I know that the holidays are an especially stressful time of year. This year, however, seems more hectic than previous years. I’ve had to make several business trips, host an office holiday party, play Santa, run a business, celebrate my son’s December birthday, and stay-on-top of all of my other responsibilities as a mom.
While I wouldn’t have it any other way, there are moments when I do feel guilty about not spending as much time with my children. But, do I really feel guilty about not being around my kids 24/7? Or, is there something more to it?
Well, I believe that society has really set the bar here. In fact, according to the Pew Research Center, 71% of Americans believe that children are better off with a parent at home. It also doesn’t help when you read about stay-at-home-moms, like this women, who create a fantasy world where you can rest when your child is taking a nap or having the time to make dinner from scratch.
The reality is that a majority of women do work. And, even if you are a SAHM, you still have a ton of obligations that don’t allow you such luxuries as taking naps or preparing meals from scratch. Also, as noted in the book Mom Guilt by Emma Johnson, one study found that modern working moms spend just as much time with their daughters as stay-at-home moms did in the 1970’s.
Now, don’t get me wrong. There are definitely times when I’m in my office wishing that I could be there watching my daughter dance throughout the day or being able to pick my son up earlier from school — he definitely let’s me have when I’m running late! But, that’s just not possible. And, while it’s never easy to admit, that’s OK. We shouldn’t have to feel guilty about being a mom and a professional. Besides, feeling guilty doesn’t actually change our future behavior.
So, instead of beating yourself up, here’s nine ways that you can overcome that working mom guilt.
1. Be open and transparent about how you feel.
First, “guilt” means different things to different women. For some, this could be anxiety, stress, incompoment, mental and physical exhaustion, or even relief that you can get out of the house. These are all common and vaid emotions. But, you can’t overcome your “guilt” until you’ve identified what you’re really feeling. Once you do, you can still looking for resolutions. For example, if you’re feeling stressed out, then you can try mindfulness, exercising, and setting boundaries like not answering your phone when your with kids.
And, don’t be afraid to talk to someone like your partner, parent, or best friend. They may have some advice on how to help you cope with your guilt. And, sometimes, we just need to vent to someone else.
2. Determine if you really did something wrong.
Guilt is often brought on because we feel that we did something wrong. Your children falls and gets a small bruise, but you can’t attend to them right now because you’re on an important business call. In this case, it’s understandable why you feel guilty. You put work ahead of your child. But, that’s ultimately your call based on your priorities. Yes. Your child is hurting, but was it bad enough to cut your cal short?
This may sound cold. But, there are times when we need to put ourselves and our career first.
3. Set realistic expectations.
Karly Wood, the editor of Life As Mama, explains this perfectly. At some point “being a ‘good parent’ has evolved into the ultimate helicopter, I’m my kid’s best friend, I go to every award ceremony, game and activity and I look happy while doing it parent.” However, this is completely impossible “and you will probably spend your evenings contemplating all the things you should have done.”
She add that “even a stay at home mom can’t/doesn’t want to go to every event, read bedtime stories, cook every meal, get up in the morning.”
Just remember that, you’re “doing an amazing and brave thing by working, and you can’t physically do it all. Give yourself grace and allow for real life to happen.”
4. Be willing to change and go with the flow.
We’re all human and make mistakes. Instead of dwelling on those mistakes, learn from them and make the appropriate changes so that you can start going a little more with the flow.
This is never easy. But, to get started I suggest you check out Byron Katie’s 2002 book, Loving What Is. In the book Katie suggests that you answer four questions that can help you identify what’s hurting you, in this case guilt, so that you can turn them around.
- Is it true? (If Yes, go to #2. If no, go to #3.)
- Can you absolutely know if it’s true? (Yes or no)
- How do you react or how do you feel when you believe that thought? (the answer may be that you feel guilty)
- Who would you be without this thought?
For example, your five minutes late picking-up your child from a friends house because you had a meeting that lasted longer than expected. Your thought may be, “I just ruined my child’s entire afternoon.” Is this really true? They may be a little agitated, but I doubt the rest of the day is now ruined. In this case,I would say that this really isn’t true so go ahead and jump to the third question and turn this thought around to, “My entire afternoon is ruined because I’m running five minutes late.” Again, it’s frustrating, but not true. The idea here is that when you turn your thoughts around you realize that some of those guilty feelings aren’t true and you can start going more with the flow.
5. It’s OK to let things go.
I’ll keep this one short. Sometimes, you just have to let certain things go.
If you’re exhausted and want to have quality time with your kids, then don’t worry about the dishes right now. They can get cleaned a little later. If it’s bed time and you’re reading with your child, respond to that email after they’ve gone to bed. If you can’t make a school or extracurricular activity see if a family member, neighbor, or friend can go in your place and record it for you to watch later.
6. Have individual time.
I recently wrote blog post that discussed the value of spending one-on-one time with children and how to make it happen. Without re-hashing it too much, getting in that individual time creates a stronger bond between you and your child and shows that they’re valued. Of course, this isn’t always an easy task, but you can make this one-on-one by giving them your full attention and not buried in your phone, bringing them along on errands, and creating routines.
If time is a real issue, start with 15 minutes a day like having a conversation with them before bed or occasionally taking a personal day and spending the entire day with them.
7. Put some space between you and the people who make you feel guilty.
Whether if it’s a family member, friend, neighbor, or someone you’ve never met online, there will be people who will make you feel guilty. If possible, avoid these negative forces — you can always block people on social media!
But, what about family members? You can’t block them or get into an argument. Instead, try not spending as much time with them, leave the room to cool down, or change the conversation. If this becomes a frequent problem, calmly explain that it’s your life and that you and your children are healthy, happy, and fulfilled.
I’d also suggest that you spend more time with a supportive mom squad. This could be a mentor like a female leader at work, reading articles and books about successful mothers, or joining a professional organization or amazing membership site.
8. Work on time management.
This is another topic I’ve discussed before, so I don’t want to go too much into this, but if you feel that you aren’t spending enough time with your family then try out some quick time management tips like waking-up earlier, setting office hours, delegating certain tasks, grouping errands and tasks by similarity or location, and assessing your time to see where’s it actually being spent.
9. Don’t feel guilty about being a working mom.
For as much as we love our children and want to spend as much time with them as possible, it’s also OK to admit that you also enjoy being a working woman.
Whether if it’s the small pleasures, such as talking about a TV show with colleagues, or feeling fulfilled because of your professional accomplishments, just remember there’s nothing wrong with admitting that you’re happy working.