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10 Things to Never, Ever Say to a Working Mom—Seriously

Working mothers face a never-ending balancing act all while being subjected to judgmental input from others. We asked working moms about what they hate hearing the most...and some of their responses will make your jaw drop.

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“Your husband should let you stay home.”

Surprising as it is, some people still subscribe to the belief that men dictate the choices women make about their work status. Audrey, mother of one, says she’s faced this opinion. “I’ve heard, ‘Tell your husband to get a second job.’ That comment assumes so many things. Mainly, that we don’t really need my husband or her dad around and that the only reason I am working is for financial reasons.” Priscilla, mother of three, experienced comments about her husband as well, “I’ve heard ‘Your husband makes enough, he needs to let you stay home.’ He’s not making me work. It’s obviously a mutual decision, and second, I like people’s opinion on what “making enough” looks like.”

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“Don’t you miss your children?”

Questions about being away from their children can cut straight to the heart of a working mother. Lisa, mother of three, says, “I’ve been asked, ‘Your son is so sweet! How can you leave him here all day?’ And this was from my daycare provider! Please excuse me while I hide in the corner and cry.” Audrey, mother of one, adds, “I’ll be honest, returning to work hasn’t been easy on me, but then to have someone question whether or not I miss my little girl just adds salt to the gaping wound.”

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“Don’t you want to raise your own children?”

Perhaps the comments that hurt the most is this one that implies a working mother isn’t doing the heavy lifting of child-raising herself. Jessica, mother of one, has experienced pointed comments repeatedly. “I’ve heard, ‘So you’re just going to let someone else spend time with your child, why not just stay home and finish school?'” she says. “Granted, I’m a single mother of one, and also a student that works. But these are hurtful words because of course I already feel guilty enough.”

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“I could never trust a stranger with my children.”

Assuming that trusting someone that isn’t a relative to watch your children is the same as leaving them with a stranger is both hurtful and condescending. Meagan, mother of two, says she’s been on the receiving end of snark, explaining, “In a discussion about attending an adult party we had all been invited to, my friend indicated they’d either be bringing their son or not going, because they don’t leave their kids with other people (said in a very pointed tone of voice). She is well aware that my kids are in daycare.” Here’s how to hire a babysitter you trust.

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“You get so many perks at work.”

Quiet lunches, break times, and bathroom visits without an audience seem like a dream to stay-at-home moms, but is it really all it’s cracked up to be? Kadi, mother of four, says of her responsibilities, “The comments from others usually suggest that I don’t know what it’s like to do household chores and errands all day. Yes, I get to interact with adults and enjoy the occasional uninterrupted lunch, but it also comes with a different set of stress and expectations. Before and after work and on the weekends, I’m dropping off, picking up, doing laundry, grocery shopping, scheduling doctor appointments, cooking, and cleaning. My hat is off to all moms, what we do is hard! We are all in this together!”

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“It’s a shame you have to work.”

As if mothers aren’t guilted enough already, some comments try to shame mothers into feeling even worse. Dawn, mother of two, was given a guilt trip, recalling, “I was told, ‘How sad, you missed the first day of kindergarten because you were working?'” (Don’t miss what other parents of young children want to tell you.)

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“Stay-at-home moms only, please.”

Who knew that play groups could be so exclusive? Laura, mother of two, says she was excluded from a play group, explaining, “I was told, ‘Oh, you work? You can’t come to our Moms’ group, we are stay-at-home moms, not working moms.'”

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“Do you worry about the effects of daycare?”

As mothers, there is enough to worry about without adding in the fear of scarring your child because you have to work. Kelsey, mother of two, says, “I’ve been asked if I’m worried my kid will become a bully since they’re a daycare kid. I’ve also been asked ‘Why are you having another baby when you’re not even home to raise the first one’?”

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“Your sitter will be more of a mother than you.”

This one might be the worst of them all. Mckenzie, mother of one, says, “I had a woman tell me the week before I had to go back to work after maternity leave, ‘You will never see your baby, he will know the babysitter better than he knows you.'” Lisa, mother of three, says, “One of my favorite comments was, It’s too bad you have to work, your daughter is bonding to her caretaker and not you.'” (Here are non-negotiable rules for any babysitter.)

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“Your baby must miss you.”

No mother wants to be reminded of the fact that her child is away from her. Kelli, mother of one, received criticism of her choice to work in an unlikely place. “I was interviewing for a job and the manager asked me, ‘Does your baby understand you will be working 365 days a year? That you won’t be home for Christmas and will work at four in the morning at times?'” she says. “I was so upset. I told her babysitting wasn’t an issue to begin with. The way she made me feel for wanting to provide for my one-year-old daughter completely frustrated me.”

Jen Babakhan
Jen Babakhan is an author and credentialed educator living in California. She writes regularly about advice and culture for Reader's Digest. She is also the author of Detoured: The Messy, Grace-Filled Journey From Working Professional to Stay-at-Home Mom (Harvest House Publishers, 2019). She earned her BA in Communication Studies from California State University, Stanislaus. You can follow her on Instagram @JenBabakhan , Twitter @JenBabakhan, and Facebook @JenBabakhanauthor.