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Here's a recovery program for guilt-ridden working moms tired of overcompensating for their absences.

January 11, 2000|ELIZABETH RAPOPORT | SALON.COM

I'm a working mom, and I feel guilty.

Guilty because I can't always be there for my kids.

Guilty because I think going to work is Club Med compared with staying home with small children.

Guilty that I can't keep up with the PTA moms.

Lord knows, I try.

The second-shift moms call it a day once the kids are in bed. Wimps. That's when we third-shift moms are kicking into high gear.

You know our kind: We're up until midnight downloading educational handouts for our kids' classes, writing school newsletters, phoning, planning, collating, sewing.

We're up at 5 a.m. to make cupcakes for the bake sales. The weekends are a blur of soccer games, Girl Scouts, and "Mommy and Me" activities.

We are not well.

Of course we should downshift. Of course we should stop feeling guilty--working moms give our kids positive role models, pay the mortgage, blah, blah, blah. But it isn't easy. We need help.

I propose GuiltEnders, the 12-step program for guilt-impaired working moms:

Step 1: I admit that I have no control over my life, just as I have no control over my family photo dump.

Step 2: I believe that a power greater than myself can restore me to sanity. That power is the trinity of coffee, Kmart and the pizza deliveryman.

Step 3: I will make a decision to turn over my life to the care of God as I understand him. But I do not understand why he invented head lice, nor why he sent our kids home with them.

Step 4: I will take a fearless inventory of myself. I will not do this naked.

Step 5: I will admit to others the exact nature of my mistakes. I will do this over and over and over.

Step 6: I declare I am ready to have a higher power remove all these defects of character. I will transfer them to my husband, coincidentally also a working parent. Let him organize the Rootin' Tootin' Rodeo Read-Aloud.

Step 7: I will humbly ask a higher power to remove my shortcomings, preferably through liposuction.

Step 8: I will make a list of all people I have harmed, including the next stay-at-home mom who says, "You work? I wish I could, but I could never leave my kids with a stranger."

Step 9: I will make amends to anyone I've already hurt, including co-workers I've forced to buy Nutty Buddy Bars, ugly gift wrap, and fund-raiser plush toys of chirpy school mascots.

Step 10: I will continue to take personal inventory. I will say no to sewing any Halloween costume that involves both fake fur and zippers. I will refuse to sit on any steering committee, unless I am sitting and steering a yacht.

Step 11: I will engage in daily prayer and meditation. I will do this in the bathroom, where the kids can't find me.

Step 12: I will spread the good word by helping others with their addiction to overcompensation. Even though I know that if you're a working mom, you won't listen.

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