A mom friend of mine sent me a picture this week. It showed her perched on the (closed!) pedestal on the toilet, resting her laptop on the toilet paper holder, while her daughter peeked over the side of the bath-tub doing her evening bathing routine. This is a working mom living in the age of Covid-19. Juggling two jobs at once, but feeling like you’re doing neither one to the best of your ability. But even when the pandemic has passed, the mom guilt stays.
What can you do to help alleviate the guilt of having to balance your working responsibilities with those of being a good parent? Working mom guilt can paralyze us with stress and trigger our instincts of fight or flight – which, during the pandemic, are already heightened.
Ways You Can Ease Working Mom Guilt
The very first thing you can do is simply to breathe deeply. When you’re in the moment of heightened guilt, merely taking a few breaths can help put much-needed space between you and the situation.
Longer-term, you can seek to change your perspective on your guilt. Is it so bad for your child that they see mom working and having to prioritize her time? It sets an excellent example for your children and shows them that they can do or be anything they want to be, after all.
Right now, you are not able to drop your kids off at childcare or school. Have you noticed how much clingier to you they are now that they have you around 24/7?
Ordinarily, you can rest assured that despite your child’s tears at seeing you go (and possibly your own), you’re letting your child grow and form their thoughts and feelings and make personal friendships – without always looking to you for affirmation. You can relieve yourself of the guilt of letting them be in the care of someone else while you work.
However, in conversations with your child’s carers, how have you felt when it was someone else who was there for them when they cried? What about when you weren’t there for a milestone? Did you feel guilt and sadness that someone else spends more waking hours with your child, and might know them better than you?
There is a loneliness that settles into your heart as you learn how to juggle this new normal. I know you question if you are good enough—good enough at work, good enough as a mom, good enough as a spouse because I’ve thought and felt and carried all of these emotions too.
Letting go of the guilt comes with acceptance. Accepting that this is what is, and not hanging on to what SHOULD be.
This is especially true now, where we have not only had to juggle the roles of parent and employee, but also become our child’s teacher and playmate. How much guilt do you feel when you switch on the television or hand them a tablet to entertain themselves and ask them to be quiet while you try to conduct a meeting on zoom?
Knowing that it’s ok to be ‘good enough’ but not perfect, will give you more peace than trying to do everything correctly. You are not going to be the perfect mother. You are not going to be the ideal employee. And that’s ok. You are good enough, and that’s all you have to be.
It’s essential to establish your boundaries with your workplace. Your boss knows you’re a mom, and when you clock out promptly, it’s not your lack of ambition or slacking off. It’s merely that you have other responsibilities that you have to balance. They should hopefully be understanding of that.
You’re not a bad employee because you’re a mom, any more than you’re a bad mom for working.
If you hate your job, but you do it to be able to pay the bills, then you are providing the means to create a childhood with a safe place to sleep and good things to eat.
When you have a job you love, and you do it because you are passionate about your cause, you are creating a childhood where little girls grow up to achieve their dreams and little boys see their moms and sisters and aunts and future daughters as equals.
Who Do You Surround Yourself With?
Think about who you surround yourself with? Do they support you, or mom-shame you? You’ll feel much lighter if you surround yourself with other moms and people who support you, and not those who tell you what you “should” be doing.
Don’t Follow The Rules
If you can stop following other people’s rules, you’ll achieve a step in relieving yourself of working mom guilt. Forget the rules. When you feel working mom guilt, ask yourself, “What’s the worst that can happen if I break the rules?” Your answer can bring you back to your reality.
It’s not only when you’re suffering mom guilt that you need to limit your own screen time, but it will help you to limit your distractions. When you do have time with your child, try to give them your attention for the short time you’re with them. This can be very challenging when you’ve already been pulled in every direction at work all day. But freeing yourself from other people’s perfectly curated lives, and being present for your child will give you far more peace of mind. And the ability to be a present and conscious parent.
Do It At Your Own Pace
Take one day at a time. Don’t keep looking to the future weekends or vacations. Just focus on getting through today. After all – eight hours is far more manageable than five days.
Think about how working makes you feel? Do you feel like a more well-rounded and grounded person for going to work? Your child will benefit more from a good role model, and happy mommy, than from one who feels bored or unfulfilled. That’s not to say mommies who stay home ARE bored and unfulfilled, but if you are someone who enjoys going to work, that won’t change when you also have a family.
Don’t Judge Yourself
We are all our harshest critics. Especially when working motherhood is such a significant part of our identity. Have you ever forgotten something at your child’s school? A PJ day or pot luck? Or felt guilty that other parents put together a perfect Valentine’s gift bag for the entire class, while your offering lacked the same detail and imagination?
To stop beating yourself up, reserve self-judgment. Think about the bigger picture. Will, any of those moments of guilt affect your child’s performance in school? We all forget things, and no one is perfect, and you can release yourself from the self-judgment.
It is ok to make mistakes and to help yourself you can learn from them.
Getting organized will help, and your phone is your friend. Set reminders, and use apps or planners that will remind you of everyone’s schedules.
Would you be a better mom if you only had one full-time job, and not two? It’s easy to think that perhaps stay-at-home moms are happier because they are not trying to do it all.
Mom Christy Lilley admits she’s asked herself that question many times. She says that she agrees that their lives would be less stressful and more manageable if she wasn’t working. “Things would be calmer, our weekends and nights would be less hectic,” she says.
However, she adds that she doesn’t think that she would be happier and that maybe it’s easy to believe that the grass is always greener.
We can accept working mom guilt isn’t going to go away completely. But you can work towards alleviating that guilt and see the positives of being a working mom.
If you like this blog post, then check out 7 Ways You Can Stop Boredom For Your Kids At Home.
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A 3xTEDx speaker, media contributor, parenting coach, and a mom of two - helping families thrive by using the Guidance Approach to Parenting.