We all have it. That nagging feeling that we are letting someone down: our children, our boss, our spouse, ourselves. When we’re at work, we feel guilty that our kids are in after-school care; when we’re at home with a sick child, or chaperoning a field trip, we feel guilty about not responding to emails or not attending a team meeting. Mommy guilt is all too real for most moms, but for moms who work full-time and are out of the house for 40+ hours a week, the guilt multiplies exponentially. Here are five tips that I have collected and implemented (with varying levels of success) to minimize my mom guilt.
1. Be present
When at work, focus on work (confession: this part of the equation has really never been a problem for me) and when at home, focus on family. I try to do this in a couple of ways:
If there are things still left on my to-do list as I’m leaving, I get them rescheduled and juggle my other priorities accordingly so I have a new plan and am not wondering at home how I will ever get everything done when I should be listening to my kids about the really cool art project they did at school.
I put my phone away when I’m at home with my kids. I am seriously distracted by that little bugger, so away it goes. No emails, no texts until after the kids go to bed on a weeknight (my husband is reading this and calling me a liar right now, to which I point out that I said “I try!” Obviously there are exceptions to every rule, but I stick to this as best I can). Putting the electronics away during family time sets a good example for our kids too.
Finally, if I have to work at home, I do it after the kids go to bed – and being a morning person, I’m very careful about what work I will and won’t do so late!
2. Learn to say “no”
This is the hardest one for me and many other women. As a Christian, I have been taught to serve others; as a high-achiever, I have been taught to build my resume; and I have a hard time disappointing people (hence the working mom guilt). I currently chair two committees at work and sit on a third. Outside of work, I sit on two advisory boards, co-lead a Bible study and serve in the church nursery.
But I am learning to say “no” to opportunities that don’t fall into one of the areas of my life that I am currently called to: serve in our church, raise our children, do the best I can to support the mission of TCU.
Check out my three-step process for identifying what commitments to avoid.
3. Share your work with your children (and vice-versa)
Good communication is important to me. I want my children to understand the why behind my distraction or the frustration I carry home from work, so I discuss my work with them much in the same way that I encourage them to tell me all about their day at school. They know my colleagues by name and cheer the Horned Frogs on in all sporting events. (Just before Brady turned two, we spent a lot of time watching the TCU Baseball team play in the College World Series and taught him to chant, “Rah, rah, TCU!” After the end of the season, we had the PGA tour on TV and he came into the room and yelled his sweet little TCU chant at the top of his lungs!) I have also brought them to work a number of times when I take a day off.
I know that not everyone’s job is conducive to bringing little ones around, but if you can do it, I think it’s great! It allows your kids to picture where you work and what you do every day and it allows your colleagues to put faces and personalities to those names that can unexpectedly drag you away from the office.
4. It takes a village, so find the best villagers
Knowing that my children are well cared for and happy is the key to my ability to focus on work at work. They both LOVE their schools, their friends and their teachers. Both of my children are extremely social and having them in a full time day care center / preschool was the best for them as is the extended-day program at the elementary school. Every child is different though, and some are better off with family members or an in-home day care if that is an option. We did a lot of research into programs and teachers before making any selections.
5. Remember that you’re not alone
There is a whole community of working moms just like you out there! So go to happy hour and discuss your latest blunder over a glass of Cabernet. Chances are you aren’t the only one who’s done it. And check out my resources page for other communities to connect with. I’m always looking to grow it, so please share your resources with me!