Words By Tara Wagner

How I Handled Working Mom Guilt (My 20 Year Old Chimes In)

Tara sitting on the kitchen counter with son Zev

I’ve been an entrepreneur and a mother for almost 20 years each. I’ve certainly dealt with my share of working mom guilt, but in this blog I want to share some of the strategies that helped me to overcome it, as well as some of the things I wish I’d done differently, in hopes that my hindsight might really support you.

I’m even going to share the perspective of my 20 year old son.

Business class woman kneeling down outdoors in the city with her daughter

Watch here or read below.

How I Handled Working Mom Guilt (My 20 Year Old Chimes In) Share on X

I’ve got a lot to share here, both in what I did well and where I really struggled over these past two decades of juggling business and family. And my hope is that in the comment section, you will also lend your advice to other women who might also be struggling with working mom guilt. Let’s jump right in…


The first thing that I really found I had to do and that was shift my perspective.

What we focus on will nurture and grow, and so my perspective, my emotions around how/when I was working, or whether or not I should be working influences his emotions as well.

What we focus on, we nurture and grow.

So if I focus on all the things I couldn’t do or didn’t think I was doing right, or all of the guilt that I felt, all I was going to do was feed that, and nurture it and grow it.

I learned really early on that my emotions and perspective are going to influence his emotions and perspective.

I learned this because I had stumbled across a study done on the grown children of working moms. What it found was that the moms who felt guilty about working had kids who were unhappy that their moms had worked. While the moms who had made peace with it or were happy, whether it was happy that they were working or happy with how they were balancing things, their kids felt the same way. Their kids were at peace with it, and there was just a sense of harmony in their families instead of a sense of tension.

I wish I could find the original study, because this was close to 20 years ago now that I read this, but there are other studies that say the same thing.

What this really allowed me to do was make peace with my decision, honor my needs, honor my sense of purpose and the passion that I had for the work that I was doing. This allowed me to pass on those emotions instead of the frustration or the guilt or all of the other negative emotions that I was feeling instead.

In order to pass those positive emotions onto my son, what I actually tangibly did was share with him the work that I did, the passion that I had for it, who I was helping, how I was helping them.

Over dinner, we would talk about our day and I would share the things that I was excited about. Celebrating my wins also encouraged him to celebrate his wins, and it just created a really supportive environment in our family for the passions that we each individually had.

Tara sitting on the couch with Zeb laughing in their living room


The next thing that I did to overcome working mom guilt, and I did not do this very well and it took me a long time to do it, was to do my best to just chip away at the time management issues that I was struggling with.

At one point I was working 16 hour days and that was my fault. It wasn’t because it was necessary. It was because I didn’t understand time management as priority management and I was wasting a lot of energy. I was showing up in my family just tired and frustrated and angry at myself and angry at my work, and it really created a lot of stress in our family.

Once I really realized that this cannot keep happening, I just started to do what I could to improve those things.

So through a lot of books and a lot of resources, I learned things like time blocking. I got better at outsourcing and delegating things. I got better at compartmentalizing, at batching my work, whatever I could do to be able to do my work more efficiently and be all present with my family.

And that even included increasing my self-care so that I was able to work better and really still have something left to give at the end of the day.

Tara and Zeb petting their dog together on the couch


I was also introduced to something called Nonviolent Communication, which really taught me to focus less on “time spent” and more on “needs met”.

I had this idea that I had to be spending a certain amount of time with my business and a certain amount of time with my family, and it never seemed to be enough for either, but when I just started to focus on “are our needs met?”, “are the needs of my business being met with the time that I’m giving it?”, “are the needs of my family being met with the time that I’m giving them?”

If everybody’s needs are met and everybody’s happy, that doesn’t necessarily mean that it has to be a certain amount of time. We can meet everybody’s needs and fill everybody’s cups, and If we do it in a really good way, we can do it in a really short amount of time.

So there were times when my son needed less time from me. There were times where his needs required more time from me. But instead of focusing on the time, I just kept focusing on “what is he needing right now and how can I best serve those needs?” At the same time, still honoring my needs and the needs of my business.

This really might not sound like a big shift, and it is really subtle, but it really did make a huge difference because there’s no such thing as work life balance, but there is such a thing as work life harmony.

And when we’re focused on harmony, we’re focused on needs being met. The amount of time just kind of goes out the window. You no longer are stressing about time, because you’re just really keyed into what is everybody needing right now. And again, “what are some of the strategies, the best ways that I can meet these needs?

A hand holding a piece of paper that says"Never give from the depths of your well. But from your overflow."


There was just a lot of times where I messed up, and I just had to acknowledge that I’m human.

I might want to be an amazing mom and I might want to be an amazing business owner, but that doesn’t mean that I can be everything to everyone all the time. I can show up and do my best, and that will still be imperfect and I really have gotten to learn a lot about forgiveness (self-forgiveness) over the past 10 years. I wish I had learned this in his first 10 years.

I really did not start understanding it until he was probably 11, 12, just really forgiving myself, making peace, letting go of the perfection. Also asking his forgiveness for things when I made a mistake helped to hold me accountable to showing up as my best self, doing the best I could to move these challenges forward, and it enabled him to see that I am human.

And I know, I really strongly believe, that our kids need to see us mess up and ask for forgiveness, because they’re going to mess up and need to ask for forgiveness and they need that model to them so that they don’t struggle with it in their own life.

When I asked Zeb for his perspective and his advice around the whole topic of working mom guilt, he first shared that it was really valuable to him to have somebody to role model these things for him, to role model time management and work ethic.

Now at just shy of 20 and he’s living on his own, I think he’s really seeing those lessons brought home and being able to draw on those lessons, which makes you feel really good as a mom, let me just tell you. All of the years when they’re younger and you’re worrying that you’re messing things up, as they get older and they start thanking you for things, or they start saying that you did do a good job, or they start really exemplifying a lot of the things that you did and that you hoped that they picked up on. Ladies, it is the best feeling in the world to know that you did not totally mess them up. Maybe just a little, but not completely.

But he also had this to say specifically around feeling guilty.

I don’t really think that you really should feel guilty. I mean, you’re doing something that’s, if not necessary than definitely very important. So long as you’re conscious of what you’re doing and how you’re doing it, and you’re making an effort to improve things. I think that’s just a fact of life. You can’t really do too much wrong after that, so long as you’re looking to do better.

Talk about a proud mama moments. I just… his heart. he’s such a good man.

Justin, Tara and Zeb outside of their Florida home, Tara hugging Zeb before he leaves
I might want to be an amazing mom and I might want to be an amazing business owner, but that doesn't mean that I can be everything to everyone all the time. Share on X


I wish that I’d gotten support sooner.

I did really well getting support in terms of helping him and spending time with him when I needed to work. I really was able to lean on family a lot and was really thankful for that. Even though it was difficult for me, I really just put myself out there and allowed him to have Fridays with Grandma. This allowed him to not feel like I wasn’t present. It just felt like a special day for him. He was still spending it with close family, with people who cared for him, which allowed me to feel a little less guilty.

But what I really am talking about when it comes to support, is getting support in my business. I spent so much time trying to figure it all out, and that’s why I was spending those 16 hour days and getting totally drained.

If I had gotten smart and gotten a business coach, or taken some courses, or done something to increase the success of my business and decrease the amount of time I was working on it, I wouldn’t have been so I wouldn’t have been burnt out. I wouldn’t have been so stressed. so not present, too tired to really engage with my family.

I would have even had more time for self-care, so that I could really show up and be a better mom earlier on.

I really didn’t figure those things out until he was in his like early teens, probably 13 and 14, when I really started to maximize and work smarter, not harder. And I think that that’s probably one of the biggest things that I would hope any woman could take away from this, is that we don’t have to do it all ourselves.

We don’t have to be supermom. We don’t have to be super woman in our work.

We can ask for help.

We can make mistakes and we can allow others to support us so that we can both fulfill our needs as a mother, but also doing the work that we’re passionate about.


What this is going to show you is 5 different mindset shifts that are going to help you change your perspective on what self-care is and how you can start fitting it into your business or your life, as well as some strategies to help you start making time for it that really work.

These were things that helped me to overcome this bottleneck in myself, and they’ve helped so many other women as well. It also will give you dozens of ideas of ways that you can start filling your cup in as little as 30 seconds, again so that you’re focusing on meeting needs, not necessarily how much time is being.

You can learn more about my Self-Care in Seconds Guide here or grab it by clicking the link below.


What are some of your tips, advice, or perspective shifts you can share for other women struggling with working mom guilt?

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Tara Wagner

I’m Tara Wagner, creator of the Breakthrough Boss®. I help small biz owners overcome burnout and create part-time schedules with full-time profits. Not with some new marketing strategy, but with a holistic approach to how you operate.
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