• Erin Engelke

When Your Kids Dish Out the Guilt


It’s morning and you’ve amazingly (almost) gotten everything together. Clothes are picked out and ironed, lunches are packed, the check for your daughter’s field trip is securely in her school folder, and you’re confidently prepared for that board presentation later in the day.


All the balls are successfully in the air…or so you think. You drop your daughter off at daycare, just as you’ve done every day for months, but this time she clutches your legs, firmly gripping her arms around your neck and screams “Mama! Stay wif me, mama!”


The guilt is overwhelming. Sometimes suffocating.

Whether a woman has made the decision to work out of choice or out of necessity, leaving your precious children can be the single most difficult daily battle, regardless of how old they are. And if traveling is a part of your career, the emotional separation can be unbearable.


My work travels have taken me across the globe, including remote villages in Peru.

Case in point. Several years ago, I distinctly recall my precious son, Gabe, standing at the door with tears streaming down his face as I pulled out of the driveway to head to the airport for another work trip. Typically, he’s my strong child. He understands why Mom works and he supports it, loves it. But this particular day, he was having a tough time and even placed a special momento in my suitcase so I wouldn’t forget him.


I’m not alone in this gut-wrenching reality. And you aren’t either.


I have found that there are just going to be some days where you have to make your babies the top priority and call in to take a personal day. There are other days where you have to accept your reality but create special moments that are unique to each of your children, making them feel cherished and important to you, even when you can’t be with them every waking minute.

Send a note in your daughter’s lunch box with a picture of the two of you.


Work through lunch so you can pick your toddler up from daycare 30 minutes early and stop at the park on your way home.


Engage your elementary or middle school child in talking about what you do at work, finding creative ways for them to contribute.


Read a book to them via FaceTime while you’re traveling.


Then ask yourself, “Are my children safe, happy and healthy where they are right now?”

If the answer is yes, be confident that you are making the best choice for your family today. And know that when push comes to shove, our children would be happy as clams to be with us 24/7, regardless if we work outside of the home or not.


Most of all, remember that it’s not the total amount of time you spend with your children, but the qualityof time you spend with them.

They want all of you when they have you. And that is something you can lovingly provide anytime.

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