak and the tears came out before the words did. I told the moms: “I am giving this talk at a time when my life feels completely imbalanced…”

I had leaned on a working mom before the trip and here I was leaning on a room full of working moms that I was there to help. The impact was miraculous. We spent an hour together in a virtual group therapy session as hundreds of women shared their collective experiences. When confronting a force as powerful as mommy guilt, sometimes we need to fight it together.

And then yesterday I was at breakfast with my daughters explaining that I wouldn’t see them before bedtime because I would be hosting and speaking at the Biggest Baby Shower. I felt guilty and I was waiting for the pleas for me to be home instead.  But as I broke the news, Ella’s jaw dropped: “Wait Mom, is that a world record? Is it the biggest baby shower in the world? Like in the Guinness Book of World Records?”

“Well, it is the biggest gathering of pregnant women in Los Angeles ever.” I explained. And Ella tap danced out the door as she called, “I can’t wait to tell my teachers that my mom’s work is part of a world record!” Sometimes the battle takes care of itself.

Samantha Ettus is a bestselling author, media personality and a working mom of three. Please share your stories about your battles with guilt at samantha@samanthaettus.com or connect with her @samanthaettus.

To read this article on Forbes, please click here.

Samantha Ettus is a bestselling author & corporate speaker. The Pie Life: A Guilt-Free Recipe for Success and Satisfaction will be released in September.