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. During one of these occasions, my eldest daughter was playing with a friend when this little girl asked, “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’s dead!”
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, I felt this sharp pang of guilt in my stomach. It was 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.
How do we deal with “mommy guilt”?
- Extinguish your superwoman beliefs
We really can’t do it all. We know in business that it’s not a smart strategy to try to be all things to all people. Remind yourself that 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: family and 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.
- 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 rather than thinking about your to-do’s for work or the little things at home that don’t really matter in the long run.
- Speak up
If you’re feeling your schedule is unmanageable, consider if it’s 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.
- 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 has a big impact on others. We need more women leaders in the world to show the younger generations what is possible for girls!
- 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: feeling uncomfortable forces you 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.
- 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.
Blogger Carey-Ann Oestreicher, MBA, BA (Hons.), Chief Engagement Officer, Potential Unlimited
Recipient of a Top 40 Under Forty Business Achievement award, Carey-Ann Oestreicher, owner of the career development firm for women, Potential Unlimited (www.potentialunlimited.ca), holds a MBA and has worked in a variety of senior positions including vice-president level. Her focus is her family and helping women in business find true peace and happiness in their lives while achieving new heights in their careers.
Carey-Ann has been featured in a variety of media because of the success she has experienced with her holistic approach to developing women leaders and entrepreneurs. Her appearances include: CTV’s Canada AM, TSN, CBC News, Global Television, City TV News, The Globe and Mail, Canadian Business magazine, The Toronto Star and The Canadian Press.