Feeling you’re not doing a good enough job as a parent? Worrying about the effects of your working life on your children? Staying up at night with guilt about not baking cookies for the class party?
You’re not alone! Millions of working mothers just like you beat down on themselves for the time spent away from home and the kids, even though it’s for work. And on the rare occasion that they take out time for themselves, or even contemplate doing so, the inner critic has its heyday.
So let me begin by saying one simple thing – stop worrying! Your children will be just fine. More than fine. Studies show that they’ll be caring and responsible. They’ll be resilient and they’ll learn to prioritize. And research even indicates that they’ll end up earning more. Now that should wipe away some of the guilt and bring a smile to your face!
So stop shoulding on yourself. Stop comparing your struggles with other people’s well kept homes and well groomed children. Stop setting the bars so high for yourself that you constantly come up short.
And remember these 3 nuggets of wisdom so you begin to embrace the joy of motherhood instead.
Your children don’t need your guilt
When I think back to my own childhood, I certainly didn’t have my parents driving me around to every activity in town and reading to me in bed every single night. There were those moments for sure, but there were also tons of times when I was left to fend for myself, or when I was the one making sure my brothers did their homework. And my mother didn’t even work outside of the home! But she didn’t suffer from guilt – and I was none the worse for it.
Parenting today is so different – we’re bombarded by endless unspoken rules that have become the ‘shoulds’ that dictate our lives. Everywhere we look, there’s a column, a book or a talk by an expert who tells us how a ‘good’ parent should be – and somehow its often starkly different to how we are…No wonder we feel burdened by guilt and shame every time we take a closer look at ourselves.
The reality is that our children don’t need our guilt. What they need is our presence – whether its for half an hour over dinner or for 15 minutes at bedtime. No multi-tasking, no technology, no mental chatter of the day at work. They need us to tune in to their world, and make them feel loved, heard, appreciated. And that’s the greatest gift we can give them.
You’re not Supermom
I once read somewhere that you don’t have to be a perfect mom to be a great one. And boy is that true! In fact perfection is what keeps us from being a great parent many times, because perfection is rarely about our children – its about our own need to feel valued and worthy. Instead, if we were to step out of our own world and into that of the our children, we realize that they really don’t need mom to be cheering at every game, creating online albums for every milestone, or welcoming them home from school with goodies straight from the oven.
What they do need is a mother who is happy and good-humored, who can calm their fears instead of adding her own, and who can make them feel valued so they grow up into secure and well-balanced adults.
So lower the bars you set yourself, and accept the tradeoffs that come from being a working mother. Instead of focusing on what you lose, focus on what you gain in the process. Focus on the reduced financial stress. Focus on the personal fulfillment from your work. And focus on the joy of spending quality time with your children when you are with them.
You don’t need criticism
Criticism that comes from well-meaning friends and family is called feedback. We need to listen to it, because its often a source of growth and learning. But criticism that comes from women who thrive on critiquing other women’s parenting proficiency to feel good about themselves, or to justify their own decision to stay at home, are surely not your best source of feedback. Remind yourself that there is no one right way of raising your children – and you can safely shed their unsolicited advice.
And when the source of criticism is your own self, remember that our children are more resilient than we give them credit for. They’ll survive your absence at their soccer game, they’ll get over the missed party, they’ll forgive you for forgetting their friend’s birthday, as long as they know that you love them dearly and are doing the best you can.
Because you are! You’re treading a tightrope every day. You’re working incredibly hard to fulfill your work responsibilities while also wiping your little one’s tears and tending to their cuts and bruises. You come home after a stressful day at work only to sign up for a second shift at home that never ends.
You deserve compassion, not criticism. You deserve encouragement and appreciation. You deserve to feel proud of what you’re achieving and to embrace the joys that come with it.
Give yourself all of the above in abundance – and soon the guilt won’t find a place to stay.
I’d love to now hear from you! How do you manage working mother’s guilt? What are the thoughts and practices that have helped you the most?