How working mom guilt holds you back in career, money and life

Have you ever heard a man say he feels guilty for going to work? [har har har] However, I guarantee you have felt guilty as woman for working.  Whether or not you are a mom, caregiver, mom to a fur baby. Single or married, gay or straight.

Other ways to listen: iTunes  ♦  Stitcher   ♦  TuneIn   ♦  SoundCloud ♦  Google Play


Have you ever heard a man say he feels guilty for going to work?

[har har har]

However, I guarantee you have felt guilty as woman for working. 

Whether or not you are a mom, caregiver, mom to a fur baby. Single or married, gay or straight.

The message is the same to all of us about who you should be as woman: Married to a rich guy, 2.2 kids, and a house. 

Even if your own upbringing was progressive, as mine was. Even if we almost had a woman in the White House. Even though women are the majority of undergraduate students, and 40 percent of families are headed by breadwinning women. 

These pressures to be June Cleaver affect all of us. And they hold you back.

Don't believe me?

A few years ago, I attended a casual cocktail party in New York City, where I live. The guests were all professionally successful women in various fields: a global head of marketing for a luxury car brand, a tech startup founder, a pianist who came to the event right from a Carnegie Hall performance, the founder of an international women's aid organization. Most of us were mothers, and as I flitted from the conversations percolating around the room, one voice stood out:

The woman, a married mom of a 5-year-old, who heads diversity efforts for a Fortune 500 company, described the social ostracism she feels as the only working mother in her affluent Manhattan co-op building, which happened to be populated by several dozen elementary-aged kids who often played together, and whose parents regularly socialized. She sensed snubs in the elevator, and she and her husband weren't invited to play dates or dinner parties the rest of the families enjoyed.

In recounting this scenario, this woman became increasingly, visibly upset — and defensive. “My daughter is thriving in every sense!” she said to the half-dozen other, working moms who in no way called for an explanation about her life. “She is doing great at school! She is a leader! She has lots of friends!”

It broke my heart — not just a little, but a lot. This woman, who had put herself through Ivy league undergraduate and business schools, who was by far the breadwinner in her family (her husband is an academic who earns a fraction of her income, she said), who clearly is passionate about a career focused on gender and race equality, felt the need to defend why she, as a mother, holds a paying job outside her home.

This woman’s challenge is similar to that of a childhood friend of mine, who I visited recently. My friend spent her first 10 years of motherhood working part-time in retail, a field that doesn’t interest her, and focused instead on raising her two children while her husband was the primary breadwinner. Recently, as we sipped coffee in her kitchen while our kids played outside, I was in awe of how much she lit up with excitement as she told me about returning to school to earn a master’s degree in music education, with the plans to launch a new career in teaching. But then her tone turned hushed, and her excitement muted. “I know my kids should be enough, but they’re not,” she said with unabashed shame. “I need something for me, too.”

Why is it these women are so full of shame about pursuing paying work — and careers they’re passionate about?

In this episode of Like a Mother, I drill into where all this working mom guilt comes from, how it affects you, and specific steps you can take to shed the June Cleaver complex, and not only thrive and grow yourself, but support other women around you, too.


Loving this podcast? Follow on RSSStitcherTuneInSoundCloud or  iTunes. Leave a review, me love you long time. Muah! 


Are you part of the new Facebook group, Millionaire Single Moms? No income requirement, though BIG GOALS and a POSITIVE MINDSET required! Join now! 

Full transcript of Like A Mother podcast with Emma Johnson

Emma Johnson: Ladies, tell me honestly, have you ever heard a man say, “You know, I feel so guilty today. I feel so guilty for going to my kid's game and not to the big meeting,” or, “I feel so guilty because I've been so focused on caring for my mom, but I got this new project.” Now, we don't hear men talk about their conflict between work and family and not just kids. Right? There might be women listening to this that aren't moms, that are caring for loved ones. Maybe you're a mom to a fur baby or involved with your community, it doesn't matter. This is not specific to the mommy guilt paradigm, but I am here to tell you that if you're a woman living today in 2017, you are faced with working woman guilt. This is what the pay gap is.

The pay gap is a product of working woman guilt

The pay gap is not the white men in the C-suites arbitrarily deciding that women are going to earn 79 cents on the male dollar. The pay gap is a product of this working woman guilt. Now, where does this come from? This comes from this idea. Really it's this sort of figment of somebody's imagination about what it means to be a successful woman. This idea that you should be marrying the nice guy, a rich guy. Let's face it, because if you have a choice of any man, why wouldn't you marry a rich guy? Have the two kids, have the house, be a contributing member of society. Now, even if you're like me and you're raised with a progressive family in modern age maybe or younger woman, where you're getting a slightly different set of messages.

This prevailing notion that June Cleaver is the goal is indeed what is guiding you. At least at some point it is contributing to your thinking and it is causing guilt and it is holding you back. Even if you were telling me that you don't care, you don't believe me, that you go to work every day, you earn, you achieve. I believe you. I 100% believe you, but I also believe that you struggle with this. You wrestle with this idea that you're not doing really what you should be doing because I can tell you for a fact that society, the world is giving you very restricting messages that you are supposed to be June Cleaver. June Cleaver by the way, she's the enemy. She's adorable, right? I remember watching her reruns, but I know that this is a fact because I know I struggle with it.

How I became a single mom and a mom blogger

Just very briefly, a little bit about me. I was raised by a professional mom. I think I'm the fourth generation of women in my family to go to college. There's a lot of teachers before me. My mom held a couple degrees and was a professional in business, but she was a single mom. She had three kids, I'm the oldest and there was never any question that I would go to school, I would go to college, I would have a career. I did and I've always worked and I've always been so passionate about my work. I've been a journalist my whole career. I started off in newspapers and I was changing the world by writing about mobile home manufacturers in the South and I wrote about healthcare reform in the early 2000s. I really have been always so passionate about serving through my work and a business journalist.

This has really been my fascination, the connection between money, gender, women, sex, sexuality, parenting, motherhood. It is the one thing that is the most interesting to me and it's become the thing that I care about most. Five years ago, despite my efforts to the contrary, I became a single mom. Actually, I became a single mom eight years ago. If you follow me, you know this. Five years ago I started my blog, Wealthy Single Mommy, which got more than 100,000, women are coming to it every month. I've got tens of thousands of women in Facebook communities and my email newsletter. It is the leading site and leading community for single moms. I speak mostly to professional women, professional single mothers like myself who are navigating this interesting and challenging and incredible, really, it's an incredible world that we're living in.

You know what? I have to tell you that my work, it outshines my love for my children pretty much every day. This is what I am the most passionate about, about helping other women earn, achieve, close the pay gap, gain gender equity everywhere. This is my love and I'm really good at it. I'm very successful at this and I also, I love making money and I've been making a lot of money recently and it feels incredible. I love this. All of that said, why is it that every single year, every summer, as soon as my kids get out of school, we take a road trip back to the Midwest where I'm from. I'm from a small town in Illinois called Sycamore. Really, the only relative I have back there at this time is my grandmother Shirley and she's 96 years old and she was this really wonderful person throughout my life. The one thing you can do today to close the pay gap

I'm a successful single mom, but being asked about marriage prospects fills me with self-doubt

She was around a lot when I was a kid and she's just like a grandma and she's old now and she's doing wonderfully. She lives in a very nice retirement community and I'm so proud and pleased that my kids can know her and know that part of me. We have this thing in our family and so it is so lovely to go back and have this trip with grandma Shirley every year. Yet I dread it. I dread it every single year and I dread it because I know no matter what is going on in my life, no matter how confident and great I feel about being single, how little interest I have of ever being married again, grandma Shirley is going to ask me, “So Emma, are you dating anybody? Oh you are? Well, do you think you'll get married again? Oh no. Well you know whatever happened to that nice guy Dave from college? Whatever happened to him? Could you call him up?”

My heart sinks and I just want to run down the hall of the retirement home and never to return. The rest of the year, the 363 days of the year, I'm good. I'm solid. I'm more than solid. I'm thriving. I'm so engaged in my work, but in those two days I am ripped with self-doubt and I think, oh my gosh, you know what? Maybe my life isn't as fulfilled because I haven't found the guy to spend 65 years with and maybe I'm really letting grandma Shirley down, you know, because she wants this for me and she's old and maybe she knows something that I don't. She had it. She was June Cleaver, she was the farm wife and she had the four kids. All of a sudden, everything that I feel good about is gone out the window.

We're all struggling with guilt and self-doubt and lack of fulfillment

I think if I am struggling with this, other women are definitely struggling with this too because there's no new stories. There's no really unique human experiences. I want to first just dig into the fact that this is the prevalent message in our culture. Pew, a few years ago came with a very interesting results from a survey. They're so reputable, they are great. They surveyed tens of thousands of people and they found that in the United States, 45% of Americans believe that it actually harms children. It harms children when their mothers work outside the home. We believe that we should be going to college and law school and we tell our daughters that they can be whatever they want to be and we believe that, but we also believe that it hurts them.

If we believe that it hurts them when we go out and achieve and when they go out to achieve, it's going to come into conflict with their personal lives. These are real things and we're never going to close that pay gap. We're never going to close the wealth gap until we start acknowledging the reality of this. Now, I'll tell you another anecdote. You heard my little story about my own conflict with this, but another story. Not too long ago, I was at a really great cocktail party in Manhattan. I live in New York City and it was my friend. She's a co-founder of this, I think they're doing like 20 million dollars in business. It's a tech startup and there was, I don't know, a dozen other interesting women. They're so fascinating.

A story of one of the most fascinating woman I've ever met

One woman, she showed up late because she was giving a recital at Carnegie Hall. She's a pianist. There was the head of PR for Rolls-Royce. There was another woman there and I knew her a little bit. I've met her the day before because we both had sat on a panel at the United Nations. There was a summit for gender equality and we were both on panel. She is head of diversity for a Fortune … It's probably a Fortune 50 company. She knew her stuff. I was a little intimidated by her because she knew every bit of research. She knew all about the policy. She knew about social trends when it comes to gender, corporate policy, what works, what doesn't, what's the problem, and how to close the freaking pay gap already. She knew it all. This was her story. This was her passion.

As consumed as I am and she's a phenomenal woman in and of herself. She has multiple Ivy League degrees. She comes from an immigrant family and she had this fascinating and harrowing personal narrative about her coming to this country as a very young child and so much hardship. I was just in awe of her. She's a remarkable woman who shares passion for gender equality that I do. So at this party, you know, we all have a couple of glasses of white wine because women are always drinking white wine. I guess we can drink Rosé now. She started talking about how she's the breadwinner in her marriage. Her husband is an academic and they have a young daughter I think was five years old.

She lives in this very nice co-op building on the upper west side of Manhattan, which is a very nice neighborhood and all the families in this co-op were affluent families and they all had little kids. It was just this phenomena. Lots of them had little kids and the kids would play together and the parents would socialize and it sounded really cozy and really nice but she's always felt ostracized. She wasn't really invited to the play dates and the potluck dinners with the other families and kind of bugged her. Then finally her nanny got the scoop. These nannies are good for stuff like that, good gossip. Her nanny finally confess. She said, “You know what? They all think you're super weird because you work and none of the other moms work.” Okay, like whatever. Right.

How stay-at-home moms hurt gender equality

Even the coolest, strongest female leaders feel mom guilt – and it's holding us back

This woman, her voice suddenly got very shrill and she got incredibly defensive. You could see it in her body and she started saying things like, “Well, yes, I work. I work because I enjoy it. I work because I think it's a good role model for my daughter, and my daughter by the way, she's doing great. She does great at school and she's great socially.” She got so defensive about her decision to work. Here again is an incredible leader. I mean she is an advocate for all of us in the world. I mean she's employed by corporate but she is a leader when it comes to women and equality and she is even conflicted about working. I don't say that to shame anyone because as you know, I'm so muddling through my own feelings about this as convicted as I am about working and earning and being this role model.

It's something I have to get over every day, right? It's something I have to get over every day, but the question is so what? Right, so what? I feel bad. Get over it. What's the big deal? Well, the so what is that this is what holds us back. These conflicts, these small and large conflicts are holding us back as individuals when it comes to not just our careers and earning but our whole lives because if we're feeling shameful, guilt, conflict. This is all negative internal looking feelings that serve no purpose. They are not a purpose that is moving us forward as individuals or collectively as a community and the results can be detrimental. Now in small ways let's just take it from anybody in this room can understand you have a deadline or you have a big meeting or a big presentation and something comes up in your personal life, right?

Times when you feel a stronger pull between home and work

Maybe an older parent needs you. They're having a crisis. Maybe you have a child that has the big school play or the big sporting event that they would really need you to be there. You feel that you are needed there or maybe you have some conflict in your marriage. Maybe you've been working a lot and your partner resents it and you really feel like you need to be home and so it is this pull. Again, anytime there's that pull, any time you're feeling about being bad at one place that you should be at the other, your heart and your soul and your mind are nowhere. They're absolutely nowhere instead of being focused and productive and energetic and positive about the task at hand. So that plays out in all sorts of different ways, in more tangible ways.

It plays out in ways like you don't demand the promotion or the raise that you deserve come review time because maybe there was a lot going on in the rest of your life at that time. Even though you made your numbers, even though you met your goals and objectives, maybe you had a baby that year, or maybe you were buying and building a house and that required a lot of your energy. Maybe you're dealing with your own health issues. Even though you achieved, you think, well, you know, I took off a lot of time, or maybe I was leaving early a lot of days and so I can't really demand what I'm worth. Maybe you put up with an abusive boss or colleague because you're like, yeah, you know what? I should put up with that, but I got so much going on.

Working mom guilt causes us to settle for less and even stunts our professional growth

The another boss won't let me be taking off Fridays early like my boss says now. Constantly undermining your value in the world, in the world, because you're attending to life outside of work, right? How many people here have thought about starting your own practice? A completely different business, going into different line of work. Maybe even just launching a hobby or an interest or a volunteer giving back effort that would be very demanding, but you think, you know what? I can't take that risk because I'm a mom. I can't take that risk because moms don't take risks. That's dangerous. It's irresponsible and I must take the safe route because June Cleaver is looming large, right? This is holding us back in big and quiet ways, in big and quiet ways. What do we do about it?

What do you do about all this working woman guilt?

Well, first of all, I want to stop saying working woman guilt, working mom guilt. Let's just stop saying that. Let's talk about working woman power because thank goodness for research, thank goodness for historians. We have a lot of facts and science about how incredible it is when women work and earn and achieve. In this country and of the world, for government, for families, for marriage, when women are earning and working and achieving this is good for everybody. This is my default mechanism. When I'm feeling conflicted, when I'm working with a friend or somebody, a reader that's reached out to me for my blog and they're having this existential crisis about whether to go for the promotion, whether to hire childcare on and on.

This is what I defer to. One, the idea of a stay at home mom, June Cleaver is the figment of someone's imagination. Women as a history of time have been financially critical to their families. They have worked in the fields alongside men. Today in this world that is the majority of the economy. In this world is agrarian economies where people have to work at farm work and earn what they're going to eat, what they're going to grow, what they're going to eat, and women are doing that way more than men and that is the essence of how they and their babies are going to eat. They are working. Historically, again, most of the world, but in this country before we had Zumba and stacked washers and dryers and bagel cutters and all the modern conveniences that we have basically run our households for us, we were running households that was manual labor.

Women have always been crucial to the financial health and success of their families

We were growing food in the garden that we had to then can and preserve and cook by scratch over an oven fire, right? This was manual work. You're growing the cotton or the flax that you're spinning into thread that you're weaving into cloth that you're sowing into clothes and bed sheets and quilts for the whole family. Running a household was manual labor. There's never in the history of time been a moment when women were simply devoted to full frontal lobe development of their children. There's no precedence for it, and I tell you recently, I mean I know I'm supposed to have read, “The Feminine Mystique.” Remember this feminist classic like I think it was on my reading list for some women studies class back in college. Never read it. I've read it recently.

That book could've been written today. It was just shining light on the fact that women, now that we are educated do not find homemaking fulfilling. This is not me editorializing because I personally don't find homemaking fulfilling, but as the science overwhelming is there, women who do not work outside the home are more depressed, more likely to suffer from anxiety. Their marriages are more fragile, have much higher rate of divorce and most of all, it's not good for kids. So now, just in the most recent years, just in the last two, three years, incredibly powerful research has come out and I for one and taking upon myself to spread it in all the journalism that I do because it is so critical to gender equality in this country. First of all, Kathleen McGinn at Harvard.

How to divorce like a feminist

Children raised by working moms are more likely to succeed, be happy and be leaders later in life

She looked at 19 countries around the world and universally, kids, girls and boys, sons and daughters who are raised by women who work, raised by working mothers, working and earning outside of the home in jobs fare better than children who are raised with stay at home parents, stay at home moms. What she found was that taking both groups, the kids that were raised by stay at home moms and the kids that were raised by working mom equally happy, but the girls who were raised by the working mom achieved more academically. They earn more professionally when they grew up. They're more likely to be in leadership positions in their careers and the boys that grew into men that were raised by working moms and these are married and single moms both.

The boys were going to achieve just as much academically and professionally as their peers that were raised by stay at home moms, but they're more likely to care for loved ones at home. They're more caring and attentive and spent more time with young children at home, whether they were siblings or as adults with their own biological children, older people that needed care that we're living in the home. The boys were more caring and girls were higher achieving and everybody was equally as happy. You're welcome. You are welcome. The other most interesting thing, you're laughing when I said that there's never been a moment in history when we've had women devoted full-time to the frontal lobe development of their children.

The University of Maryland a couple of years ago, they killed it for us ladies. We owe them a debt of gratitude. They did one of these meta studies where they look at, I think it was 34 other very respected peer reviewed academic journal published studies. All the research, all the research out there showed that it does not matter. After age two, it does not matter how much time parents spend with their kids. Can you believe that? Is that the most liberating, freeing thing that you've heard all day? You are so welcome for that. I remind myself that babies, babies need to be hugged. Nursing is great. All these things, but after age two, other caregivers, what does matter is the mother's education, income and quality of time, engaged time, not quantity, not gross number of hours.

How working through my own mom guilt helped me double my income last year

I understand that myself. That resonated with me so deeply as I'm working through my own working mom guilt. I would take a measure of pride in saying that my kids, you know, with this big career I'm high earning that my kids wouldn't go to afterschool program. I would drive them to soccer. I would drive them to theater, but they come home from the bus and they're home and they're hanging out. Well, you know what, last year was a big year and my career was booming and I needed more childcare and I started to realize like I did not like those afterschool hours, like 3:30 to 5:36 when we had dinner. I'm like, what am I doing with you guys? Like, we all go to the playground together, or you're in the house watching TV, which I didn't feel good about or fighting.

It just was a stressful time for me when I wanted to be working and achieving. I work from home incidentally and so all right, that's it. You're going to afterschool and the school is about three quarters of a mile away in my neighborhood in New York City. I'm going to tell you what, they like the afterschool. They didn't love it. It would be a great story if they loved it, it was perfect. It was. It was fine. It was totally fine. I loved it. I loved it because those hours, those late afternoon hours happened to be very productive for me. That's just my way, but that walk from their school. It's a good 20 minutes is the best part of my day, it is the best part of my day.

We'd hold hands and we walked through the streets of our neighborhood that we really love and are very connected to. We have the best conversations and we'd be laughing and telling stories and I would be feeling good about my day, so I'd have a lot of really great positive things to share with my kids about my work or what was going on. They were picking up on my positive energy. Now, that time, afterschool is my favorite time. It used to be my worst time as a mom and now it is my best time as a mom and it's because I let go. I let go of June Cleaver, that portrait of hers not hanging over my shoulder anymore and it freed me to be a better worker and a better mom. You know what? My income doubled over the last year. That's the facts. Those are the facts that I want you to defer to.

I have all this on my blog. I should create a special working professional woman guilt page for you. What else? What else can we do? If you're feeling bad about working and earning, that's coming from somewhere. It might not be from your family of origin. I have some mixed stories about mine, but I do come from a progressive family, a professional mom, so it wasn't exactly that. It was from other messages. I'll tell you, just take opportunities. Whenever you're feeling really run, hone in on that and dig into it. Unpeel the layers. It's like if this is therapy, you know you're never going to be over it completely. This is a lifelong ongoing issue.

Learning to overcome working mom guilt is a lifelong, ongoing issue

A couple of years ago I was leaving for a conference in the morning. My brother came by to help me with my kids, but I have this thing where like, I'm great. I'm great about outsourcing everything. I have a house cleaner. I never do the laundry because I pay somebody else to do it. I'm good at outsourcing in my business, but I love to cook for my family and I cook our meals. We're not ordering and occasionally when it's a special treat, I cook breakfast, I cook dinner, we sit down as a family. I love cooking. I love eating. I like having some control over the nutrition. I liked that it's cost saving. I like all the things about cooking at home, having good food in the house that I could eat all the time whether I should or not, so it's all about me and food.

I was making this breakfast for my kids on this especially busy morning when I'm trying to get out of town. I'm trying to look cute to go to the conference and making French toast. I decided I'm going to make some blueberry compote because that sounds delicious and nutritious and blueberries are seasoned and we like to eat in season. By the way, it's just blueberries and sugar and you boil it and it thickens up. It's not so complicated, but it was far more complicated than it needs to be on this nutty day. As I'm running around my apartment, putting on an extra coat of mascara, I smell the unmistakable smell that is burning sugar lacquered onto my stove top. I'm like, that's it. I'm insane. I am one of these annoying, insane moms.

Peeling away layers of mom guilt and starting with outsourcing as much as you can

What the heck is that about? Why am I doing this to myself? It's completely contradictory to everything I believe, everything that I preach to women that follow me. What is going on? I peeled away my own layers of insanity, of female insanity and that included thinking about growing up. You know, my mom, she was a harried mom, right? She was a harried mom making breakfast every morning. Just quick aside, since my mom's not here I'm going to tell you a really funny story. One morning I woke up and she was like making the breakfast. She made these beautiful breakfast every single morning. She let her babies to go off to school full tummies with nutritious food. I came out, she had a half slip on. Does anyone wear half slips anymore?

She had curlers in her hair and full face of makeup and she's scrambling the hell out of a pan of eggs completely topless just scrambling those eggs. Then anyways, I had fond memories of my mom besides her being topless, scrambling eggs. I have really fond memories of being in Illinois. It'll be cold in the winter. I bet you would not want to get out of bed in the morning but there's something really delicious and cozy smelling from the kitchen. It was really nice and it was my mom's way of caring for us as it is my way of caring for my babies. It's also my grandma. She's the farm wife and she would talk about cooking her kids breakfast every morning. She had four kids and her husband before he went to work on the farm, work hard all day long and she had a kitchen garden and they would be eating food from the garden and they had livestock and they would butcher the livestock and the eggs and the fresh milk.

They would drink fresh milk, warm out of the cow, and so I feel very connected to the women in my family through this narrative of breakfast and food and home cooking and coziness and I just snapped too. I'm like, you know, I can't cook breakfast most mornings, but on the crazy mornings I'm outsourcing to General Mills that my kids can eat some freaking Cheerios with banana because that's okay, but I had to figure out where it all came from first. Figure out your narrative. It might be your family, maybe you. It's from pop culture, right? Like maybe it's from nasty comments that someone said in the neighborhood about working moms or that you can't catch a good man if you work and achieve and men don't like professional women or men can't take it if you earn more than them. Those messages are out there and it's complicated and this is, this is a time of unprecedented change.

There's so many questions about our role as mothers, so cut yourself some slack.

I'm here to tell you it is hard work. This is what I do full-time and it is complicated work that we are doing and we're all doing it together and that brings me to the next point. When you're feeling torn, conflicted, overwhelmed, overwhelmed by being a professional woman, what that means for your personal life, what it means for your family. I want you to think of the role that you're playing, the activism that you are playing because we know in other parts of your life it's so important who you surround yourself with, who your peers are. If your friends smoke, you are more likely to smoke. If your friends are unhealthy and overweight, you are likely to be overweight.

If they suffer from credit card debt, that's likely to be your story too. The power of peers, we've known about teenagers, but it's true for all of us. This is very true. When you give yourself permission to achieve and earn with abandon, other people see that. Your children, they're watching you. The women in your office, the younger ones and the older ones, they are watching you. Men are watching you because I feel for men today. Most men are good dudes. They are good guys that want to do the right thing. If we don't know what the right thing is all the time, they sure as heck don't know what the right thing is and they're looking to us. We are educating them not by lecturing, but by doing what we know is right and what feels good and what feels good. This is activism. This is the pay gap. This is the wealth gap, by you taking responsibility for your own success.

Your success as a single mother is all of our success

I'm going to leave you with a story from a very good friend of mine. She has a very high position and a local public entity and I'm going to conceal her identity for the sake of this podcast. She oversees a group of people, it's like 300,000 people. It's a huge entity and she is one of the top two or three ranking people. The only female in any significant leadership position in this whole organization, and she said, you know, there's just so much rampant sexism at this place and there's such huge gender pay inequity. It was a complicated thing. She's very good at what she does. She really believes in what her career is, but she was up against the patriarchy, right. It also created a lot of conflict in her personal life. She's the breadwinner in her marriage. It was very hard for her husband.

He struggles in his career. He very much resented all the hours that she spent at this job because it was a very demanding job and for a whole lot of reasons that were largely tied to her gender and her achievements, she quit. She got another great job where she's consulting, but it was more manageable hours and took some of the pain points away. Ultimately, this public entity that shall remain nameless, they came back to her and they've courted her. They said, “We cannot live without you. We need you to come back, you name your terms.” She went back, to her credit she went back and she asked for a huge promotion and she asked for a huge pay raise. Even after she did that, it was a hard decision for all the reasons I mentioned, most especially in her relationship, but she did it.

She pushed through and she said, “You know what? Women in my office and women that I didn't even know, employees. It's a public entity, so her salary in this promotion we're publicly posted online, anybody could see it. She said, “They were stopping me and they're saying, thank you. Thank you for your work.” They said, “Your success is our success.” Your success is our success, and that is what I want to leave you with. Your success is other women's success and it's your children's success and it's all people's success because when women earn and achieve, it is good for all of us.


About Emma Johnson

Emma Johnson is a veteran money journalist, noted blogger, bestselling author and an host of the award-winning podcast, Like a Mother with Emma Johnson. A former Associated Press Financial Wire reporter and MSN Money columnist, Emma has written for the New York Times, Wall Street Journal, Forbes, Glamour,, U.S. News, Parenting, USA Today and others. Her #1 bestseller, The Kickass Single Mom (Penguin), was named to the New York Post's ‘Must Read” list.Emma regularly comments on issues of modern families, gender equality, divorce, sex and motherhood for outlets like CNN, Headline News, New York Times, Wall Street Journal, Fox & Friends, CNBC, NPR, TIME, MONEY, O, The Oprah Magazine and The Doctors. She was named Parents magazine’s “Best of the Web,” “Top 15 Personal Finance Podcasts” by U.S. News, and a “Most Eligible New Yorker” by New York Observer.A popular speaker, Emma presented at the United Nations Summit for Gender Equality. Read more about Emma here.


  1. KJS on September 24, 2017 at 3:39 am

    hope this thread is still live!

    Unfortunately, its my observation that there just is no ‘rule’ or formula that will ever settle this debate.
    Families – intact or not – are so unique in their dynamic.

    In a perfect world, mom and dad come to the quiet realization that they’ve ‘grown apart’ and its better for everyone to make a clean break. In this perfect world, both parents are gainfully employed or able to suddenly become gainfully employed, or there is enough money for one parent to be present and focused mainly on the kids. I don’t know what the studies say, but in my middle class corner of the world, what I’ve observed is that it benefits the child(ren) to have a consistent mature responsible adult presence. I haven’t noticed that it HAS to be mom … only that the adult is consistent, mature, and present. Actually, I’ve observed this to be true in a range of socioeconomic groups we interact with with. Just my observations. No stats to back that up. Sorry.

    Back to the perfect world …
    Once the marriage has been amicably dissolved in a timely manner, both parents are equally invested in their children’s physical, emotional, and financial health. There is, of course, extended family close by who are healthy and have the time and the desire to pitch in because….everyone is living in Perfect World.

    I never found Perfect World.
    I’m an unexpected divorced mom of one now 18 year old daughter.

    This incredible human had undiagnosed heatlh issues throughout her childhood. She suffered from crippling anxiety due to her lack of diagnosis and subsequent misdiagnosis (not for lack of trying on my part!). I drove the charge for an answer because we agreed I would be the main caretaker. Dad financed the charge for an answer by having – luckily – a stable long term job with excellent health insurance. He never ever balked at paying out of pocket for specialists and mental health professionals who weren’t covered. We were always united and still are when it comes to our daughter’s health.

    Our child couldn’t attend school regularly and couldn’t be left home alone even though at the height of her illness before we knew what was wrong, she was in 7th, 8th, 9th and 10th grade.

    Had I even managed to find, interview for, and be hired as a full time employee somewhere, I would have been fired eventually. Literally.
    I’ve always been a hard worker and knew I had to start making my way.( I worked full time up until 4 days before I delivered our daughter, and was exclusively nursing her when I went back to work part time at 7 weeks. Our family was intact until she was 10.)

    As my marriage was dissolving, I got lucky and landed a part time flexible position working in public education. My office was .50 miles from my home. I could get home in 5 min or less if I had to.
    I wasn’t handed that job … I pretty much stalked the hiring director. It paid off. I’ve been there for 8 years.
    However, as a part time employee I didn’t and still don’t qualify for health insurance. Our daughter was always covered under her dad’s plan. But as for me? I was on my own and good luck to me! Dad was more than willing to pay for anything our child needed. I’m pretty sure he wasn’t even listening when I asked how I was supposed to work full time to qualify for health insurance when I couldn’t leave our daughter long enough. Dad talked a lot about being a great father and used every Facebook photo op to display his devotion to parenting. The reality was somewhat but not entirely different.

    Dad carried me on his health insurance a while longer by postponing the official divorce signing. Yes. You bet I was grateful!! Remember though, I wasn’t sitting home in my bathrobe eating bonbons sucking up complimentary COBRA. I was working hard holding on to my part time job in between crisis with my daughter(along with pitching in to care for my mom, a retired RN who developed Alzheimers in her late 50’s or early 60’s) . Eventually our divorce was finalized. At the time my only option was COBRA which cost almost 6k for 3 months. I paid for that out of my 401k settlement money(which I fought tooth and nail for. The amount was not life changing or life sustaining). Every nickel helps for sure! Say it with me this time – I was very very lucky.

    Thanks to another stroke of luck, along came the ACA. I didn’t ever expect to need something like that, but let me tell you – I was and still am grateful it was born. I’m not addressing the politics of it. I’m just telling you that it was the only way for me to have health care.

    The point I’m taking a long time to make is that there doesn’t seem to be a one size fits all rule for custody or support.

    We never tried the 50/50 arrangement for many reasons – my daughter’s health being one of them.

    My daughter does have a few friends who are from divorced families who lived with a 50/50 arrangement.

    Again – one size doesn’t fit all. However, each 50/50 agreement I’ve been able to observe began to lose its luster when the child became a young teen. Not long after it lost its luster, each teen I’m familiar with became resentful at having to pack up and change locations every so many days and the arrangement evolved into the child wishing to spend more time wherever they felt most comfortable. In one case it was clearly dad’s house. In all of the other cases, it was mom’s house.

    FYI – most therapists and some family law practitioners will tell you that around the age of 13 or 14, you can’t really MAKE the child go to mom or dad’s house if they decide they don’t want to.
    I mean – you CAN, but not forever and not with any measure of harmonious success.

    Although studies ‘prove’ that 50/50 is best – is it REALLY? Would we like moving our little over-night bag around every 4 days? Even in a best-case scenario where the children can pretty much have duplicate wardrobes, etc., is it REALLY ideal for the child to bounce back and forth like that?

    In everything I have personally spied with my little eyes (just a figure of speech. I didn’t spy on the divorced people I know) 50/50 seems to sometimes suit the parents most by letting them parent 50% of the time, and be free 50% of the time. No guilt there for anyone! No over whelming burden of mostly single parenting for anyone! Its all divided evenly!
    What a perfect world we have created.

    I don’t have the answers! I believe the large majority of us all do the very best we can with the cards we are dealt.

    I haven’t even touched on the families where, for example, Dad is self employed, shows little income, and walked out on mom with 4 kids age 6 and under. This is a true real live family I met. Dad doesn’t want those kids 50% of the time! He’s lying about his income so he’s not too concerned with having a hefty support payment. How is mom going to get a job? How will she get any child support if dad is cheating the system? We can cross our fingers that he gets caught. And yes, welfare, food stamps, and other government programs exist. Those vehicles are both soul crushing and heaven sent at the same time. m too tired at this hour to I’crank open that can of worms.

    Sadly, very very sadly, there are so many variables at play.
    And so much raw emotion.

    Like my girl Oprah says – ‘what I know for sure’ is that it took decades for divorce to be a word we stopped whispering.
    We’ve come so far.
    As much as I wish the world was perfectly perfect, it isn’t. (But it is beautiful and wonderful, isn’t it?)
    Social media lets us share our experiences and bat ideas back and forth like never before.
    20 years from now, I envision us all with powerful microchips in our heads that will readily calculate and recalculate all of the pertinent details and spit out instructions for how we should proceed.

    Then what will we have to talk about?

  2. […] post How working mom guilt holds you back in career, money and life appeared first on Emma […]

  3. Brittany on November 20, 2018 at 5:47 pm

    Can you share the links to the studies you reference? I find them interesting but like real data.

  4. Melissa on January 15, 2019 at 12:36 am

    My husband left me and he is already having an affair with another woman he met and has been hanging out with her for some weeks now that he has been gone. She is also married with two kids of her own. They planned to be moving in together but she basically spend every night with him at his motel he is staying until they can get their own place. My husband has no license and therefore i have to give him a ride to and fro for work everyday Because his new “gf” still gives her husband a ride and they all work together. When he is around me he acts like there is no problem and we should just talk like nothing is going on. He completely ignores me every time i said something about our marriage, never really gives me a straight answer other than its been over for a long time yet we hardly ever fault, we were still very much having sex at least two to three times every 2 weeks. We got in to a fight one night and the next thing he left and moved in to a hotel and then instantly this married woman was there with him every night and they basically only been talking through fb. Out of jealousy and so much pain inside of me i had to go on a personal research how i can get him back into our marriage again. But i was recommended to a genius real spell man Muna is his name marvelspelltemple @ gmail. com This man told me everything i need to know and everything i need to do. i attended to them and right now my husband is back home and we just had a romantic sex and he keep saying i love you to me every day and night and never to let go of me again…

Leave a Comment