A Working Parent’s Guide to Being There

As a working mom myself, I have at times struggled with the guilt of not being around for every new milestone, class party, or other occasion. Working parents can make time to have time with their kids.

There are the stay-at-home vs working mom “Mommy Wars” that I don’t want to get into because these options are unique to every family.

I know that working is the right choice for me on many levels.

I like that my kids have two hard-working parent role models that also spend quality time with the family.

Do things always flow smoothly?

Of course not. We have a crazy, hectic life.

Every stage has had it’s own problems to conquer, and once we get into a routine it settles for a bit.

Then the life stage changes and we adapt.

At this point I thought my life would be less crazy (my oldest is away at college and my youngest drives), but it’s still crazy aligning schedules.

Life with little kids

When my children were younger, it was really hard to get home, get dinner on the table, and get them to bed on time for a good night’s sleep.

Young children need 11-12 hours of sleep, and when we get home at 6:30 pm, it’s really hard to do anything.

I became the queen of 15 minute meals and love my crock pot. My quick cooking is probably even healthier than fancy casseroles because it’s a basic heated frozen vegetable, stove top cooked chicken or a quick fish, and noodles or rice. No fancy cream sauces or cheesy goodness weeknights.

Sometimes my kids ate leftovers from the previous night so they could eat within minutes of getting home.

Whatever worked at the time to get dinner served quickly so the bedtime routine could start was what happened.

It takes a village

We only have two kids, and are fortunate to have two parents, but sometimes we still needed help from friends to get kids to scheduled activities on time.

I am a big believer in being there at games or shows, but it’s impossible with more than one child and overlapping schedules to be at everything.

We tried to alternate which child’s activity we do, though my husband went to more hockey games and I went to more dance activities because, well, we’re human and he can only watch so many dances and I had a hard time watching my son get thrown against the boards.

Being there

It is important that kids know parents are there for them, even if they aren’t physically able to be there all the time.

The best way to do that is to show kids. When you’re together, really be together. Don’t keep checking your phone. Make conversation. Make eye contact. Have fun.

Sneak in quality time any way you can, even if it’s just a minute or two.

Car trips

Talk on car rides.

Make routine trips no-screen rides.

On longer trips consider an audiobook that you can all listen to and discuss along the way.

Eye contact

Make eye contact when your kids ask for your attention.

Even if you’re busy making dinner or doing the dishes, be considerate enough to look at them when you’re speaking to them.

So often we get upset by our children’s manners, but we forget who they’re modeling after.

Bed time

Definitely at bedtime make the time to connect.

Those night time stories, back rubs, and cuddles are the perfect time to bond.

Even when your kids can read, take time to read to each other.

Game night

Find quick games to play after dinner.

Many games list the time it takes to play right on the box.

No one has time for Monopoly after dinner if they plan on getting the kids to bed on time, but family games are a great way to connect, and kids learn many skills from playing.

Work together

It sounds silly, but kill two birds with one stone. Have a family “clean time”- and make it fun.

The house needs to be cleaned or picked up regularly and if everyone pitches in with age-appropriate chores, it gets done more quickly.

Brag on your children’s effort and build their confidence.

Go to the games, recitals, and events

Try to be at activities as much as possible.

If they’re in a recital, they want you there. If they have a big game, they want you to see it. Even if they say, “it’s okay” when you can’t go, they want you there.

I know it’s not possible to be there for everything, especially if you have more than one child and you need to alternate between which activity you go to, but try to be at as many things as you can.

Even when it’s painful to watch the first season of kid-pitch baseball. And if you must take a pain reliever before going to the band concert for your 4th grader. Still go.

Make the time with them with them

Turn off your cell phone. Don’t check e-mail or social media.

Set a good example and talk with the people you’re with.

So many studies are being done that show parents ignoring their kids due to electronics.

You have time to check email after your kids go to bed when they’re young. When they’re older and their bedtime rivals yours, you can find time when they’re doing homework or when they’re at an activity.

No need to ruin family time with work, social media, or other things that can be done when you’re alone. I cannot stress the importance of this. Don’t miss your real life and your children’s lives by wasting time on screens.

Family meals are important

Study after study shows the benefits of eating together.

Take the time to talk.

Turn off the tv.

Keep the phones away from the table.

If your family gets stuck with conversation, try some conversation starters or the story game where someone starts with a sentence, then the next person takes it from there.

Slow down

So often we have a list of tasks we know we must accomplish, but our kids can sense the rush. Take a deep breath and enjoy the moment with your kids.

Take 10

Take 10 minutes to do whatever your child wants.

Read a book.

Run outside.

Color a picture together.

Just 10 minutes a day can make a difference. Make it a tradition, something your child looks forward to every day.

Don’t strive for perfection

And finally, remember that no one is perfect.

Some days just won’t work out as planned. That’s okay.

Just don’t let every day become that over-rushed day.

Stop the guilt

I see far too much guilt in parenting.

Guilt because you choose to give baby a bottle.

Guilt because you want your baby to sleep through the night.

Guilt because…

It never ends.

I think one big driver of guilt is social media. We see into other people’s lives on Facebook, Pinterest, Instagram or Twitter and compare it to our own. The posts are usually the best parts of their life, but we forget that everyone has the parts they aren’t showing.

Everyone wants to be like someone else on some level. We all have dreams and aspirations to improve. Great. Keep bettering yourself. But don’t suffer from guilt of choices you’ve made. If they are working, great! Keep them.

If they aren’t working, investigate other options and make a positive change. In 4 S’s of Being a Confident Parent, Dr. Escalante discusses the trials parents face and errors parents make and why that’s okay.

Attachment parenting

I came across this great post on the problems with Attachment Parenting.

I think that when people have such strong opinions about anything, it is a set up for failure.

Attachment Parenting can lead parents to feel guilty because they aren’t always there for a child.

You know what? It’s healthy to have alone time.

Parents need to do things with other adults and leave the kids with a trusted adult or mature teen babysitter. It’s just healthy. If you don’t take care of yourself, you won’t take as good of care of your family as you can if you are healthy in mind, body, and spirit.

Enjoy time with your kids.

They won’t be little forever. Make the time to be present in their lives.

One last thought… Here’s an old song that I always think of when I think of busy lives: Cats in the Cradle from Harry Chapin.

Breast is best… Unless it’s not

We’ve all heard the well-intentioned slogan “Breast Is Best” in reference to supporting breastfeeding. Breastmilk is made just for our babies, so yes, it is a great source of nutrition. But it isn’t the only option and there are many reasons mothers give formula and even with exclusive breastfeeding there comes a time that infants need additional sources of nutrition.

I decided to write on this topic because I see so many mothers struggle to feed their baby and they feel like a failure if they don’t exclusively breastfeed.

And then to top it off I saw a blog that encouraged exclusive breastfeeding without any foods or supplements until one year of age.

I knew someone had to counter that thought before it becomes popular.

It shouldn’t be a badge of honor to breastfeed to the point of potential harm to the infant, and some ultra-crunchy moms are bragging about it as if it is.

Mom Guilt Has Gotta Stop

You’re not a failure if you feed your baby, regardless of what you feed your baby as long as it’s age appropriate.

Your baby needs nutrition and hydration.

While most babies under 6 months of age can get all their nutrition from breastmilk, some need a boost, especially at the beginning of life.

If you’re not producing enough milk, you’ll need to give your baby some formula as well (or use a milk donor). Usually this is temporary – just until your own milk supply increases or until your baby starts enough solid foods that the supplement isn’t needed.

I’m not suggesting that every newborn who struggles at the breast should be supplemented, but if your doctor says the baby’s blood sugar is low or the baby is losing too much weight, it’s not only okay, but it’s necessary to supplement.

Benefits of Breast Milk

Most of us have heard by now the many benefits of breastfeeding for the baby, including:

  • Immune system benefits. (Which means fewer infections, meaning not only helping babies stay healthy, but also leading to fewer lost work days for working parents and fewer sleepless nights for all parents.)
  • Decreased risk of Sudden Infant Death Syndrome.
  • Decreased risk of asthma in a child who has breastfed.
  • Decreased risk of diabetes when the baby grows up.
  • Decreased risk of obesity as the baby grows up.
  • Decreased risk of certain cancers in the child, such as leukemia.
  • Improved cognitive development of the child.

Benefits for mothers include:


  • Less bleeding, both in the immediate postpartum period from contracting the uterus after birth, and fewer menstrual cycles during breastfeeding.
  • Decreased risk of getting pregnant while breastfeeding – though this is not 100% effective! If you’re not wanting to get pregnant don’t rely on breastfeeding alone.
  • Easier return to pre-pregnancy weight.
  • Decreased risk of ovarian and breast cancers.
  • Decreased risk of Type II diabetes.
  • Decreased risk of postpartum depression.
  • Decreased risk of heart disease.
  • Less missed work (see immune system benefits above).
  • Cost – breastmilk is free and formula is expensive. Breast pumps should be covered by insurance.

When Breast Milk Isn’t Enough, Isn’t Desired, or Isn’t Safe

Feeding your baby is most important, not what you feed your baby.

Despite the benefits, breastfeeding not always possible or desired.

In the US, 8 out of 10 mothers start breastfeeding during the newborn period.

Only half are still nursing at 6 months, and less than a third are still nursing at 12 months.

The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) recommends exclusive breastfeeding for approximately 6 months, followed by continued breastfeeding for 1 year or longer, as mutually desired by mother and child.

Some AAP sources indicate starting foods at 4-6 months.

The American Academy of Allergy, Asthma & Immunology (AAAAI) recommends introducing foods between 4 and 6 months to prevent certain allergies.

There are very few contraindications to breastfeeding:

Classic galactosemia

Classic galactosemia is a rare genetic condition in which a baby is unable to metabolize galactose.

It is one of the conditions we screen on the newborn screen.

Galactose is the sugar made from the lactose in milk. When galactose is not metabolized, it will reach high levels in the blood and become toxic, causing cataracts in the eyes, damage to the liver and kidneys, and brain damage.

The galactosemic baby will fail to thrive on breast milk or formula based on cow’s milk. The treatment for this condition is to remove all sources of lactose from the baby’s diet and give soy formula.


Mothers who have HIV and are able to feed formula made with safe water should not breastfeed according to current guidelines.

However, there is growing evidence that HIV positive mothers who take proper medications can safely breastfeed.

Untreated active tuberculosis

Treatment makes a difference, so if you’ve potentially been exposed to tuberculosis, talk to your physician and get tested.

Chemotherapy or radiation treatment

There are times that you need to take care of you.

If you require chemotherapy or radiation, do these to improve the chances your baby will have you as a mother. If that means he needs to have formula, that’s okay.

Certain drugs

Most medications are compatible with breastfeeding.

You can look on Lactmed to learn if a particular medicine is safe or what other options are recommended.

Some mothers do not want to breastfeed for various reasons.

That’s okay. It isn’t for everyone.

No one should say things that make these mothers feel guilty. They brought new life into the world. That alone is an amazing feat. As long as the baby is fed age-appropriate and formula that has been approved for use in infants, it is great.

Babies can thrive on formula.

Just be careful of the many alternate formulas and milks that are advertised online.

Discuss with your child’s pediatrician if you plan on making your own formula or giving another alternative milk. There are many concerns with these, as discussed in Please Don’t Feed Your Baby Homemade Formula!

Some mothers really want to exclusively breastfeed but they have problems.

Working with a lactation consultant and physicians (both mother’s and baby’s doctors) might help if there is a correctable condition, such as

  • insufficient breastfeeding attempts per 24 hours – not feeding frequently decreases supply
  • tongue tie treatment can improve latch and milk transfer from the breast into baby
  • jaundice, which makes baby sleepy and not feed as effectively
  • identifying and treating hormonal problems in mother
  • identifying and stopping medicines or herbs that might be inhibiting milk supply
  • stopping nipple shields as soon as possible – the use of nipple shields can decrease breast stimulation and lower supply
  • avoid unnecessary supplements – supplementing with formula can decrease supply overall because the mother’s breast makes milk based on how much is used (This does not mean you should avoid formula if it is medically necessary.)

Even when breastfeeding goes well for both Mother and Baby, it is not sufficient to be the sole source of nutrition for the entire first year of life.

There are some mom blogs that support exclusive breastfeeding for the first year of life, and that is not safe.

I’m not linking any of them here because I don’t want to promote them, but if you don’t believe me just do a quick search and you will find some.

Nutritional needs

While breast milk is fantastic for young infants, it does not have the nutritional components to exclusively feed for the second half of the first year.


Babies need a source of iron after about 4-6 months of age.

If they are not eating foods rich in iron (meats, legumes, egg yolk, leafy greens) they will need an iron supplement.

Many of the bloggers who support exclusive breastfeeding do not want any supplements at all. Just breast milk. It simply isn’t enough to support the older infant’s growing brain and body.

Vitamin D

Vitamin D is important for us all, but it is not passed through breast milk well unless a mother is taking at least 6400 IU/day.

Historically we could make vitamin D with the help of the sun, but we now know that sun damages our skin so it is safer to protect against excessive sun exposure. This puts us at risk for vitamin D deficiency.

The AAP recommends that newborns begin supplementing with 400 IU/day of vitamin D soon after birth, and increase to 600 IU/day at 6 months of age.

The supplement should continue even if they transition to Vitamin D fortified cow’s milk at 1 year of age.

Motor skills

Feeding with food from fingers or a spoon also encourages healthy development of fine motor skills.

It is important for older infants to learn to eat from a developmental standpoint.
Once they can sit fairly well, turn away from food or open their mouth in response to food, they are showing signs that they are ready to start eating.
They don’t need teeth to move foods around in their mouth and make chewing motions.

They are much less averse to new things typically when they’re younger, so if babies are delayed past a year they are much more likely to be picky eaters and not get the nutrition they need during childhood.


Then there’s the research that shows that delaying certain foods past a year increases the risk of allergy. If you’ve ever seen a child with anaphylaxis to peanuts, you won’t want to increase this risk for your child! See the AAP’s guidance on introduction of high-risk allergenic foods.


Any problems feeding should be discussed with your child’s doctor

If your baby struggles with feeding, whether it’s breastfeeding, formula feeding, or eating foods, please discuss it with your child’s doctor.
There are many reasons feeding might not go well, and we need to insure that your baby is being adequately fed.
We will look at your baby’s overall growth and development in addition to discussing the specific details of the problems.


Related Blogs on Quest for Health

Over and Under Supply of Breast Milk

Breastfeeding: Easier for Working Moms with New Insurance Rules

Share Quest for Health