Elisa Donovan on Work and Mommy Guilt

elisa donavan

After the first seven months of her daughter’s life, Elisa Donovan was ready to be herself again. She had survived the sleepless nights, planning a wedding, and getting herself back into shape, but she still was not complete — she wanted to return to work.

When the opportunity came to be the voice for the audio version of the book Lean In, she jumped at the chance; but this new opportunity meant a sacrifice – time away from her daughter Scarlett. She says in a recent blog for People, “Working on Lean In would be the first time that I was officially working for a consecutive week since I had become a mom. And working in L.A. meant leaving Scarlett behind in San Francisco. This particular project felt like a divine way to dive back in. It was meaningful to me on many levels. The ideals proposed by the book — encouraging women to not hold ourselves back, to make ourselves be heard and to ask for what we deserve, to be unafraid to aspire to the highest positions of power, and know that one can be powerful and still be likeable — are things I believe in and was proud to be condoning.”

She thought she was totally fine, the sitter was scheduled, her husband would pick up the slack, and she was packed. However, at the airport she began to feel that thing that every mother is familiar with — mommy guilt. It was a feeling she did not think she would have saying, “I used to think those women who couldn’t get away from their kids for one second were totally crazy. Now I’m starting to understand that I’m totally nuts, too. That most likely all of us moms are and those of us who do manage to separate ourselves from our kids, do so only with a healthy dose of internal kicking and screaming the whole way.” While she and Scarlett survived the week apart, she also learned something important – that parenting is not an elective sport. It is something that takes up a lot of time and it is a commitment parents make when they bring a child into the world. For Donovan that also means teaching her daughter to be independent, to show her what it means to follow your dreams, and to be the best mom she can be, which for her is a working mom.

Mommy guilt is something I am very familiar with. Unlike Donovan, I do not have the luxury to turn down a job or take weeks off at a time to be home with my children. However, I also know that when I am working I am not only providing my children with their needs, and some wants; I am also allowing myself to grow and flourish. The time I spend away from my family while working, while often exhausting, is also exhilarating. I get to have adult conversation, I feel accomplished after most days, and I can come home knowing I am doing my best to provide for my family and making myself a better person at the same time.

Donovan is right, parenting is not an elective sport, but it is one where winning will be one of the best experiences of my life.

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Elisa Donovan on Work and Mommy Guilt

Heather Montgomery is a freelance writer with a background in Elementary Education and an almost embarrassing need to read celebrity gossip. As a work-at-home mom to three children, she enjoys spending time with her family and friends. She was married in 2003 and currently resides in Florida. ... More

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