Watch Rep. Cory Booker ask Judge Ketanji Brown Jackson about her motherhood guilt.
The familiar theme of not being good enough as a mother resonates through most working moms’ minds and we are told by society that if we are not perfect, perhaps we aren’t deserving of our children. Society dictates for moms to stay at home with the kids, while employers demand that you work yourself into the ground. For Black mothers, it’s even more difficult. Many times we have to work and we don’t have the privilege of attending school open houses, sports games, performances, and competitions. We often have FOMO (Fear of Missing Out) to compound the guilt. Most of us want to attend every event with our families and we especially want to know every move, see every photo and watch every video from their outings.
“If you do your best and love your children, things will turn out okay.”
– Judge Ketanji Brown Jackson
During Judge Ketanji Brown Jackson’s opening statement, she mentioned her mom guilt of not always being there for her daughters and not always “getting the balance right.” Nevertheless, her daughters Talia, age 21, and Leila, age 17 seem well-balanced and proud of their mother.
Moms work hard in their jobs, both as mothers and as employees. What do you do when there are early morning and late-night hours at the office and you can’t make it to support your child at a competition or concert? In Jackson Brown’s response to Cory Booker, Brown said, “I didn’t always get the balance right.” Missing birthdays really hurt. It too often feels like it’s the job versus the children, like a tug of war. We shouldn’t be forced to choose, but when we do, we too often are weighed down by the guilt of deciding to go to work. Martika Shanel, a Certified Life Coach Speaker of Self-Love & Inspiration, has experienced mom-guilt from her decision to join the military. “Knowing that I would have to be away from my three children (ages five, three, and one) for basic training and officer candidate school. ‘Although this is something that I wanted to do, the guilt set in knowing that I would miss birthdays and be away from them for a long period of time.’
The guilt is real but how do we manage it?
Developing a support system is the biggest break you can have. If you are married or have a significant other that person is usually the biggest support for helping to reduce the feelings of guilt. “As a co-parent, I worked with my children’s father to make the necessary arrangements,” Shanel said. Unfortunately, this is not an option for every mother.
If possible utilize trusted extended family members to help you. A network of people who can attend events with your children and send you real-time photos and live-stream videos is helpful. Don’t forget to use FaceTime and Zoom, which is the next best thing to being there.
Create a quality time calendar where you schedule memorable moments with your family. It is important to schedule time together but also to formally schedule appointments with each child individually. If you must break an appointment, it should be rescheduled as soon as possible.
Whether you work from home or work in an office your child looks up to you as a role model, and although, they may miss you while you’re away, they are observing your work ethic. When Brown was a child and her father was attending law school, she sat across the table from him and his stack of law books and her with a stack of coloring books. That is how working parents often spend quality time together, doing work or homework at the table together.
If you can be there at night, be sure to take advantage of your bedtime snuggles together. This is something your children will always remember. Read a book or make up your own story. You can even sing songs like lullabies or just check on their day at school.
“You don’t have to be perfect in your career trajectory and you can still end up doing what you want to do, ” said Brown Jackson. “If you do your best and love your children, things will turn out okay.”
The United States is the only developed nation that doesn’t have a federal law mandating paid leave for parents. Parents are protected under the 1993 Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA) to go on maternity or family leave after the adoption or birth of a child. This act will protect your job for up to 12 weeks of unpaid leave each year.
Currently, a few states require companies to pay their employees for family leave and those states are California, New Jersey, and Rhode Island. In his recent State of the Union Address, President Joe Biden spoke about passing a new paid family and medical leave law, called the Universal Paid Family and Medical Leave bill. This initiative is part of his Build Back Better Act.
I always thought that leaving a child at six weeks old to return to work was inhumane. I still do. Not to compare human babies with puppies but even puppies don’t leave their mothers until they are nine weeks old. The United States lags behind other developed countries in providing new mothers what they need to be productive citizens and manage their families. If the Universal Paid Family and Medical Leave bill is passed it will include these qualifying reasons for paid leave:
Qualifying reasons for paid leave include:
- Welcoming a new child by birth, adoption, or foster care
- Recovering from a serious illness
- Caring for a seriously ill family member (by blood or affinity)
- Addressing issues arising from a loved one’s military deployment or serious injury
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