Last week I posted about this idea that we are feeling so guilty all the time – for working, for date night, for going out with our friends – and I posed this question: Do you think we can ever totally let go of the guilt? It seems in France moms can – so why can’t we?
I believe this is an important area we need to address, particularly now as more and more women have to go back into the workforce due to the economy. We are feeling guilty that we have to leave our children in daycare – or that we have to work all night at dishes and laundry and we can’t spend quality time with our children even when we are home in the evenings.
I asked some experts this week what they felt about the guilt that most mothers feel, and if it were possible to let it go – and if so, how. Can working mothers and fathers step back, take a deep breath, and really let go of the guilt that we feel for wearing so many hats?
This is my goal for the next few months – to share with you ways in which you can let go of some of your guilt. And I would love your ideas and thoughts as well, so please comment on posts if you can.
Let’s be honest – we are tired at the end of the day! Sometimes we say we want to spend quality time with the kids and then we have dinner, dishes, bathtime, homework, and bedtime to contend with – and then the day is over.
I received numerous tips and ideas about relieving some of the guilt, but the number one tip found in almost every single email I opened boiled down to this:
When you are with family, be with family.
I’m sure you know what this means. It means:
- Don’t check your email every five minutes
- Put down the Blackberry and stop the texts
- Don’t answer the phone for work when you have family time
- Don’t escape to the computer for ‘just a minute’ – you’ll be gone for hours (if not physically, at least mentally)
- Don’t talk about work when you are having family time
- Allow yourself to enjoy family time freely – play dress up, use your imagination, shed the ‘work’ aura you have to hang on to every working day
Family time is FAMILY time. We call it that for a reason: Because this is the time we designate to spend with our families. Not with work matters, not on the phone, not sending an email, but with our children and our spouses/significant others.
Says Dr. Susan Bartell, “When you are with your child at night and on the weekends turn off your cell/PDA and commit your full attention to your child—be really present. As long as you do that, you are entitled to also have time for yourself, without your child(ren).”
For those angry that they have to work in the first place, Michele Parisi of BioComm Network says that her pediatrician gave her a great way (and a very practical method) for looking at guilt as a working mother. “Even though you’re not playing board games or doing art projects with them (all of the time), you are contributing to their childhood in a critical way every single day. It wouldn’t help if you could spend more time with them but you were all homeless.”
While it is tough sometimes to leave children at daycare when you go to work, especially if your child is prone to screaming and, like one of my friend’s, throwing up as you leave, you should always think of the positives – you are earning a paycheck, you are hopefully doing something you love that you can share with your children as they grow, and you are providing critical pieces of their lives, including food, shelter, and clothing, that may not be met if you were not going to work each day.
I believe the main key to remember is this: We can be somewhere and not really be there at all. You can be with your child one hundred percent of the time physically but not there at all, ever, mentally. So just being there is not key – being there in body AND mind is.
We’ve probably all done this before – been out and escaped to the bathroom to check and see if so and so emailed re: a big business deal, or taken a call ‘just for a minute, sweetie’ during craft time on a Sunday because it was, well, important. We have considered a variety of work things while trying to play Barbies with the girls, or created to-do lists in our mind while in the middle of board games with the boys. I see people chatting on their cell phones constantly while at the park, watching their children play. These things may not be awful if done from time to time, but if you find yourself ‘checking out’ constantly, it’s time to regroup.
So, my question for this Monday morning is this:
During the weekend, did you spend family time with your family? Were you ‘all there’?
If you are hoping to shed a little guilt about working, and taking time for yourself, then you have to understand that part of this means being where you are when you are there – if you are with your children, be with them. Watch them, play with them, listen to them. Talk to them.
I received a response from Shannon B. Godfrey, who signed her letter, “Author, Scientist, Project Manager, Mom of 14.” Yes, that is not a typo – fourteen- as in 1-4! Ms. Godfrey gave this idea, and I thought it was a perfect idea to share with busy working mothers who have limited time in the day to spend with their children – whether they have one or a dozen!
Godfrey gave each of her children 5 minutes of uninterrupted time at night to speak with mom, tell her their worries, talk about their favorite activities, or whatever else comes to their minds. “I would set the portable kitchen timer for 5 minutes and lie down with the child and let him/her talk about whatever, uninterrupted.”