13 things you should never say to a working mother

Posted at 3:40 PM, Nov 21, 2013

Editor’s note: Jennifer Barbin is the author of “Guilt Be Gone! Become a Proud Working Mom in 12 Easy Steps” and one of the mom bloggers behind, where this piece was originally published. She is also on Twitter.

( – I have been a working mother with three children for a long time. In that time, I have had lots of people ask me questions and give me their unsolicited opinions on many occasions. While most people don’t intend to be rude or judgmental, it is always surprising to hear, out loud, what some people should keep to themselves.

Here is my list of the top things you must never say to a working mom, and just for fun, I have included my sarcastic responses (that I have managed to keep to myself):

‘I saw your kid on the class trip today. She was crying — I think she missed you.’

Thanks, I feel much better for the information. Anything else you would like to tell me, like about how you think she might not be meeting her milestones, or will be emotionally damaged for life?

‘I could never let someone else raise my kids.’

Yes, I let others make all the decisions for my children. I have little to do with anything … their parent-teacher conferences, birthday parties, homework, doctor appointments, play dates, or offering any sort of parental guidance. Heck, I don’t even hug and kiss them, cuddle them, or have any part in tucking them into bed. I am never the first face they see in the morning, and I never do anything fun with them like have picnics on our carpet, or watching the same animated movie 100 times. And, I never ask them about their day. Nope, I have nothing to do with my children.

‘I don’t know how you do it. I’d feel too guilty.’

I wrote an entire book about this. We do feel guilty, but we can feel great, too. Buy my book. (That was a shameless plug, I know.)

‘You trust your babysitter, right?’

Oh no, I actually never considered her/his credentials. I just put out a job post on Craigslist and took the very first applicant based on price. But thanks for making me suspicious!

‘Good for you for putting your career first!’

Yes, every single day I get up and I think to myself: The most important thing in my life is my career. To hell with my family, that has nothing to do with why I work.

‘I’d give anything to get away from my kids for an entire day.’

If you really mean this, send me your resume and I can help you out. But remember, this “freedom” comes with its own issues. We are not getting away and going to the spa. It is called “work” for a reason.

‘I’d miss my child too much to be away from him all day.’

Well, I have no idea how you feel because I am an impersonal and non-maternal mother. I have no feelings and never miss my kids.

‘I don’t know how you do it. It must be so hard.’

It is. I don’t know how I do it. But I don’t think work is the problem because parenting is hard whether you stay at home or go off to the office. I don’t know how any of us do it. It’s glorious and rewarding and full of love and it is the hardest thing I’ve ever done.

‘You must be so organized to be able to balance everything.’

I love this and hate it at the same time. I think I am organized and I do think I accomplish a lot during a week’s time. But I also know I am one parent-teacher conference away from a full meltdown (like all moms working inside or outside the home). Last week, Parker went to school and brought his toothbrush to show and tell. I have runs in my panty hose, and I never write thank-you cards for my children’s birthday presents. I don’t exercise as often as I should, and every day something slides. There really is no “balance,” just organized chaos. I am no different than anyone else.

‘You look exhausted.’

Wow, thanks! I feel even better now! Want to watch my kids this weekend so I can hit the spa, get a manicure, and sleep in? No? Then let’s not say this to a working mom.

‘There’s always time to work later. These early years are so precious.’

Why, oh, why is this never said to fathers? I actually get many special moments with my kids. When Parker climbs into my bed and tells me “I am the best mommy in the whole world,” or when Emily smiles and says “I love you,” those are all special moments and I cherish them all.

‘Aren’t you concerned about not being there for your kids?’

Just because I am at work does not mean I am not “there” for my kids. Please get some perspective.

‘I’m surprised you went back to work. Your husband seems so successful.’

Why would you assume that you know why I am working? Some women like to work outside the home, and I am sorry you are not one of them.

Here is what we should say:

The questions and words should not be filled with judgment, but with support. After all, we are all mothers, we all adore our children and we all want what’s best for them. We are all doing what we have to do for our families, and we are all different. So, let’s give one another support and understanding, no matter if we stay home, work from home, work outside the home or somewhere in between.

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