Tammy Byington was devastated when her son made his first s’mores at daycare without her. Byington, a mother of two, is the director of parent education programming at First Chance for Children, a Columbia nonprofit focused on early childhood development. Also a grandmother now, Byington knows the struggles – and the joys – of being a working mom.
This interview has been edited for length and clarity.
Missouri Business Alert: What’s the biggest challenge of being a working mom?
Tammy Byington: Feeling like I had time for everything. I remember taking my daughter to her first-grade morning drop off with no shoes on. I literally got her out of the car and drove away, and she had no shoes. And she didn’t realize it, I didn’t realize it, nobody realized it until she got inside the building.
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MBA: What’s the biggest reward of being a working mom?
TB: I felt like I was contributing to the family financially, and I felt like I was trying to set a good example, that you could do it all. … But sometimes that wasn’t it – like taking your daughter to school with no shoes. But it felt internally rewarding; I was showing my kids that you can do a lot of things and still be successful.
MBA: Do you experience mom guilt?
TB: Absolutely. I had a taste of what it was like to stay home and plan the daily activities, and I felt like when I went back to work it was much harder to feel connected.
MBA: How do you combat mom guilt?
TB: Just talking to my kids and my husband about the things I got to do at work and the way I felt – empowered and valued in the work that I did – we made that part of the conversation at night. When my kids were young, we would sit at the table every night for dinner, and we would talk about what our day was like. We always went through these three things: What was your biggest thing of the day, what freaked you out, and what made you the most proud today? That was one of the things we started when I went back to work, and it connected all of us.
MBA: Do you have any advice for other working moms?
TB: Own your struggle. Really, share it with other people. … Don’t bury it. Own it, and talk about it, and be open about it. I remember having a complete and total meltdown – my kids were probably 8 and 10 – I had been really busy, and I was doing things, my husband was doing things, and it was during the summer, and I just lost it at work. I was like “I gotta go home. I have to go get my kids, and we just have to get some ice cream.” When you hit that wall, take the time.