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Overcoming “Mom Guilt” this Mother’s Day

To honor Mother’s Day 2020, I thought this was a great opportunity to both celebrate and help out our moms. After all, our mom is the first leader we encounter in our life. As we all know, motherhood is full of challenges as well as lessons that we can use to become better leaders. Helping others to be better leaders is what I am all about and a key part of that is helping women overcome mom guilt.

So I asked some moms that I deeply respect and admire if they would contribute to a conversation about mom guilt.

The response was overwhelming. It’s a topic with no shortage of emotion and interest.

First up is Winnie Sun

LDRBRND Winnie Sun

Mom guilt is a distortion of reality. Many women look at it as either/or when that isn’t the case – “where you feel like you have to choose one over the other.” Many working moms especially feel they have to sacrifice career for family (or vice versa). But they shouldn’t. It is possible to have both. It’s not easy but it is doable.

We have to forget what previous generations did. Our parents and grandparents were home much more but this is a different era, especially with technology and the demands of home and work. We can’t make the comparison. It’s not healthy for us or our families.

We have to lean on our partner, family, friends, and community for support and encouragement. We can’t go it alone because we need each other and can help each other. Better together is our new reality (especially as we slowly cross to the other side of COVID-19).

“Relationships over everything else.” This is such a key idea. Some of that mom guilt can be alleviated by investing in our relationships with members of our family. Time and attention win over toys and material things.

Be gentle on yourself. Extend yourself some grace and kindness. Take the time you need to be emotionally healthy.

Practice good communication with your partner, kids, friends, relatives, etc. People aren’t mind readers and talking about the issue openly creates more opportunity to silence that nagging feeling of not being enough or doing enough.

Refrain from judgment. We don’t fully understand everyone else’s situation. There are challenges to being the working mom and there are challenges to staying home. Let’s be kind to each other and not make each other feel bad for picking one path or the other. The choice is personal.

Don’t play the comparison game (especially on social media). If you need to, shut down the social media for a period of time. It will always be there, so protect your mental and emotional health.

Have appropriate boundaries in place and then abide by them. I don’t work past 4pm and eat dinner with my family just about every night (if I’m not traveling for work). I also don’t do business on the weekend or check in with social media.

So many great and practical tips from Winnie! You can also connect with her by Googling her name or searching Winnie Sun across social media. HERE’S THE LINK to the video if you want to watch further.

Next up is Gabriela Cardoza

LDRBRND Gabriela Cardoza

So mom guilt to me is about two things: expectations and perceived limitations.

I think mom guilt itself is very real. We’ve all felt it. We’ve all been there no matter what stage of life, or what stage of your career or what stage of parenting you are in. It’s going to happen and it’s normal because we’re human. Moms are human and dads are human and we’re all just trying to figure it out.

There’s no sort of manual or right way to parent. The reality is that we’re going to be faced with these situations where we really have to evaluate what’s best for us and for our children. And really, there’s no right answer to how to approach it.

I think the only thing that we can do when it comes to mom guilt is a big one: acknowledge that it exists and change how we internalize those feelings.

It’s okay for you to feel a lack of clarity when it comes to what to do. That’s normal. We set these expectations for ourselves based on what we see from other moms or what we see of these perfect mothers. When the reality is we are all just taking it day by day. We’re learning to be better parents in each sort of interaction that we have with our children each day that passes.

The other thing too is it’s super important that we look at mom guilt as an opportunity to lead through example. We can really show our children that it is okay to practice self-care and self-love. We can show them that we should be transparent about our feelings and should be transparent with ourselves. It’s a great opportunity to teach your kids the power of resilience – that we might not always know what to do. But together, we are collectively making the best decisions that we can.

Now I have thoughts from Suzanne Brown

LDRBRND Suzanne Brown

I look at mommy guilt a little differently than many moms I know. To be blunt, I don’t have mommy guilt. As a mom, I know what my kids need. And I know what I need. The idea is to find a way that you create a win-win. As young kids, my boys loved pre-school, both the learning and the socializing. How could I take that away from them? So, yes, I happily dropped them off at their school and got my work done. No guilt.

So, this is my approach with moms who are feeling the tug of mom guilt. Consider what you need as much as you do what your kids need. If you want and need to work, for whatever reason, then work. Taking care of your needs will make you a better mother. And isn’t that better for your child?

Ultimately, we’re all doing the best that we can and that is enough. That requires we acknowledge our effort and that we keep our eyes on our own lane. What works for other families might not be the case for yours and that is OK.

And, if that guilt is coming from your kids being under someone else’s watchful eye while you work, know that a study shows that working moms actually help their kids. It affects girls and boys differently.

Look for some resources at the end of the post for Suzanne’s book and data that she cites.

Alissa Carpenter also has some great insights

LDRBRND Alissa Carpenter

For me, mom guilt is that little voice in the back of my head that uses the word “enough.” Am I around enough? Are they getting enough? Are they being supported enough? Am I enough?

I know that my kids get the best of me because I am a working mom. Providing for them by working with organizations to create more inclusive workplaces. My career gives me the intellectual stimulation I need, the adult conversation I crave, and new experiences to share with my children. I extend work trips where I can bring my kids along, share challenges and ask for suggestions, and show them what is possible.

I don’t make every school play or event, but I try the best I can. Being a parent is hard as it is and putting pressure on ourselves to be the “perfect mom” does not make it any easier. While those questions come back from time to time, I know that I am trying the best that I can for both my kids and myself. And I’ve learned to give myself “permission” to mess up, try new things, and know that I am enough.

So, this is my approach with moms who are feeling the tug of mom guilt. Consider what you need as much as you do what your kids need. If you want and need to work, for whatever reason, then work. Taking care of your needs will make you a better mother. And isn’t that better for your child?

Ultimately, we’re all doing the best that we can and that is enough. That requires we acknowledge our effort and that we keep our eyes on our own lane. What works for other families might not be the case for yours and that is OK.

And, if that guilt is coming from your kids being under someone else’s watchful eye while you work, know that a study shows that working moms actually help their kids. It affects girls and boys differently.

Look for some resources at the end of the post for Suzanne’s book and data that she cites.

Sabrina Cadini shares her perspective next

LDRBRND Sabrina Cadini

Mom guilt. If you are a mother, you have experienced it at some point in your life because you are responsible and loving. You want to do anything possible to take care of your child, to be there for her, to assist her whenever needed. You don’t want to miss important moments in her life, and you want her to be safe. But feeling guilty is inevitable if you work and have responsibilities in your day-to-day routine. And you’re not alone.

I work with many female entrepreneurs. They try to juggle a demanding full-time job and family, and it’s not always an easy ride for them. Besides the enormous expectations from society (and the fear of being judged for what they do or don’t do right or don’t do enough), they experience anxiety, stress, overwhelm, guilt, and this leads to a negative perception about themselves. They feel like they are “a bad mother,” but they just need to re-organize their priorities. The fact that they realize they’re not there for their family enough is a sign that they are actually “a great mother.”

How to fix this behavior that can negatively impact the well-being of the entire family? Here are some tips.

  1. Make a list of things that make you a good mother and a role model for your children and keep it on your desk. Focus on the positives. The fact that your work should be included in this list because you’re creating opportunities for a better life for your family, and your kids will appreciate that. Go back to this list whenever you feel you’re not doing enough for your family for some “pick-me-up” feeling.
  2. My clients feel very guilty about not spending enough time with their kids. If you feel this way as well, create a “family calendar” and treat it in the same way you do for your business agenda – no cancellations or rescheduling. Family time should be sacred and as important as client meetings. Enter time for family activities, cook or bake together, practice morning and bedtime routines together (brushing teeth, having a bath, reading, playing, coloring, doing yoga, praying, getting dressed, etc).
  3. One of my clients created an “activity jar” where her kids would write their favorite things to do on little note cards and they would put them in a glass jar. At the end of the day (or on the weekend), mom would pick a random notecard from the jar and the family would engage in that activity. It was always a lot of fun for all!
  4. Depending on the age of your kids, you can also schedule a time for “serious discussions” about family goals and plans for the future, and even involve them in some important decisions that relate to your career. Kids love to support their parents and offer them advice. I see these as great learning opportunities for them, and a great way to let them feel an integral part of the family.
  5. If you work from home, setting boundaries between your job and family may seem very difficult, but it can be done. One solution is to set working hours in smaller time frames such as 9-12 pm, 2-5 pm, and 9-10 pm. That way, you will have time to get ready with your kids in the morning, take them to school, pick them up from school, spend lunchtime together, have enough family time in the evening, and maybe one more hour of work after the kids are in bed.

Unfortunately, not everyone has flexible schedules, and if you own your own business, you’re always in working mode. But the important thing is to be able to set boundaries between your personal and professional lives and carve out precious time for yourself and your family. Don’t underestimate or ignore this critical component of your daily life: self-care is the key. This way, your body and your brain will have time to rest, recharge, and perform better the next day. You will be more present in your life, in the life of your family, and more productive in your business. In the meantime, you will enjoy the coziness of family time with lots of love, laughter, and relaxation!

I know that my kids get the best of me because I am a working mom. Providing for them by working with organizations to create more inclusive workplaces. My career gives me the intellectual stimulation I need, the adult conversation I crave, and new experiences to share with my children. I extend work trips where I can bring my kids along, share challenges and ask for suggestions, and show them what is possible.

I don’t make every school play or event, but I try the best I can. Being a parent is hard as it is and putting pressure on ourselves to be the “perfect mom” does not make it any easier. While those questions come back from time to time, I know that I am trying the best that I can for both my kids and myself. And I’ve learned to give myself “permission” to mess up, try new things, and know that I am enough.

So, this is my approach with moms who are feeling the tug of mom guilt. Consider what you need as much as you do what your kids need. If you want and need to work, for whatever reason, then work. Taking care of your needs will make you a better mother. And isn’t that better for your child?

Ultimately, we’re all doing the best that we can and that is enough. That requires we acknowledge our effort and that we keep our eyes on our own lane. What works for other families might not be the case for yours and that is OK.

And, if that guilt is coming from your kids being under someone else’s watchful eye while you work, know that a study shows that working moms actually help their kids. It affects girls and boys differently.

Look for some resources at the end of the post for Suzanne’s book and data that she cites.

Jessika Phillips chimes in on having balance

LDRBRND Jessika Phillips

Mom guilt can be a serious concern for women entrepreneurs. In my opinion, it’s a balance all the way around which I definitely see as subjective. The key starts with how you’re feeling and how everyone else is feeling in the house. It doesn’t matter if you’re running a business or working the 9 to 5, if you’re miserable then you’ll come home as a less-than-joyful person. This, in turn, is impacting the emotions and connections in your whole family.

If you’re loving what you’re doing, and your kids can see that you’re passionate and happy when they can feel that from you, that’s a whole different kind of balance. So to me, it’s most important to understand how everyone else is feeling.

I don’t believe there is such a thing as a “work-life balance.” As an example, one of my kids was sick recently. My work had to take a back seat while I took care of my family. That was the balance shift that was needed at that time. We need to understand that balance recognizes what most requires our attention at that time.

This is within reason. When I started NOW Marketing Group, of course, I was putting in more hours. I knew that I would need to make sacrifices while still being a mom to my kids. This meant getting up earlier so that I could be home when the kids were home. Then, I would finish working once they went to bed. Sometimes, I even took the kids with me to the office, getting them involved with the business to help them understand what it is I do and why I love it so much.

Every opportunity matters. I make it a point to be more mindful and purposeful with my interactions with the kids, reminding them during our morning commute to be grateful and thankful for what they have. I’m also more intentional with our conversations, such as asking them direct questions to better understand how they are feeling. Instead of, “Did you have a good day at school” I ask, “What was one thing that happened today that you enjoyed?” This forces them to answer with more than just yes or no and further leads to more opportunities to understand how my kids are feeling.

On top of this, I make sure to spend time with each of them individually too. There’s a lot that happens in our kids’ lives that we don’t know about. Simple things, such as folding laundry or hanging out in their room fosters better family relationships.

However, one thing I’ve learned is not to neglect self-care. This way, the stresses of my working day don’t affect my kids at home. I make sure to dedicate some time to spend time for me. When I first launched the business, I often sacrificed self-care. That’s probably taken me the longest to realize as it is a recipe for disaster. I need to be fully alive not just as a mom, but as an individual and focusing on self-care helps prevent burn out.

Finally, I have Ai Addyson-Zhang

LDRBRND Ai Addyson-Zhang

I used to have lots of “mom guilt.” The fact that I was not spending lots of time with my children used to bother me a lot. But, nowadays, I am a lot more relaxed, probably partly because my kids are a bit older. They are 5 and 8 years old now. My parenting has also changed a bit. Spending quality time with them is important, but it is also important for them to know that mommy needs to fulfill her personal dreams and pursuits as well.

Actually, I noticed that my action, passion, and dedication to pursuing my dreams are having a positive impact on my children. They seem to be a lot more powerful than lecturing to my kids regarding life and character-building. So even though I may not be able to spend every minute of my waking hours with them, my actions are doing some parenting for me.

Also, I love giving my kids lots of autonomy. Daniel Pink highlights three factors that are important to learning, especially intrinsic learning, which includes 1) Master; 2) Autonomy; 3) Purpose. These three factors have become a core part of my parenting philosophy. I trust my children and we practice collaborative parenting. They enjoy this type of parenting a lot. It has also given me the freedom to become my best self.

In addition, before I became an entrepreneur, I was teaching full time as a college professor. It was a lot easier for me to have work-life balance back then. But, now I am an entrepreneur. I run a few things simultaneously. It is very hard for me to have a clear work-life balance like I used to. Everything has blended in. My work is now instilled in my DNA. But, I also love talking about my work with my kids especially when it comes to digital literacy and having an entrepreneurial mindset. My children love seeing me happy, inspired, and motivated, and even how I overcome failures, mistakes, and challenges. I love seeing them learn how to figure things out on their own.

Overall, I think moms just need to relax more when it comes to motherhood and parenting. I wish I knew this when I first became a mom. Our children are a lot more capable than we might assume and they are actually quite understanding and considerate if we can keep an open line of communication.

Mom guilt doesn't have to be a thing!

I hope this post has blessed you all. Mom guilt doesn’t have to be a thing. Rather, this concept is something that needs to be countered with solid, rational thinking. The best way to do that is to talk about it openly and to learn from each other in a transparent and non-judgmental way.

These ladies have shared some incredible stories and practical tips to help. Use them and share them. God bless all the moms out there this Mother’s Day!

As I mentioned, here are some resources from Suzanne Brown for further reading.

Stay-at-home mom thoughts        |        Gender Inequality

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