Published December 30, 2010
Q: I recently heard one of your programs about why moms should stay home with their kids. You made me feel like a horrible mom for working when I have a 22-month-old daughter at home. I understood what you were trying to say Ė and why my situation is not ideal, but we donít have a choice. Iíd love to stay home but our modest income requires that both my husband and I work. Iím lucky that we have affordable day care and a job that provides me with a car. Still, every day I leave my child at home, it kills me. And your program only made me feel more guilty.
Juli: I not only understand your situation, Iíve been there. When my first son was born, I had to work. Every day I left him with a heavy heart and a lot of guilt. One day, I had the radio on driving to work and, like you, heard a radio broadcast that brought me to tears and piled on the guilt for leaving my son.
Most moms will work at some point during motherhood and deal with the resulting guilt. While we generally encourage moms to be home with their young children, it isnít always possible.
You should only feel guilty if youíre doing something wrong. Donít let our radio broadcast, your friends or your neighbors be the barometer of your guilt. That decision is strictly between you and your husband. Only you know all of the factors involved.
If youíre longing to be home with your daughter, it is a worthy goal to work toward. Some families have managed to make lifestyle changes to be able to survive on one income. In the meantime, do your best with the time you have with your daughter, making certain that she is in good hands when you canít be there.
Q: My wife is overwhelmed. Our two preschool sons require constant attention, while the housework and other responsibilities pile up. How can I help her?
Jim: Youíve probably seen studies that calculate what the average mom would make if she were paid for her various roles as housekeeper, day care operator, psychologist and so on. A 2007 study by Salary.com put the figure at $138,095 a year!
My wife, Jean, has been in your wifeís shoes. Even though our boys are in school now, between the trips back and forth and the extracurricular activities and the numerous other responsibilities on her plate, she barely has time to catch her breath.
Not to oversimplify the issue, but you might want to start by praising your wife for the contributions sheís already making in your home. Be sure to cut her some slack when the house is messy and dinner is late Ė sheís likely had a busier day than you have! And although itís tough after a long day at the office, you might ask if there are some household duties sheíd like you to handle. But be sure to talk it over with her first. In my experience, if you just come home and start doing chores that your wife sees as her responsibility, itís likely your good intentions will be received in a negative light.
When your boys are grown, they wonít remember whether the house was clean, but they will remember quality time with their mom during the day (and with you, too, when youíre home). Being a mom isnít easy. A six-figure paycheck doesnít even begin to put a price on a motherís value. Itís critical that husbands like you and I give them all the love and support we possibly can.
Jim Daly is president of Focus on the Family, host of the Focus on the Family radio program, and a husband and father of two.
Dr. Juli Slattery is a licensed psychologist, co-host of Focus on the Family, author of several books, and a wife and mother of three.
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