The thing that ALL mompreneurs and working moms seem to have in common, no matter what, is that they all talk about “mom guilt.” Every single mompreneur I’ve met has either directly claimed to be afflicted with feelings of guilt around working and their children or at least hinted that it’s an issue for them.
I don’t do guilt. Like, I really don’t. I learned long before I became a mom or an entrepreneur that the only purpose guilt should serve is as a trigger. Anything beyond that is destructive and unnecessary.
As a teenager, I was consumed by guilt after betraying a friend’s trust. I spent YEARS carrying guilt around, wishing I could take things back. Interestingly, I do not believe it was the incident itself that altered our friendship and the overall trajectory of my life, but my feelings of guilt. I was changed, I withdrew from our friendship because I could not get over myself. And, really, that is what guilt is… our inability to get over ourselves. Sometime in my young adulthood...while wallowing in the fact that I wasted so much time and energy feeling crappy about my actions than actually doing something about them, I vowed to never allow guilt to hinder me, guide me or alter my state ever again.
So, I have a very strong reaction when I hear that amazing, smart, loving moms feel guilty for focusing their energy on something other than their children 24/7. Mompreneurs citing “mom guilt” as a thing they deal with regularly is the main reason my coaching practice focuses on developing mompreneurs holistically. You can have major professional success and love your business...but, without knowing how to cope with the onset of mom guilt, you will waste time and energy on feelings that are unproductive and ultimately damaging to yourself and your relationships.
Think of a time when you felt as if you weren’t fully present, completely aware and engaged with your children and family when you later thought you should be… and the mom guilt began to set in. How much energy is spent regularly feeling guilty?
Is it everyday when you drop your kids off at school… you think you should have been more patient that morning?
How about in the afternoons when you are checking emails instead of actively playing with your kids?
Or, when you rush through the nighttime routine just to get a few quiet moments to yourself? And, now you feel bad about it...
Do you sometimes silently cry as you hold your sleeping children, worried that you are missing out on time with them?
Please stop. Allow yourself some grace, mama. Let me share with you how to do exactly that. And, if you can remember what I tell you here today and implement it into your life, you will be able to rid yourself of unproductive guilty feelings that serve no purpose other than to erode your self worth and impede your joy.
As I said before… the only purpose guilt should serve is as a trigger. Meaning, you recognize the onset of it and spring into action coping. Here are a few suggestions how:
1) Fix it or Solve it. Examine what is triggering your guilt, and if it’s something you can fix or a problem you can solve...do it. Put together an action plan and follow through. Don’t waste time beating yourself up, instead recognize the opportunity you’ve been given to nip your problem in the bud and move forward.
Example: You find yourself feeling guilty about working on a Saturday when you feel you should be focused on your children. Solution: Create some boundaries around your work schedule to avoid overlap with family time. Be wholly focused on your children and family when you ARE available. And, if you have to step away for a minute to answer an urgent call or handle an issue, excuse yourself, take care of it and return refocused. If you work, it is inevitable that at some point your children are going to want you with them instead of working. But, that is not the reality. Don't let their developmentally normal feelings of disconnect and disappointment chip away at your guilt reserves. If "fixing it" doesn't sound like the right fit... try another, below.
2) Reality Check or Perspective Change. Not all guilt triggers are fixable, nor do they need to be. Instead, you may need a Reality Check or change of Perspective. Is what you are feeling guilty about really worth it? Are you holding yourself to an unattainable standard? Take a look at your kiddo. Are they suffering? No? Then stop, already. Instead, live in the moment with your kids.
Example: You fed your kid a fast food dinner instead of the organic chicken nuggets you keep in the freezer. You were too exhausted to put together an amazing birthday party and all they got was a store bought cake, some balloons and presents (oh, the horror!). You don’t make it to chaperone any of the school field trips because they fall on days where you have work that cannot be changed. You arrived late to the spring program because you underestimated the traffic to get there. You had your back turned, taking a phone call when your kiddo made a goal at the game. None of these examples are fixable after the fact… they already happened. Solution: Look at your child. Are they disappointed? Did they even notice your self-induced shortcomings? I’m going to guess no. If you recognize that something is fixable, fix it. If guilt is triggering you and you take a look at your child and they are happy… it’s time to “Elsa” that guilt. That’s right, LET IT GO.
3) Apologize and Grow/Change. We are going to screw up as moms, it’s not going to stop. Our children need to know that and they need to watch how we recover from our mistakes. If you are triggered by guilt that you cannot fix, nor a dose of personal perspective can change, it’s time to admit your mistakes, sincerely apologize and move forward quickly from guilt to amends with a plan to improve yourself based on the experience.
Example: Hectic mornings that lead to tense school drop offs. You are stressed. Your kids don’t move fast enough to get out the door on time. You yelled. They cried. Now, alone in the Starbucks drive-thru, you feel the guilt set in. “I should have been more patient” you think and bite your lip. Solution: First, try to put some routines in place to avoid similar morning meltdowns. But, know that even the best laid plans can result in a shitshow. And, even the most patient moms sometimes lose their cool. When that happens, simply treat your little ones like you would want to be treated. Sit them down, look them in the eye and apologize. Let them know you want to avoid that happening again and the steps you are taking to better handle it next time. If you have any expectations of them, let them know. You are human, you are learning how to be a mom and that means making mistakes; feeling crappy about our mistakes without making amends and devising a plan for success next time gets us nowhere.
So, mamas: Those guilty thoughts do serve an important purpose, as triggers for growth. Your personal growth and growth in your relationships with your children. If I’d had the emotional intelligence to cope with, apologize and make amends with my friend when I was younger, I imagine my life would have evolved differently. I could have saved myself a lot of stress and negative self talk. So, when you feel your guilt triggers kicking in, use one of my techniques to move past it and after some practice, you will automatically act on trigger before they occur...ridding yourself of mom guilt, forever.