mother's guiltWith motherhood, certain things are certain: unconditional love, lifetime commitments and guilt. Oh, and did I mention the guilt? Try balancing those big, baby eyes with a pile of homework and you’ll know what I mean.

I came across a study the other day that reminded me of what guilt does to you…and your pocketbook. According to market research company The NPD Group, families with kids are returning to restaurants in droves in recent months. The recession had us all cooking in more, but now people are getting back out there, helping business pick up in that hard-hit industry.

Here’s how that story reads to me: Moms are trying to survive with all of their commitments. And for many of us it means getting work along with school and raising a family. More work means more money. More money means eating out is affordable. Sure, that’s true. But more work also means more time is spent working, cleaning, washing, playing, reading books and studying. With no time left to cook, we’re eating out more.

So how do you handle this old friend, guilt? My friend, Cathy, was telling me the other day that she had to miss class because her babysitter called in sick. With such little short notice, she couldn’t find a Mommy friend to watch her kids. Her husband knew that day’s class wasn’t essential, so they decided as a couple that he would go to work and they’d save his days off for when it really want important to her.

Cathy ended up staying home with her two boys (one was at kindergarten) and they ate lunch out at a nearby greasy spoon to make her feel better. Granted, two sandwiches split between the three of them cost her all of $10. But the feeling of freedom and fun was worth it, she said. Hence, families are eating out more…but at what cost?

As a working mother, I haven’t really figured out how to balance my desire to write with my kids’ desire to have me down on the floor playing with Lego blocks all afternoon. I don’t really buy into the idea that “showing them that I’m happy at work teaches them an important life lesson,” like some of the working mom magazines would have you believe. I do believe one old cliché: If Mama’s happy, everybody’s happy.

How do you deal with guilt? Any tips for me and other moms? We’re all in this mess together, so I’m all ears!

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