Specific Situations > Young Widowed Parents

Working single parents w/young children

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this is a long, meandering reply, it's a topic that cuts close to home today...

Mom guilt is universal. It's a bad feeling that is absolutely not justified. The children aren't inflicting this guilt on us, we are doing it on our own. I think it's borne of too large a sense of control, i.e. we feel guilty why? Because we are somehow certain that our involvement makes ALL the difference, that it is not only crucial but indispensable. The truth is our children are much more a product of themselves, their genetics, their collective experiences, than they are a result of any of our direct actions. As a really small example: it doesn't matter who makes the lunch they pack, it matters that there is a lunch to be eaten. I am not saying that they don't care, or we don't matter, or aren't special, but when we start thinking that it's bad to be away from them, especially for something like work, then we rapidly spiral into a vortex of guilt that I find rather unhealthy.

I also find it fundamentally sexist because I am pretty sure few men ever feel that their career goals, or their job choices should be reevaluated in this context. For instance, I am responsible for   a project led by three high-flying doctors: two men and a woman. Their admin once joked to me : Lady Dr is crazy. She works like a maniac, she's home so rarely that her husband made a joke that soon her face will be on a missing person poster. The admin was disapproving of her behaviour and the extent of Lady Dr's absence from her family. My immediate response was "What about the two Guy Drs on this project? Home much, are they? Do we care about that? Do their wives also make that joke, or do they just figure it's the result of having married a superstar MD-researcher? Why are we piling on Lady Dr?" It was very telling to me, that we were criticising this woman for doing essentially what the two other colleagues were also doing.

but beyond my feelings about gender roles and feminist theory, the truth is, even if you have a more conservative outlook on life in terms of gender roles, as a widow you have to be the carrier of both roles. So yes, you have to be the loving mom who does the carpool, but you ALSO have to be the hard-working provider who brings in the money. And it might help to take on a more traditionally "male" perspective on your career ambitions.

Having said this, I suffer from guilt too. Acutely. I work 8:30-6. I have two shifts: I work from 8:30-5:30, then from 8:30-10pm at home. I am the last parent at daycare picking up the 4 year old. I drop off the 7 year old at school in the morning. The 7 year old has all her violin practice and homework overseen by our exceptional nanny. Except, as I have said here, our nanny doesn't speak French. So I have to correct homework and do spelling and reading exercises myself, later in the evening, when we are both exhausted. This hasn't worked out very well. And weekends, I am so tired or preoccupied that it's a huge effort for me to stay in the "parenting zone" and not inflict my professional stress on the children.

I feel guilty pretty much ALL THE TIME. Sometimes, I joke that all I want is a job at Starbucks: easier hours and I can just hang up my apron at the end of the day and not worry about anything once at home. As it is, I have to rely on other people to help with things that I would like to be in charge of, parentally-speaking. Every difficulty my children encounter in their progress is, I feel, entirely my fault. The truth is this is excessive. My DD has trouble spelling. Even if I spent 3 hours a day helping her, she would probably still have problems with spelling. After all, even some kids who have stay-at-home moms have trouble spelling. She would still have to face that test on her own, alone. I am not magical. My being there doesn't suddenly resolve all problems. And by necessity, she gets to have to find her own solutions.

When I am well-rested and optimistic, I tell myself I am providing them a good model of womanhood: I am showing them that my ambitions matter and they are pursued with a level of success that satisfies me and makes me proud. I am showing them that it's necessary to be resourcefull and to trust others with important aspects of our lives, that solutions come in all sorts of forms. And I am showing them, sometimes, that all of this doesn't mean I don't have moments of weakness. That it's not the moments of weakness that matter, it's how they get resolved. 

Make the decision about your career that you feel most comfortable with, from a personal point-of-view. Make it in the present, not with the perspective of what regret you might have in the future.

I came across this today  :)


When I have to make decisions like this for my son and me, I often think of the emergency instructions on a plane. In the event you have put the oxygen mask on, you are supposed to put yours on first, then your child?s.

I love this. I have been similar issues. Stay where I am, earn far less and have no where to go, or find that dream job - which would mean a move leaving our support system. In my case, putting on the oxygen mask might just keep me where I am. Maybe I just need to be ok with that - for the time being.

I know it sounds generic....but really all that matters is what can you handle and what makes you happy. Kids are happy when Momma is happy.

I have been on every side of this. Worked full time till DH died (was on maternity leave when he died actually)

Substitute taught for a few years.../

Went back into crazy full time work mode then for 2 years. And like you mentioned had very little social life../traveled, worked some evenings...Had no time...Bur for ME at that time I needed it.:...my kids flourished because when I was home-it was all them (they were a little older like 4,7 and 9)

The past year I work full time-the job bores me honestly...but I am now home by 3:00 about every weekday-So it works for my life and the kids life now. Life isn't static and is constantly changing-2 years from now I maybe working a job with longer hours/more $$$...Bur at this given moment it works....When it starts not working I Will Change directions.

Mom guilt sucks....and you shouldn't feel guilty. We are all doing the best we can whether is full time, part time or SAHM. Just be happy.

((katelsam)) Can only just agree- widowed parenting IS hard.  We can't control a lot but we can try to avoid having regrets, and it sounds like you are doing that.


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