Letting Go of Mom Guilt (and it's not another life hack!)
Here’s one of the most toxic stories I used to tell myself: being a working mom means not giving 100% to either work or my kids.
I love both! But deep down I felt almost apologetic about it. I thought my kids spent too many hours in daycare each day and worried that cutting out on welcome drinks or missing an end-of-the-day email made me a less committed employee. No one ever substantiated either of these concerns but I carried them around nonetheless.
Anything short of being fully available to whatever or whoever needed me felt like half-assing it. And it was uncomfortable because I wanted to be someone who was ALL IN in both areas of my life.
Obviously, this is an impossible standard to meet and didn’t work out well for me. I was forever feeling guilty for not giving “enough” and wearing myself out in the attempt.
One of the silver linings of 2020 is that my work-life and mom-life came crashing together in ways I couldn’t have imagined pre-pandemic. When our daycare closed to everyone who wasn’t an essential worker, I suddenly had to figure out how to get my work done at the kitchen table while my kids watched Sesame Street an arm’s reach away.
It was a sharp (and challenging) adjustment period but I realized a few things that are still helpful today:
1 – Millions of people are doing this, so you’re not alone! Sharing your situation can invite connection and understanding – don’t feel like you need to struggle in silence.
2 – I’m always delighted to see a curious toddler pop into a zoom meeting and it turns out most people feel the same.
3 – Setting priorities is important, but so is scheduling rest, meals, and time outside. Plus it’s easier to give sincere attention when your basic needs are being met. Sometimes doing less actually helps you get more done.
4 – Bring your whole self wherever you go. In reality, there’s no distinction between work me and mom me. So I’ve decided to embrace that my kids will know about my work and my work will know about my kids. As a bonus, I get to be the same me all day long.
Working mom guilt is real. And conquering it is something that I work on continuously.
The biggest lesson I’ve learned is that “life hacks” only get you so far. Hacks are focused on what you do, but for me, the feelings of guilt are more about who I am. Am I the kind of mom that I want to be? What does being a “good mom” even mean to me? Am I focusing on what I think I should do or what I want to do?
Once I’m clear on those things I can think about how to act in alignment with the working mom I want to be. And when I make choices from this perspective, I feel so much less guilty. It might sound simple, but that doesn’t mean it’s easy.
So if you’ve ever balanced your laptop on one leg while your kid used the other leg as a pillow, I see you. And you’re doing a great job!