3 Ways to Fight Working Mom Guilt
If you’re a working mom, you’re no stranger to working mom guilt. Guilt when you drop your child off at daycare on the days they want nothing more than to be home with you. Guilt when you miss your child’s important event because of work. Guilt that you’re not living up to some pre-conceived idea of what motherhood should look like. Guilt that you can’t be in two places at once.
I’ve grappled with working mom guilt for as long as I’ve been a working mom.
There was the time that I had to work late, and ending up racing into daycare minutes before the pick-up deadline to my sobbing, hysterical child – the only child left at the daycare centre.
There are the times that I overhear other parents talk about what’s going on at my child’s school, and realize that the fact that I’m never there for drop-off or pick-up means that I’m completely out of the loop.
There are days like today, when I send my children to daycare on my day off, so I can have an uninterrupted stretch of time to write this article and tackle the 584 other things on my to-do list.
And of course, every single time I send my technically-ok-but-would-be-better-off-snuggling-Mom kids to daycare, because I simply can’t afford to miss work again. Every time I pry my sobbing child off my leg at daycare drop-off. Every time my child runs into daycare with barely a backwards glance.
Mom guilt sucks.
I’m not going to pretend that we can banish working mom guilt, because in my experience that’s impossible. But we can fight working mom guilt. Here are my top three strategies to do so:
1. Be realistic
We live in a time when parenting is a verb. We’re confronted with more information – and more opinions – than we could ever begin to process. Conflicting parenting philosophies, endless enrichment opportunities, researching every single decision – never before has parenting been so all-consuming.
Not only that, social media gives us a front row seat to everybody else’s highlight reel. We see who’s spending time at the park in the middle of the day, and who’s volunteering in the classroom. We see who’s training for a marathon, or baking a six-tier rainbow cake from scratch. We see who’s killing it at work, and who’s making time for a romantic getaway with their spouse.
If we’re going to have a chance of fighting working mom guilt, we need to be realistic – about our strengths, about our weaknesses, and about our limitations.
You can’t be PAC president, coach of the soccer team, the first to volunteer for any extracurricular activity, and attend every after-hours work networking event. You don’t have to be an expert on child development, hit the gym every morning, and cook a homemade meal from scratch every night. Your child doesn’t need to participate in every extracurricular activity. You are only one person, and there are only so many hours in a day.
Don’t take on more than you can handle. Don’t commit to a schedule that leaves you with no downtime. Be realistic about what you can handle, and learn to say no to the rest. Don’t feel guilty about doing so.
Related: The Myth of Having it All
2. Be intentional
As working parents, our free time is limited. Not only do we have to be realistic about what we can do with that time, we need to be intentional about how we spend it. The last thing we want is to run out of time for the things we value most.
Don’t let your schedule be overtaken by things that aren’t important to you. Figure out what your priorities are, and let the rest go.
Our priorities will be different. You may prioritize fitting in a daily workout, while others may prioritize time with friends. You may value a clean and organized house, while others might value sitting down for home-cooked family dinners. Don’t fall into the trap of comparing yourself to somebody who has prioritized different things than you have.
Being intentional with our time allows us to make the most of it. We can’t do everything, but if prioritize what’s most important for us, mom guilt doesn’t stand a chance.
3. Remind yourself why
You’re working for a reason. When you find yourself struggling with working mom guilt, remind yourself why you’re doing it.
Maybe you’re working to put food on the table, or to pay for little extras that you’d otherwise have to do without.
Maybe you simply love your career.
Maybe having a career gives you a healthier balance in your life, and allows you to be a better mom to your kids.
Maybe you carry the health insurance.
Maybe you’re working to set an example for your children.
Maybe you’re the breadwinner.
Whatever it is, your reason is valid. When working mom guilt gets the better of you, remind yourself why you’ve made the choices you have.
We can’t eliminate working mom guilt completely. But if we’re realistic and intentional with how we spend our time, and remind ourselves why we’ve made the choices we have, we can lessen its hold on us.
What strategies do you use to fight working mom guilt? I’d love to hear them!