I Feel Guilty Missing Work When My Kid Is Sick

I’m a recovering perfectionist-control freak.

I’d like to tell you my recovery is by choice, but the truth is, I was nudged into recovery by the demands of motherhood—and by nudged, I mean violently shoved. I had to make a choice between my need for perfection and my sanity, keeping both wasn’t an option with two small children.

The control freak thing lingers more than the perfectionist thing, but they both still rear their ugly heads from time-to-time. I’m not going to tell you seeing throw pillows on the floor doesn’t make my eye twitch, because it does. But, I’ve learned, I can make myself crazy picking them up over and over again, or I can leave them on the floor, because they’re pillows, not broken shards of glass.

I’ve reluctantly let go of many of my type-A habits and proclivities, but there are times I still feel guilty for falling short of my own expectations.  That may be the most absurd sentence I’ve ever written. Talk about setting yourself up for failure. (That’s the perfectionist thing, in case you missed it.)

Anyway, this nonsensical guilt has been plaguing me since yesterday. I missed work yesterday and today, because one of my kids is sick—a glaring blemish on my attendance record. Being a working mom is hard. I hate missing work, and always feel the need to over-explain my absence, because OMG WHAT IF THEY THINK I’M LYING? As if detailed rambling about the white spots in the back of my daughter’s throat will absolve me of my guilt, and prove the validity of my absence. In reality, it just qualifies me as a rambling over-sharer.

I want to tell you I don’t care what anyone thinks, but that’s not true, I hate upsetting people. I want to tell you I can handle motherhood and working full time, but sometimes it’s too much. I can’t be everything all the time. I know what advice I would give my friends—kids get sick, don’t worry about it.

Truth be told, I don’t feel guilty about staying home with my sick child, because motherhood is my first job, and always takes priority. But, as a working mother I have dual responsibility and obligation—I’m a mother and an employee, and today, fulfilling one responsibility means bailing on the other. I struggle with this every time.  (There’s the perfectionist thing, again.)

I’m fortunate to have a boss who is understanding, and has never once questioned my absences, but I still feel like a total flake. This is what it’s like to be a working mom—knowing you are exactly where you should be, but still feeling guilty about letting others down. This guilt is completely self-imposed, by the way, my co-workers are wonderful. But, calling-in to work always makes me feel guilty—even with an iron-clad excuse.

I have no control over this, I know that. I won’t be receiving an award for my attendance anytime soon, but it is what it is. It’s not possible to be the best at everything, all the time. I’m a mother first and foremost, and today, I’m being the best mother I can be. Maybe tomorrow I’ll be the best at my other job.

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