The Guilt of a Working Mama

It’s been a hard couple of days.  I’ve alluded to my postpartum anxiety and depression, but it’s definitely been tough this week.  Work has definitely been a trigger.  Perhaps the stress of trying to be a great scientist has been getting to me, but also feeling guilty about not doing the things I’m supposed to do.  I’m not accomplishing very much in lab this week, and I’m spending a lot of time away from my home life.

There’s definitely a certain amount of guilt that happens when being a working mom.

When I’m home, I worry about work and the fact that I’m not spending the time thinking about science.  When I’m in lab, I’m worried about Lily, and the fact that I’m going to fail at cooking dinner again.  You’d think I’d just worry about work at work, and worry about home at home.  But that’s not the case.  I’m trying to change that by making a conscious choice to separate the two, but it hasn’t been the easiest transition and process.

I’m lucky to have a supportive husband, who doesn’t mind cooking.  (In fact, he actually enjoys it.)  But the house isn’t clean very often.  And I’m constantly behind in my data analysis for work.  (In fact, I still haven’t caught up from last weekend’s Easter celebrations.)  But sometimes I completely feel like I’m failing as a wife and mother.  These are the things I should be doing.  Taking care of the home, taking care of my husband.  So the guilt has surfaced this week, when I’m feeling like it’s not all getting done.

But when I get like this, thinking about priorities is important.  Someone told me that you can really only do two things well.  For me, I suppose that’s being a mom and being a scientist.  So what if I’m not the best homemaker?  My daughter isn’t going to remember the clutter caused by a week’s worth of mail on the counter.  So what if I haven’t been able to cook a meal in a few days?  My husband is happy to cook whatever I’ve meal planned this week (even if he isn’t a fan of the vegetable I’ve picked).  So what if the laundry is still in the dryer and hasn’t been folded?  At least it’s clean.

Getting past the initial guilt is tough.  And the resurgence of it all this week has really made it a struggle.

But as St. Thomas Aquinas reminded us in his Summa Theologica, there is a true order to charity.  First, love of God, then comes our spiritual life, then taking care of others.  So maybe I need to take care of my spiritual self a little bit more, and my family comes next.  Science and work isn’t in that list.  It really comes down to a conscious decision to reorder my priorities.  Remember, Catholic mom first, scientist second.

But that doesn’t mean the guilt doesn’t rear its ugly head.

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