Mommy guilt is the worst. It creeps in and grabs hold when you least expect it and at the most inopportune times. I think it’s because only moms truly speak the language of tears and tantrums.
When my daughter’s eyes start to well up, I usually either A) Give in; or B) feel awful for not giving in. Neither of these make you feel very good. In the end, I would always feel manipulated (and resentful about it) or guilty for not letting my daughter manipulate me.
For my own sanity – and for the sake of my thriving business – I couldn’t keep letting mommy guilt rule my life.
A turning point occurred on June 23, 2017. I was dressed up, wearing heels and a fancy dress, hurriedly taking my daughter to sum
mer camp so I could get to a client meeting on time. On this day, my daughter was heading to the swimming pool with her summer camp and would be feasting on pizza for lunch. In truth, I was a little jealous.
Yet, her favorite sport and food weren’t enough to keep the tears at bay. We walked in hand-in-hand. She was quiet. Then, I saw the tears. Through gritted teeth, I said, “don’t do this.” But, it was too late. The tears came. I knelt on the dirty floor in my pantyhose holding her, stroking her hair, reminding her of all of the fun times to be had. In the end, she had a great time, but because of her mini meltdown, I was late for my meeting and felt guilty about leaving her behind.
In my haste to dry her tears I made a promise I couldn’t keep: That one day every week I would keep her out of camp and we would do something special. I was able to make good on the promise a few times before school started. The other days I was inundated with work and feeling growing pains as new clients and steeper workloads continued to stream in. Of course, I felt guilty for not keeping my word all of the other weeks.
I’m in no way an expert on the whole mommy guilt phenomenon, but here’s the biggest lesson I learned (and continue to learn) as I strive to grow as both a mom and a small business owner: It’s OK to say no.
I sometimes try to embody the Wonder Woman character I grew up idolizing. Sure, I can volunteer at my daughter’s school, run my business, cook dinner, clean the house and do all of the other mom duties, but is all of that necessary and the best use of my time?
And, while I’m trying to do everything, what am I neglecting?
For the most part, the answer is me. While trying to do everything I often lose sleep, quite literally. I would sacrifice time working on a client project to help at my daughter’s school. The work still needed to be finished, which often times meant long nights and little sleep.
In my daughter’s kindergarten and especially first-grade years I chaperoned field trips, helped with classroom parties, volunteered in the school library every week and co-led her Girl Scout troop. I didn’t seem to know the meaning of the word “no.”
For second-grade, I’ve taken a bigger leadership role in my daughter’s Brownie troop and said no to the other duties I once held. On my daughter’s first library day, I crouched on the ground outside of school comforting her as she cried because I would not be there to greet her, renew her books and check out new ones. And, as much as I wanted to wipe away her tears and volunteer to assume these tasks all the other weeks, I didn’t.
I stood my ground and kept the promise I made to myself. I told her it was time to let another mom (or dad) step up to help. I could not do everything. Admitting that was perhaps the hardest part of the whole ordeal. That admission, in a way, made me feel like a failure. In reality, my inability to say no previously created unrealistic expectations from my daughter which, in turn, fed the mommy guilt.
I’m not saying I’m 100 percent past the feelings of regret, or the havoc it wreaks. I still want to do too much at times. I think it’s just how moms are wired. But, saying no, letting ourselves off the hook and not putting such unreasonable demands on our time is a huge step in the right direction.
Please share how do you handle mommy guilt and work/life balance in the comments section below.