real life

What a working mother wants her children to know.

What I wish you knew: how much I ache to be with you today.

What I wish I could say: how it hurts more to be apart than you will ever know.

What I wish I could do: split myself in two, in three, in four so I could be everything for everyone.

I know you wanted me there today. But I wasn't,

I know you wanted me there today.

I know the “other mums” watched and cheered and clapped at the concert, or the game. Whatever it was, the thing I missed..

I know the “other mums” gathered in groups with the luxury of time, with that casual ease of having nowhere else important to be. Exuding an extravagance. Carefree. The confidence that this was their priority.

But I wasn’t there.

Yet again I missed out.

Did you glance about wondering if I would appear? If by some magic I could be in two places at once? Did you give me a passing thought or were you just numb with the weight of knowledge that your mother would not be there again. That your mother could not make it.

I wish you knew how much I want to be at every there - at every drop off and pick up, at every morning tea and concert. How I want to stand on the sidelines and raise my fist in the air as you run past on the track, how I want to sit in the too-small seat and clap as you mutter a line in the school play.

But I’m not.

I wanted to be there cheering you on.

I, like so many hundreds of thousands of other mothers and fathers, are at work.

You begged me, you pleaded just come for a minute. Every one else’s mother will be there. And I explained how I came the last time, and how I been there just that week, and the hours I had taken off when your throat was raging and your chest was heaving and words like meetings and important and sorry and next time flooded from me.

In a heartbeat I say to myself I would be with him.

In a heartbeat.

And then I catch myself.

Would I?

Work is important to me. To our family. It’s important for my children to know that you can get pride and joy and enrichment from your work. That it’s not just about a paycheck – but also about fulfilment in your life. That they can have that too.


And then my heart broke into pieces as I saw him resign himself yet again.

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I want my children to understand the crushing burden of guilt I feel being at work. I want them to know how my thoughts obsess about whether or not this is right, whether I am letting them down, whether I am damaging them, myself, our lives. I think to myself - its irrational to worry they will hate me - and then I worry that its not irrational at all.

I want them to know the pull I feel towards them. I want them to know how I ache to fulfil that need.

And yet I also don’t want them to know.

I don’t want them burdened with their own guilt. I don’t want them fearful of the demands of grown up life. I don’t want them to know their mother feels split in two. Stretched.

I want them to know the pull I feel towards them.

What they need to know is that while nothing, nothing my love could beat being with you my work demands commitment and when I can each and every time I try my hardest to be there – even just to catch the tail end of the assembly just after the ribbon was pinned to your chest.

When I can I am....

When I can I am......

What they need to know is how much I love them and value them and crave them.

What they need to know is that showing up doesn’t equate to loving them. That my love for them is just as fierce when I am at work as it is when I stand heart-swelling watching them march in their first hat parade.

But what they also need to know is that they can do it without me.

They are big enough and strong enough and wise enough and independent enough to know even if I am not physically present each and every time I am still their mum and nothing is more important to me than them.

How do you deal with working mothers guilt?