“I have so much guilt.” I hear this all the time fro
m working mothers and it breaks my heart. I am mostly guilt-free when it comes to being a working mother — a huge accomplishment, considering I was raised Irish Catholic and guilt is part of my DNA. Providing for my family is a privilege, and it’s OK that I enjoy it.
Recently, a woman I know posted on Facebook that she was drowning in working mom guilt. Her child really wanted her to chaperone a school trip, but she had no paid time off at her new job. She was clearly distraught about what to do. After a few days and many supportive posts from friends (kids should see their parents as people, you’re showing your child women are earners, my mom worked and I’m OK), she shared the good news that work was giving her the flexibility to attend the event. She would make the time up by working longer days later that week. And the way she made it work? She asked! She had assumed she couldn’t attend the event before she even explored if it was a possibility.
Here experience made me think about when and why we suffer from guilt, and how we can stop it. Here are seven things to think about when guilt comes knocking:
- If you are the sole or primary breadwinner, focus on what your paycheck buys for your family. You don’t feel guilty about providing food, shelter and clothing, do you?
- Could your family get by on just one salary? Maybe right now you can, but things happen. If both you and your partner are working, focus on the fact you have diversified your portfolio, so to speak, and you will be better able to weather any downturns or unexpected events, and, retirement.
- If you miss a school event or game, focus on the fact you are teaching your child to sing, dance, act, play soccer, etc. for the joy of it, not just for the praise and attention. That’s a gift.
- If you think you’re work is suffering as a result of your personal life, remember, as David Brooks recently reminded us, what will be listed on your eulogy is more important than what’s listed on your resume. Then figure out, like my friend on Facebook did, how you can make some adjustments.
- If you feel guilty because you’re having fun being something other than “Mom,” think about what a great role model you are for your children. You are teaching them to pursue their own path, that women have choices, that life can be joyful. Sounds good to me.
- If your guilt stems from wishing you were like those other moms, get the hell off of social media, stop comparing yourself to other women, and worry about what your children think of you, not what your neighbors think of you.
- Speaking of social media, if you feel bad that you can’t do a craft or bake a cookie worthy of Pinterest, if you didn’t move the elf, hide the eggs, or rent ponies for the birthday party, practice gratitude. Seriously, remember the mothers who are struggling — truly. Get out of your own head, be grateful for what you have and extend a helping hand to a mother who needs it.