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I Feel Guilty for Being a Privileged Mom

Image: Chaunie Brusie

Do you ever have moments when you're just like, man I hate my job?

Or have you ever had an instant when you felt like you were soaring above the earth and the planets were aligned and bluebirds singing and you want to shout off of the rooftops, man, I love my job!!

Yeah, I get that. Because I've had both moments. For a long time, I fell squarely into the first category. Trudging through night shifts as a nurse, I dreaded going into work every night when I would kiss my babies goodnight after dinner and hope I didn't kill anyone on my shift. (But for real.)

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I resented the fact that there was a seemingly entire world of people who got to work at a computer all day and sip coffee in an office. I longed for a different job and a different life—and yet I felt horribly, wrenchingly guilty for even having those types of thoughts.

"Shouldn't I just be grateful to have a good, well-paying job?" I thought. So many people would sacrifice everything to have the education I have had. There are kids starving all over the world right now and I'm worried that I'm not "fulfilled" enough?

Working mom vs. stay-at-home mom discussions really come down to the issue of privilege. Who is privileged enough to make that choice?

It was a struggle for many years for me, bouncing back and forth between trying to convince myself that I needed to just be grateful to have any type of job and admitting that it's totally not normal to cry every time you go into work.

Eventually, I made the move into the type of work that I really wanted, and although it took me a really long time to get where I hoped to be, these days I am actually living that dream life I thought I didn't deserve.

And yet, the guilt remains.

Is it right that I am able to have a job that I love because of the privileges I have been born into? That makes me sound like a member of the Royal Family, but I'm talking about a different type of privilege—namely, that I am a white, middle-class mother with enough health, education and stability to make a "choice" to pursue a dream job.

So many mothers in the ever-present "Mommy Wars" focus on working—who works, who loves to work, who wishes they could work, who wishes they didn't have to work—and sometimes, it's hard to look beyond the surface arguments and realize that the working mom vs. stay-at-home mom discussions really come down to the issue of privilege. Who is privileged enough to make that choice? Who is privileged enough to have the right skin color, the right opportunities, the right parents to put them in a position to even dream about having a job that is a dream come true for them?

There are some days when (privilege) feels like a heavy weight around my neck, taunting me with guilty reminders.

I'd like to think that it's important to be aware of my privilege, like it safeguards me somehow against a lifetime of prejudice, ignorance and judgment, but there are some days when it feels like a heavy weight around my neck, taunting me with guilty reminders.

I'm extremely, extremely grateful that I have the chance to do work that I love and there's part of me that still wants to pout like my stubborn 3-year-old and say, hey now! I worked hard for this job! But I'm not hopping a bus to get to my second job and hoping my grade-schooler fed himself mac and cheese for dinner. I'm not hoping that I don't get shot while walking home from school. I'm not taking care of siblings whose parents have disappeared a long time ago.

It's a tricky slope to tackle, because on one hand, I'd like to tell every woman, every mother-to-be that the sky is the limit, that there is nothing she can't do, that of course each and every one of us deserves to have the dream career and the dream family if that's what we want.

But the truth isn't really that simple, is it?

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Maybe it comes down to guilt for asking for what makes us happy as women and mothers or maybe it comes down to a whole lot more, but either way, I would really like some help with answering, do I need to feel guilty that I am privileged enough to choose to do a job that I love?

Or is choosing a life that makes you happy something that we all deserve?

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