Oh hello, guilt. I know you. I wear you like a summer dress billowing in the breeze. I sometimes forget I’m wearing you, yet, in one small fleck of your flickering flow, you bring me to my knees…
So. Three times (three times) in the past week I have had three different empowered WORKING women and mums tell me that I have to get rid of the guilt. I’m gonna get real whichya: I have guilt. I didn’t know it, but the monkey on my back, the shrug up in my shoulders, is the guilt I feel for being a working mum. Can we talk about it, Mums? Please? Is this what all you working mums are feeling, too? I heard Meryl Streep tell Jimmy Fallon on “The Tonight Show” that women are judged much harder than men when it comes to parenting. I was laying on the floor of my Los Angeles apartment, with my face glued to the screen, listening to my personal acting hero, cinema siren, and mother talk — and something clicked. Yeah. My son’s father works. He goes to the office every day. I have to work. Almost every day. I get long stretches of being at home. But, I’m an artist; in my mind, I’m always working. Always thinking. My son’s father travels. I have to travel. Sometimes for weeks. But somehow it feels different when I have to do it. There is this…How could you? It feels different when my son misses me. It just feels different.
I didn’t know if I was going to work again after I had my son. And I believed that if I didn’t, I would indeed be incredibly fulfilled being my son’s mother. End of story. But as “a calling” would have it, two months after he was born, my dear friend/incredible writer Krista Vernoff (also a working mother) wrote a role for me on the “Grey’s Anatomy”/”Private Practice” crossover episode to play a woman with a new baby dealing with postnatal depression. It was a great role. I had to do it. They knew I was nursing fulltime and not sleeping. I asked them if they were sure they wanted me because they hadn’t seen me and they might not want to put me on camera. (I tried to warn them!)
They hired me and there I was nursing on turn-arounds; my newborn hung out in the dressing room while I performed monologue after brilliantly written monologue opposite Amy Brenneman (also a working mom!). And I just…felt fulfilled. I loved having my son close. And I loved fulfilling my own calling. Filling up that character and those words and that story with my heart and my soul and my son was a gift! Before having my son, my more naive self would have thought I could have played the part of the exhausted postnatal mother overwhelmed by her newborn and totally manic; but, AFTER having my son, I WAS that. I just knew. I was living it. I had played mothers before having my son, but there is nothing like living it.
And it just kept going. I got a role on “Mad Men” shortly after that. Then Cowboys & Aliens and This Means War and Oz the Great and Powerful, and “Suits.” And I worked. And I’ve been raising my son. I’ve been working and I’ve been walking the tightrope ever since. And the guilt. Sometimes it overwhelms me like an avalanche. But much like in my favourite movie of the year, Force Majeure, this avalanche is scarier in the distance. Controlled. Contained. I have a choice. I can choose to sink under the smoke and mirrors. Or I can say, “What’s up guilt? You can go for a long walk off a short bridge!” (Pause for dramatic effect.) For me right now, in this awakening of my relationship with my guilt, I’m choosing one day at a time. And today I am working for a few hours, and then picking my son up from camp to go get ice cream. And build Legos.
I support you, working mums! And I share with you what the three working mums in my life told me this week. Get rid of the guilt! We can do it. Together. Take a moment to decide one way you can get rid of the guilt. Just for today.
Oh, and here are some books that I am reading to help me take action and get rid of the guilt. Maybe one will help you, too!
More Content for Working Mums:
- 11 Things All Bosses Should Do for Working Mum
- Working Mum Confession: I Was Daycare Shamed
- To the Co-Worker Who Criticised Working Mums
Photo: Tayler Robinson