Marla Sokoloff’s Blog: Searching for the Mommy Guilt Handbook
Since audiences first got to know her at age 12 as Gia on Full House, Sokoloff has had many memorable TV roles — Jody on Party of Five, Lucy on The Practice, Claire on Desperate Housewives – as well as turns on the big screen in Whatever It Takes, Dude, Where’s My Car? and Sugar & Spice.
Sokoloff, 32, also sings and plays guitar and released an album, Grateful, in 2005.
She wed her husband, music composer Alec Puro, in November 2009 and the couple — plus pup Coco Puro — make their home in Los Angeles.
Courtesy Marla Sokoloff
Well, I finally did it. I said I would never — and truly wasn’t sure I could ever — but I did it … I left Elliotte behind in Los Angeles so I could travel to work in Chicago for nine long days.
Before you judge and allow your jaw to drop at the thought of leaving your child behind to work out of town, let me explain why I chose to not take her along for the journey.
The hours on set can be incredibly long, sometimes the workday begins before my daughter wakes and ends long after she goes to sleep. I was risking her not seeing me at all for most of my stay. Also, Elliotte (like most children) is a complete creature of habit; she loves her toys, her dog, her walks, her play dates and her bed. Taking her away from all of that didn’t seem completely fair. In fact, the more I thought about it, the decision to take her with me seemed more selfish than selfless.
It was a decision that I agonized over as I haven’t spent one single day away from her in her entire 21 months of life, but at the end of the day, I realized she would be way happier with my husband and the help of our trusted nanny while I was gone.
Both my mom and my mother-in-law live close by and were ready to jump in if need be. (Let’s be honest — they were both chomping at the bit to steal Elliotte for a sleepover!) It truly takes a village!
While away, I was flooded with conflicting emotion. I love what I do — always have, always will. It feels incredibly familiar to be on set as this is a job I’ve had for 20 plus years. But for 21 months, it has had a whole new feel.
I’m no longer the nomad actress who travels around the world within a day’s notice. I’m now a mommy. Not only does my sweet daughter depend on me, but also my husband depends on me in ways he never has before.
Courtesy Marla Sokoloff
I can’t just hop on a plane on a Friday to start work on a Monday in Ireland or something of the like as I had in the past. There are so many variables, so many pieces to the family puzzle that need to be just so before I can take a job. This is primarily why I haven’t worked outside of Los Angeles since her birth.
Of course the main reason for me hunkering down was my intense desire to work in L.A. and keep our family together, but the second biggest hurdle is I just can’t seem to get past the intense guilt I feel about breaking up my family so I can continue to pursue my dream.
So that leaves me to the ever-present question that my friends and I just can’t seem to answer: Can we be working mommies without the working mommy guilt?
This question doesn’t just pertain to me as an actress obviously — it affects every mom who decides that staying home full time isn’t for them or isn’t possible for their family. Whatever the case may be, I’ve come to realize that doing it all — and feeling 100 percent successful at both — just isn’t something I’ve mastered yet. I’m starting to wonder if I ever will.
I don’t want to say the cliché we can’t HAVE it all. That feels crazy to me because just being able to have a family in and of itself feels like having it all in my humble opinion. But we still want to maintain some of our old pre-baby self — I understand because I do too.
I sobbed and sobbed and SOBBED in my bedroom as the car waited outside to take me to the airport. I got it all out before saying goodbye to Elliotte because everyone kept telling me that my perpetual tears might scare her. (Why? Would your hysterical snot-covered mom scare you?)
I knew I had nine long days ahead of me without my baby and it was going to be brutal, but I also had this other side of me that was crazy excited to start a new job. I was riddled with guilt. Anytime I had an adrenalized thought about going to shoot or what my days on set would be like, they were quickly squashed with feelings of remorse.
Why did I feel so bad about something I had worked so hard for? Something I did for most of life before having a child? Suddenly it became the other woman in my life if you will, this scandalous affair that I snuck out of town to spend time with and felt so wrong paying any attention to. Even something small like ordering room service felt so overindulgent I was ashamed to tell my husband when he called to say goodnight.
My time in Chicago was wildly eye-opening for me. In typical girl fashion, I talked about my self-diagnosed mommy guilt with any mommy friend that would listen and came to the conclusion that the majority of us feel this way no matter what the circumstances.
Courtesy Marla Sokoloff
I’m back to work in Los Angeles and I still can’t shake the feeling of letting my little girl down as I leave for the day. I do the best I can to make sure she is taken care of and has all the comforts she needs while I’m gone, but when that scraped knee happens and she is crying for Mommy, it truly breaks my heart that I’m not there to kiss it for her.
I decided to dig a bit deeper. I rallied a few of my mommy friends together and asked them how they do it because they all seem to be kicking butt in every facet of their lives and I wanted some tips.
The question was: “Do you have mommy guilt while working and if so, do you have any tips or tricks to make it easier on you or your child?”
Here are their answers …
Lindsay Sloane (Actress & Maxwell’s mommy)
Yes! When I’m at home and exhausted from playing hide-and-seek for the 25th time all I think about is how I wish I were working. Then, when I am working, all I do is sit and stare at pictures of Maxwell and feel horrible guilt and sadness that I am not with her (although I did recently read a WHOLE magazine at work and that was a very exciting day).
To combat the guilt I make sure that her day will be busy (having a nanny that I trust means everything), I call and FaceTime when I can (especially to say good night), and I have her come visit me at work for lunch or dinner if it’s possible. My heart goes out to the working moms who may not have these luxuries. It’s tough to feel torn between two worlds.
Stacy Marble (Deputy Chief of Staff for L.A. City Councilman Tom LaBonge & Eleanor’s mommy)
I actually don’t feel mommy guilt about working. I think it’s healthy for me to work. I’m serving as a role model for my daughter. My mommy guilt seeps in when I’m frantically getting ready for work and she is on the iPad watching Barney.
Zoe Winkler Reinis (Teacher & Ace’s Mommy)
I definitely have guilt! Especially when my friends are planning fun things with the kids and I can’t join because I have work. There was a day a few weeks ago that Ace was sick with a stomach virus. I had to go to work and he cried hysterically when I left, which never happens. I got in the car and hysterically cried and then called Robert (my husband) and yelled at him, which made me feel slightly better and then of course, worse.
As for tricks, I try and make sure that when I am home I am really focused on Ace. On my days off, we do music class together and have a play date every week which is fun.
Honestly I am lucky that I only work three days a week and I believe that it is harder on me than it is on Ace. I have an AMAZING support team and my nanny and I communicate all day and I trust her with every part of my being which makes it easier.
Courtesy Marla Sokoloff
So Mommies (and Daddies!) — what do you think? Do you feel this dreaded guilt? I would love to hear from those of you that do as well as from those of you who don’t have it.
Let’s discuss. Leave a comment below or send me a Tweet @marlasok.
– Marla Sokoloff