Got working mom guilt? I can’t say I do, but I do have working mom worries. Thanks to TV gigs (CBS Los Angeles!), writing a book (The FAB Mom’s Guide!) and maintaining this baby of a blog (plus other sites I write for!), I officially became a full time working mom this past February (meaning, the hours I commit to work pretty much clocked in to about 40 each week — compared to about 15-20 hours a week this time last year). Technically, I’m a stay at home working mom who physically goes ‘in’ to work a few times per week.
(Does this make sense? Ha. I’m still trying to hash it all out myself.)
It’s not the hours I’m working that worry me… it’s what I actually do for a living that has me a bit worried lately, especially since I have daughters.
“Do you know what mommy does for work?” I sometimes ask my girls. “You work at your computer and on TV,” my older one tells me. My little one rambles something vague about me “doing work” that I’m pretty sure makes perfect sense to her. (It makes no sense to me.) Ok, they know I write and they know I work on TV. I’m over-the-moon about them seeing me ‘write’ during the times I sit at the kitchen table to squeeze in a bit of time on my laptop while they play dolls.
What I’m not so sure I’m over-the-moon about? Them watching me on TV. (I’ve hinted at this before too, when big screen Debbie Reynolds was honored with a lifetime achievement award…)
When they were much smaller (even smaller than now) I used to sit them down with me and watch my TV segments I’d DVR’d. At first they were confused seeing mommy on TV… then they got a kick out of it… then they seemed totally disinterested. As they’ve gotten older, I’ve curbed our TV watching of myself totally. I’ve even requested with my husband and sitter that they don’t watch me on TV.
My sitter once asked me (just before I dashed out the door for one of my Wednesday night segments), “Is there a reason you don’t want them watching you?”
I felt silly when she asked, but I explained the root of my philosophy (or, ‘filosophy,’ since everything here on this site starts with an ‘F’):
I want my kids to be the stars of our family… not me.
Long before my current 5 year old LadyP was born, I once heard a radio interview with actress Jamie Lee Curtis (I think it was with Rick Dees on 102.7fm here in LA). In this interview Jamie Lee was explaining how, at that time, her acting work was taking a major backseat in the priority department to her daughter’s dance lessons. She talked about how her whole family rallying around her daughter’s competitions (making the costumes & props and helping her rehearse) were the top to-do at their house. She shared how she didn’t think it was ‘right’ to ask kids to rally around the parents’ jobs and then added “The kids should always be the stars in the family…” whether their star-quality comes from drawing a fabulous picture, completing a school assignment, excelling in a sport or activity. Jamie Lee went on the describe how, should kids not feel like the ‘stars’ of the house, a slew of problems [like lacking self-confidence, resentment towards parents, etc] could follow later. I remember thinking back then, I’m going to remember this for if and when my time comes to be a parent… (not that I’m anywhere close to being Jamie Lee Curtis, but you get my drift).
(To add irony to this whole story, actor Tony Curtis – Jamie Lee’s dad – happened to pass away the day LadyP was born. Talk about full circle.)
I’m proud of my TV work (just holler and I’ll be on TV every day! anyone?) — I’ve worked too hard and endured too many false alarms, shattering disappointments, and emotional traumas working in show business to not value my current job in the most precious way I do (I probably value it too much). My recent, personal rule is this: My accomplishments can be celebrated and appreciated, but their accomplishments must be celebrated and appreciated more.
And, there’s another reason why I don’t want my girls to watch me: These days, I dish about parenting. And yes, sometimes I refer to “my daughters” or “my kids” or “what I’ve tried to do at home” with thousands (millions?) of viewers watching. The last thing I ever want my girls to innocently perceive and feel (by watching me, as I’m live on air) is that I’m somehow violating their trust or our relationship. Do I talk smack about my girls on TV or online? No way. But I sometimes mention them. And, I fear their 4 and 5 year old minds might misinterpret some of the things I share publicly as me ‘tattling’ on our experiences in some way.
On top of all of this, a part of me tends to sometimes worry that the mother and daughter relationship has an added tendency to be a bit more sensitive should the mom be in the spotlight more than the daughters. Chalk up my opinion to antiquated perceptions about competition between girls, but I’ve started to feel conscious about it. My girls are so close in age — competition between them will be inevitable. They don’t need to feel like they’re competing for attention from their mom.
Moms can and should have big important dreams, but it’s our job to moderately reconcile how often we shove our own dreams down our kids’ throats.
To make my goals, schedule and career aspirations a central force in our household would feel strange. Kids should be the stars in the house… which means that they don’t need to see Mommy’s face talking about family life on the TV every time they turn around. I used to share more stories about my girls during the baby and toddler years, but now I’ve become more conscious of their social media footprint and online reputation. Hell, I’ve even curbed my picture-posting of them lately, simply because they’re getting older…
Do I think it’s healthy and valuable for kids to learn to support one another in the family, including parents? Yes.
Am I proud of what I’ve been lucky and able to pull off as a ‘TV Personality’ in my insignificant career? Yes.
Should I allow my girls to get glimpses of what I do and how I do it in the name of explaining why some strangers recognize me when we’re shopping at Target? Yes (and I do).
Mommy works in media — she writes books and blogs on her computer and also appears on TV. She loves it. (LOVES it!)
But she loves her kids — and their budding confidence, individuality and sense of personal accomplishment as children — more.