working mom dilemmaI had waited so long to have my first child and was loving every moment of being a mom. But my maternity leave was coming to an end. It was time for me to return to work — to the job I loved and was good at. But that meant having to leave my son behind. To become a working mom.

I had carried him for nine months. I had been with him every day for 12 weeks. Now I would leave him for more than eight hours each day. I was lucky — my mother and mother-in-law would be watching my son while I worked. He would get to spend quality time with his grandmothers in the comfort of his own home. What could be better? Being with me all the time instead? These are the questions that need to be answered time and time again by a working mom.

For our family, becoming a working mother was the right decision at the time, and it still is. I believe I am a better person because of it. Do I feel guilty for writing that? You bet. But it is the truth for me and many other women. And that is OK. Know why? Because if I feel fulfilled by helping others. That means I feel good about me. When I feel good about me, I can be more emotionally available for my children and my husband.

As a working mother, I feel a lot of guilt. I miss things — school assemblies, play dates. And the juggling that goes on when one of my kids is sick is a whole other story. But guilt is a useless emotion, so I plow through. Instead, I’ve tried to learn from this experience. Here are some lessons I’ve learned:

Never be too proud to accept help.

Being a parent is hard. Combining working and parenting is another category entirely. Help may be hand-me-down clothes, a neighbor picking up the kids for an activity, or a friend who just listens when you need to vent. Help comes in many forms and is an essential part of life. Sometimes you give, and sometimes you receive. But the help often goes away, so take advantage when you can. And offer it to someone else when you are able.

Know that when you first return to work after being on leave, you will not be your most productive self.

You will look at the clock and wonder what your baby is doing. You will feel guilt, try to get some work done, and go home to your family. At some point it will get easier — and you will work hard to catch up. You will question whether it is all worth it, and then you will move on.

Going back to work often brings tears.

Being separated from someone you hold dear is heart-wrenching. It’s OK to cry and move on, even if it is not “professional.”

Ask other working moms for tips.

Learn from those who have paved the way before you. Do they have secrets about pumping at work, getting out the door on time, or meeting deadlines despite the need to pick up the kids from daycare? Ask them — they would be happy to share their insights.

Remember that it is not quantity of time, but quality.

When you are home with your family, be present. Enjoy the moments, even when they are not glamorous (like changing another diaper). Snuggle, laugh, read, and observe the little beings you created.

Your children will only be little once, and one day they will understand the sacrifices you made.

And just think about how you will inspire them by being a super mom who works as well!