Mommy guilt is real. You will experience it from time to time regardless if you're new at working motherhood or not. About four in ten working moms said they don't spend enough time with their children. Where 18% of part-time working moms and 11% stay-at-home moms said the same according to a Pew Research Center survey.
The good news is that with practice, mommy guilt can stop paralyzing you. Use one of these eight tips to release mommy guilt and get on with your life!
Decide If You're Done Something Wrong
Your guilt could be brought on because you made a bad choice. Did your child need you, but you had an important business call first thing, so instead of giving them a five-minute hug, you rushed them out the door? Then, yeah, you're guilty of putting work before your kid, but it's your call if what you did was wrong. What was your top priority at that moment? Was the business call that important, or could you have cuddled for a few minutes?
To help release the mommy guilt, think of the airplane emergency oxygen mask. We all make our kids the priority, but there will be times when you need to put yourself or your career first. And that's OK.
Create an Anti-Mommy Guilt Credo
Here's a quick way to release mommy guilt because you had to leave your child to go to work. Try to create an anti-mommy guilt credo based on why you work. Start brainstorming by answering these questions:
- What motivates you to get out of bed and head to the office every day?
- What are your big work accomplishments, and why should the world know about them?
- What are your professional values?
- Why did you choose to become a working mom?
Next, take the answers to these questions and make a statement, or credo, that you can tell yourself when mommy guilt bubbles up. This credo will give you the willpower to move past the guilt and reassure you that you're making the right choice. If you suffer from writing block, perhaps there's a warning sign that you missed. Go back to the first tip for help.
Get Some Space From People Who Cause You Guilt
Did someone say something that made you feel mommy guilt? Set a personal boundary that says you'll keep your distance from that person, or you won't bring up whatever subject matter that caused you guilt. Relatives can be trickier. If your mother-in-law makes a snide comment about you working, find an excuse to leave the room. This better than stabbing a fork through her hand.
Consider the Other Person's Perspective
When you come face-to-face with an anti-working mom comment, try to remember they speak from their perspective, which is based on their experiences. Ask yourself, "Where is their comment coming from? What has happened in their life that would cause them to believe they are right?"
You have to see the comment in light of the choices they have made for their families. Did the woman who made this comment put her career on hold to be home with kids? Did she miss working or hate being dependent on her husband for money? Then perhaps she has to believe her perspective is right so she can live with the tradeoffs she accepted.
Take a Personal Day and Spend Time With Your Child
For gnawing mommy guilt, give yourself a break and take a day off to spend with your child. You'll reconnect with your kid's daily rhythms, appetite, and personality. Here are some suggestions to make your day special.
If your child is little, you can indulge in activities that don't fit elsewhere in the week, like giving them longer baths and examining their little body for any rashes or checking out where their fine motor skills are at. If your child is bigger, let them choose the agenda, whether it's the mall, a bike ride, or lunch and a movie with you. During your downtime, take some time to reflect on your life as a working mom (did you create your anti-mommy guilt credo yet?). Take out your journal and start writing, mama!
If you can't take a vacation day, pick your child up early for a few hours of play. Or, declare one weekend day errand-free and spend it just being a mom. If your schedule is tight, the next time you have to stay home with a sick kid, try to treat it as bonding time, instead of a television and Jell-o marathon.
Remind Yourself That We All Have Our Challenges
When you're feeling a work-family conflict, it's easy to idealize the life you would have as a stay-at-home mom. You imagine dancing through fields of dandelions with your children, scrapbooking every precious milestone, and building their IQ to a genius-level through activities recommended by early childhood development PhDs.
The reality is that stay-at-home parents can have as much stress as working parents, if not more, depending on age, temperament, and the number of kids. So go ahead and relish your solo commute to work or that quiet cup of coffee at your desk. If you were at home full-time, you might be lucky to shower in private.
Admit That You May Miss Out on Things
It's a simple fact of physics that a working mom isn't going to witness every single minute of her children's day. It's okay to be sad about missing out on the sweet moments and the fun. If you let yourself mourn the things you're giving up by working, it may be easier for you to enjoy the things you're gaining. It's no use pretending there aren't any tradeoffs.
To help you overcome this type of mommy guilt, ask your daycare provider if they'd use an app to keep you connected during the day. It'll help you to get through those guilty moments if you can see a picture or video of your kid enjoying themselves at school.
Know That This Won't Last Forever
Life changes quickly. The choices you've made about work may seem like they will last forever, but they won't. Your children will change! They may stop the tearful goodbyes and instead run off without giving you a second thought. You'll stop feeling forgetful because you'll start getting a full night's sleep in a few years. So eventually you can remember the many promises you make to your children.
When you feel stuck, remind yourself that things won't last forever. Before you know it, your child will be in elementary school, making friends he or she may keep forever. You may get a different type of job with flexible hours so you can be home more. Who knows what will happen tomorrow! Stay hopeful that things will change and hopefully for the better.
Edited by Elizabeth McGrory.