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Enough with the Mommy Guilt!

November 3, 2016

Once a week, my husband picks up our girls at school instead of them taking the bus home. On these afternoons, my family likes to linger longer at the school playground with some of their friends who walk home or get picked up right at the school.  During one of these occasions, my eldest daughter was playing with a friend when this little girl asked her, “Did your Mommy die?” My daughter told her I was still alive. “Well, she never picks you up from school. I thought because I never see her, she is dead!” said the friend.

Later that evening, my daughter told me what was said by her friend. Initially, I wasn’t sure if I should laugh or cry. After that comment sat with me for a moment, I felt this sharp pang of guilt in my stomach. Yes, the dreaded Mommy guilt that most working Moms experience at some point or another.

I felt like a bad Mom. I ‘should’ be picking up my daughters more often. But notice whenever we use the word ‘should’ in a sentence the action becomes more about what we think other people expect of us versus what is right for us and our families. No one knows what life is like for each family.

My second thought was ‘this girl has a stay-at-home Mom and she isn’t recovering from a brain injury.’  I asked my daughter if her friend’s Dad ever picks her up at the school and she said no. It was interesting that at this early age there is already a gender bias for that girl who thinks that Moms do the child duty and Dads do the work. But, as we know that is a problematic theory for most of us working women, many of which had stay-at-home Moms ourselves. Our strongest role models in life were those ladies who baked home-cooked meals, spent the most time with us and kept the house clean.

Fast forward the clock to our generation where we were told as little girls we could do anything we wanted in our careers and we have aspired to be our best. But, we still haven’t been able to let go of the beliefs deeply ingrained within us that we should be the ones taking our kids to school and being the primary caregiver, too.

How do we deal with this nagging feeling of ‘Mommy Guilt?’

  1. Extinguish your superwoman beliefs – We really can’t do it all. We know in business that it is not a smart strategy to try to be all things to all people so remind yourself, this is not smart to do at home either.  If you are working out of the house, outsource your cleaning, shopping, whatever you can. Most Moms I know have two major priorities, which is their family and doing fulfilling work. Try to eliminate all of the little stuff from your life so you can spend more quality time doing the things you love.
  2. Focus on quality moments when you are with your family – When was the last time you looked deeply into your children or partner’s eyes when they spoke to you? This allows them to feel like they have your full attention and it also keeps your brain present versus thinking about your to do’s for work or the little things at home that don’t really matter in the long run.
  3. Speak up – If you are feeling your schedule is unmanageable, consider if it is time for you to share this with your leader. There may be options you can explore around working from home a few days a week, reducing travel, getting a coach to help you deal with the feelings of overwhelm or even working part-time. Like my Grandfather would always say, “Where there is a will, there is a way!”
  4. Working is not a bad thing – Sometimes when we feel overwhelmed by life’s demands, it can feel like work is the devil. You may begin to feel resentful towards your job and the time it is taking away from your family. In these cases, you have to be responsible for finding a way to set boundaries for yourself and the job, knowing you will burnout if you don’t. But also, work can be a positive thing from the perspective of your children. It teaches them independence, the value of work and that you are a strong woman who is willing to put yourself out there and do a job that has a big impact on others.  We need more women leaders in the world to show the younger generations what is possible for girls!
  5. Mommy Guilt could be a sign of a bigger problem – If you feel like you are going off the rails in your life with high demands at work and home, Mommy guilt might actually just be the straw that broke the camel’s back. The real issue may be around working in a career that isn’t fulfilling or having an over-scheduled life outside of work.  In this case, the Mommy Guilt may be a gift in that it makes you feel uncomfortable so you begin to reflect on what you really want out of life and work. This reflection may lead you to make some changes in your life that feel more in tune with what you really want.  Remember, feeling discomfort is not a bad thing. It often prompts us to make some of the biggest changes towards a deeper level of growth in our lives.
  6. Cut yourself some slack – Remember you can’t do it all. Tell yourself you are doing the best you can. When you go home from work tonight, look into your child’s eyes. Hug and kiss them, tell them you love them. Laugh with them. Forget about the details and organization in life for a while. Just be you. A woman who loves her child, and for that time, all the rest of the world will slip away.

Find out more about my After-the-Baby Coaching Programs for Moms balancing demands of busy career and home lives.

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