Raise your hand if you’re a working mom. Now, raise your other hand if you currently feel or have felt guilty in the past for being one. For those of you with one hand up, I applaud you. Not many of us have found the ability to be a proud working mother without feeling the need to apologize for it. Now, for the rest of us who find ourselves with both hands in the air, it’s important to know that you aren’t the only one. I don’t know about the rest of you, but I, for one, have both hands high above me.
I’m a working mom, and at times, I’ve felt a tremendous amount of guilt for pursuing my professional career. But, I’m happy to report that today there is no guilt. Yes, folks that ship has sailed! I’m sure many of you are asking, “So, how did you get to this point?” And I’m sure others of you are even thinking, “Shame on you for not feeling guilty.” Both are fair points, but for me, I needed to learn how to move past the “working mom guilt” and embrace being a working mom. Let’s dive a bit deeper into how I got to this point.
Understanding Working Mom Guilt
There definitely was a point where I felt guilty. As a new mom, I felt it all the time. When I dropped my son off at day care—GUILT. Whenever my son had a crying episode while I was getting ready—GUILT. When I couldn’t volunteer at the school—GUILT. But, I got fed up with it. So, I decided that it was time to find a solution to all the guilt.
It took some soul searching, self-help books (Lean In, Cheryl Sandberg, Multipliers, Liz Wiseman, The Compound Effect, Darren Hardy), countless articles (thanks Google), and speaking to other inspiring women. Through it all, I finally realized that this so-called guilt was all brought on by external factors, AKA society.
Society VS. The Working Mom
Let’s get real, women who work outside the home are held to a different standard than men. Never would you hear society shame a man for working outside the home. Actually, it’s quite the contrary. He’s praised for working hard, providing for the family, and being the breadwinner. But, when it comes to women working outside the home, society doesn’t hold their punches. They openly shame women who work outside the home, making statements like, “Who watches your kids while you’re at work?” or “Don’t you feel that you’re missing out?” or my absolute favorite, “Oh, I quit my job after the birth of my first child, I just couldn’t bear to put her in daycare. I want to spend every moment I can with her. But good for your pursuing your career.”
Like, really? Did you seriously just say that to me? Don’t get me wrong. I respect the many women and men (let’s not forget about the men) who choose to stay at home. It’s a thankless, difficult, and challenging job with little, to no downtime. But the same respect given to stay-at-home parents should be given to women who choose to do both. It’s challenging, frustrating, rewarding, and equally as wonderful.
So, what did I do? I simply decided that those factors no longer had room in my life.
How to Work Past the Mom Guilt
Ok, so you’re probably thinking, “That’s great, good for you for moving past your mom guilt, but how did you REALLY do it?” Let me start off by saying, there are no hard, fast rules. There is no one-size-fits-all approach. My journey was full of trial and error, but I eventually found the right “elixir” that worked for me.
Tip: Block out two, 60-minute sessions in the AM and late afternoon. I call them my “Power Hours.” I learned this technique from Darren Hardy, author of The Compound Effect. It’s been a great technique that has helped me find the time to focus on projects and other tasks.
Clearly communicate your working hours. This is especially important if you have a job that could easily be taken home with you. If you don’t set and communicate boundaries, then there are no boundaries. When this happens, your work time can quickly cut into your family time.
For me, I have communicated to my colleagues that unless it is an emergency, I will respond in the morning. This allows me to check my messages on my timetable, but I do not feel obligated to respond. Weekends are also off limits unless it’s an absolute emergency.
Tip: Have a resting place for your phone. Maybe that’s in the kitchen next to your purse or on your nightstand. Wherever it is, put your phone there and walk away. At first, you’ll feel naked, disconnected from the world, and uneasy. But, it’s crucial to keep your work out of your family time. Check out the book Thrive by Arianna Huffington. This book is great and really helps working women define success while achieving a work-life balance.
Networking— Get to Know Your Neighbors
We’ve all heard the saying “it takes a village.” Well, it does! If it wasn’t for my mother, close friends, and getting to know my neighbors, raising our son would be much more difficult. Networking, joining social clubs, and surrounding yourself with supportive people is important, especially if you want to balance a professional career and home.
That being said, make sure to return the favor. Something as simple as being in charge of your sons’ carpool once a month or shuttling the kiddos to swim team practice once a month. Regardless how you do it, make sure it’s a give and take situation, otherwise, your village will dwindle down to just you.
Not all jobs are flexible; but, if you are in a position where you can ask for flexibility, then don’t hesitate. Having a child can be unpredictable, so, if you have the ability to work from home, then work with your company to make that into a reality.
Maybe flexibility comes in the form of working longer shifts four times a week or coming in later in the day. Whatever you need, it never hurts to ask!
Build a Team
If you’re doing everything at work, then something is wrong. Learn to empower others, teach, mentor, and build a team so that you can delegate tasks or projects. By empowering others and building their talents, you can focus on the projects that need the most attention, allowing you to better balance work and home life. Don’t try to do it all yourself!
Chores and Responsibilities
Home shouldn’t be any different than your business. Everyone should do their part. My son is twelve and this year was the very first year he started to help mow the lawn. Now, every Thursday, my husband weed-eats and edges the lawn while our son mows. This is his new responsibility that he’s accountable for. We make sure that our entire “home” team is doing their part to make our household run like a well-oiled machine.
Last, but certainly not least, schedule self-care. First, sleep. Let me say this again, SLEEP. If you don’t get enough sleep, your mental health, concentration, quality of work, and your ability to be on your “A” game will suffer.
Just as important as sleep, keeping fit will also help keep you on your game. Scheduling an hour in the middle of the day to workout at lunch or waking up an hour early to get a run in helps.
Tip: Even if you can only arrange 15 minutes to yourself for this, you can still make the most of it with Tabata workouts (track your workouts with the Tabata Stopwatch Pro app – iTunes, Google Play). What is Tabata you ask? These are short workouts (15-30 minutes) that are high-intensity for the duration. This packs the most punch in a short time. You can get some Tabata workout ideas from our Pinterest page.
Find what works for you, maybe even invent something new. Whatever allows you to be the best mother, wife, partner, and working professional without any of the guilt, I fully support it! Once you’ve figured it out or if you’ve already found what helps you, let me know. I’d love to hear what worked for you!