Why Do You Have to Go to Work, Mom?

by Alli Polin on March 26, 2013

why do you go to work mom

For years, I would get on an airplane on Sunday night and come home on Friday afternoon.  Early on, I wasn’t married and it felt like I was living a life of great adventure.  When I found someone crazy enough to marry me, I still loved my job but my lifestyle in the air was stopping me from living life on the ground with the one I loved.   I eventually transitioned to work that enabled me to be home more weeks of the month than I was away; life was good.  That’s when the children arrived…

I left the workforce for four years to be with my babies but I still heard the call of a professional life, and I decided to answer.  Initially, I was hardly traveling at all but then the cycle started all over again and it felt like I was spending more time at the airport during flight delays than in my living room.

One night my daughter called me while I was on the road and caught me before a big dinner meeting.  She was crying hysterically and asked me to please come home.  I was calm, loving, and reassuring but her crying did not stop before it was time to end our call.  This was more than a phone call; it was a wake up call.  Within six months I made a radical change away from my senior corporate life and stepped into my own business.

Last week, I travelled for the first time in a while, and after our goodbye hugs and kisses my daughter asked, “I don’t want you to leave.  Why do you have to go, Mom?”  Again, I reassured her and told both children how much I love them but I did not stop thinking about her question.  Why do I have to go?

Why Do You Have to Go to Work, Mom?

Here’s my answer:

I won’t lie to you, I don’t have to go, and it’s my choice.  I’m going not because I want to leave you, but because I love you.  I want to be a role model for not losing myself in my work or defining myself by my work but still showing you what it looks like to work with passion and commitment.  I want you to know that you get to choose too.  When you’re all grown up, your life does not need to look just like mine, your father’s, your grandparent’s, a big CEO, or anyone else’s, it just needs to fit you.

Honey, every time I get on that plane, I don’t forget about you, because you are a part of me.  Having a big, juicy life with work, adventure, family and friends makes me a better person wherever I am.

I’m going because I want to be the best person I can be and that is what I want for you too.  I’m doing meaningful work that matters and I help other people to do meaningful work that matters.  I’m like a domino starting a chain reaction and you are a part of that chain.   You make me a better person than I was yesterday.

Because your father and I both work, we’re fortunate that we also travel, have great adventures and see the world together.  Still, the good stuff doesn’t happen far from home only where our airplane lands.  The BEST stuff happens right here when we all stop our busyness long enough to just focus on each other.  I promise you that I’m coming home and the best is yet to come.

I have the confidence to leave because I know that our family loves me and wants me to come home.  If you waved and said, “See ya!” my heart would be broken.   When I get on the plane, it’s never a one-way ticket.  I’m always coming home to you.

I had my daughter read this post before I published it and her only response was, “Now I understand.  I’m happy that you always come home to us.”

It doesn’t matter if you have children or not or if you’re a man or a woman… you, like me, still make choices that take you far from home – why do you do it? 

(Photo credit)

{ 16 comments… read them below or add one }

Chris March 26, 2013 at 10:15 am

Wow…Alli that was amazing. Thanks for sharing such a personal event! How true this post is to any and all. You are an amazing role-model to professionals everywhere; and most importantly to your children. I can only hope to have a sliver of the essence that makes you tick. You ROCK!


Alli Polin March 26, 2013 at 10:22 am

Chris – The best moment of my week so far was sitting down with my daughter while she read the answer I wrote in this post out loud to her brother. I was touched by her love and it was joined with my hope for her future (and her brother’s too).

You are too kind. A sliver of the essence?? Chris – your authenticity and character shines brightly every day – it reaches me all the way in Australia! Thank you.


Karen Jolly March 26, 2013 at 10:36 am

Alli -thank you for this post! My kids are grown now, but I know the guilt syndrome that we can put ourselves through. I see it in working moms everyday and I hope they ALL read this! The important thing is to share this with our kids so they understand that moms have to be people too. I just smiled thinking how special your daughter must have felt to read this – and proud.


Alli Polin March 26, 2013 at 10:48 am

Thank you, Karen! The guilt syndrome. Yes! That’s it! It’s finding our own personal truth through the guilt that matters and is so tough too. We all make choices that work for us. There is no one size fits all answer or one right path. Many thanks for your comment and connection.


Terri Klass March 26, 2013 at 10:43 am

What a terrific post Alli and so honest! It is so very difficult sometimes to make those kinds of choices. I too have left my children to go to work with a deep feeling inside. All I can say is we must trust our hearts and let our values guide us. Thanks again.


Alli Polin March 26, 2013 at 10:50 am

You’re right, Terri – it can be so tough to make the choice to work or not, to travel or not and the list goes on. My message to my kids is that no matter where we are, our hearts are still connected. Thank you for the reminder that it’s our values that lead the way and to truly know that when we’re making choices in alignment with our values we’re doing the right things.


Blair March 26, 2013 at 11:26 am

Beautiful Alli! A must read for all working mothers. And I am so glad your daugther read the post aloud to your son. A shining example of leadership at home on multiple levels. Brava!


Alli Polin March 26, 2013 at 9:31 pm

Thank you! I was most surprised that the answer wasn’t an easy one to hear without really taking the time to get quiet and listen to my inner-knower. We all make choices and all too often get so caught up in doing we forget to ask ourselves “why?”

Can’t tell you how much I appreciate you, Blair!


Chery Gegelman March 26, 2013 at 2:47 pm


I love that you listen and respond to your children. I love that they can issue a wake-up call, that they can cause you to pause and re-evaluate and more than anything I love that after evaluating you shared your WHY with your daughter and with us!

Thank you!


Alli Polin March 26, 2013 at 9:34 pm

Chery – I can’t describe the moment between my children and I when we discussed my “why.” Even more powerful was truly letting them know that all I want from them is that they do their personal best, that they do things that they love, and that they make choices that fit their lives.

It was quite a wake up call and I’m so grateful I listened deeply enough to hear it!

Many thanks


Jon Mertz March 27, 2013 at 6:47 am

What a great example, Alli! Having these conversations with our sons and daughters helps them as they grow older as well as today in gaining insight in how and why a family works…. Grateful for you sharing this story and insight. Jon


Alli Polin March 27, 2013 at 7:02 am

Thanks, Jon! Sometimes, for just a moment, I wish that there was a rulebook that I could refer to on raising children to ensure I make all of the right choices. Then I come to my senses and back to this present moment and the joy of discovering and learning together. Many thanks for your comment, Jon!


Alice Chan March 27, 2013 at 9:08 am

Great post, Alli! Your daughter is really lucky to have mom like you. You were honest with her, and you’re setting a great example for her in more ways than one. We do indeed make choices all the time, and it’s important to know why we do, as often times, those choices are unconscious and automatic. Your call to action is for us to be more conscious of why we make the choices we do. Thank you!


Alli Polin March 27, 2013 at 9:15 am

Alice – Yes! We all make choices and it’s being aware of what our choices are vs. throwing our arms up and assuming we are helpless to control what we do. Not everyone has the luxury of doing their ideal work but there are moments of choice for all of us every day. Stay late for a meeting, work on the weekend, get on a plane on a weekly basis, go on my child’s field trip on and on. Spending time to figure out our own “why” matters. Thank you for your comment and addition to the conversation!


Yvonne Thrasher March 30, 2013 at 7:18 pm

There is nothing more powerful than EMPOWERING your own children with faith, confidance, and a good work ethic. I think most of us parents would agree that when we sign up to parents we sign up not only to teach them to walk and talk for themselves, but as they grow it is imperative that we teach them how to become self sufficient. That means living the life or “talking the talk” and “walking the walk”. We all want the best for our children but some of us actually take that role very seriously, as we should. The greatest gift you can give your children is being a good role model and being the BEST person God created you to be. Then when they become adults themselves they will desire the same for themselves and their children. That is what leaving a legacy is all about…and it starts with your ability to lead yourself, FIRST.


Alli Polin March 30, 2013 at 9:09 pm


The trick as our children grow is clearly to help the manage the transition from a time where we as parents do everything for them to the point that they are confident, competent and creative adults that are able to successfully meet life’s challenges. Being a role model is essential along this journey. Too many people don’t have great role models and mentors in their lives… why not start at home.

Greatly appreciate your comment and the depth that it brings to this conversation!


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