Work-life balance. Working moms often find it impossible to achieve. Being a working mom often means feeling guilty—for being distracted on the job by thoughts of your children, or maybe for not thinking about the children enough and really enjoying your work. Ultimately, the overwhelmed working mom is not as productive in her home or work life. The struggle is real, but these tips may help you overcome the guilt that comes with being a working mom.
Lean into it
While some might prefer to suppress it, the first step is to recognize the guilt and lean into it, according to Lori Mihalich-Levin, JD, founder of Mindful Return, which offers an online course for parents returning to work after parental leave. "Otherwise, you're just pushing it to the back of your mind and pretending it's not there—and it is!" she says. "Sitting with working-mom guilt and breathing into it and realizing what effect it's having on your body can immediately help you calm down."
Being a working mom means being incredibly busy. And when a person is busy, they often neglect self-care. Carla Naumburg, PhD, a clinical social worker and author of How to Stop Losing Your Sh*t with Your Kids, recommends reflecting on how well you are caring for your own needs. "When was the last time you moved your body, got a good night of sleep or spent some quality time with adults you enjoy?" Naumburg asks. "It may sound counterintuitive to spend more time on yourself when you're already feeling guilty about not spending enough time with your kids, but those guilty feelings can be a red flag, letting you know that you're maxed out and need to take care of yourself."
Celebrate your expertise
Guilt can often cause people to think poorly of themselves, even engage in some self-deprecation. Instead of dwelling on failures and shortcomings, Mihalich-Levin suggests mompreneurs reflect on their victories instead. "Celebrate all of the skills that parenthood gives you that makes you better at your job and all of the skills that work gives you that make you better at parenting," she says.
Being a parent means knowing what is best for your child as well. When Lillian Vogl, an attorney from Northern Virginia, suffered from massive working-mom guilt for putting her children in daycare, she was able to work through her emotions and recognize how beneficial the school was for her children. "I saw my children were thriving and became grateful my working allowed them to have more diverse socialization and educational experiences."
Working moms are experts at juggling many responsibilities, and they should keep this in mind. While guilt can cause a working mom to feel depressed, she should remind herself of just how impressive she really is.
Spend some time with your kids
Time is certainly valuable, and working moms have precious little of it. But taking a few minutes to connect with your children is invaluable and will go a long way toward reducing guilt. "It doesn't have to be a big outing or major deal unless you want it to be," Naumburg says. "Can you make sure to put away your phone at dinner and listen to your child talk? Can you lay with him/her for a few extra minutes at bedtime? Play a game of cards or read a book together?" According to Naumburg, it may only end up being a few minutes, but showing full attention to children benefits them and also those struggling with guilt.
Being a working mom might mean inevitable guilt in both your work and personal lives, but great coping mechanisms are available for acknowledging and dealing with it. Lean into the feelings, practice self-care, and celebrate your strengths as a professional and as a parent.