Building your own business and starting a family with your partner are arguably two of the most rewarding accomplishments in a woman’s life. But with motherhood and business ownership comes added pressure, expectation (both real and imagined) and an incalculable amount of stress. But worse still (what? It gets worse??) is the crushing and heartbreaking sense of guilt that many working mothers feel. It’s that feeling of attempting to do all the things but being really shitty at all of them. It’s the ever-present sense of falling short, of feeling incompetent because your attention is constantly splintered. Numerous spinning plates at all times, knowing full well that 2 or 3 of them will inevitably shatter to the ground.
This sentiment is often referred to as “mommy guilt.”
You’ve probably heard that phrase before and it’s incredibly common: you’re working hard, getting your business off the ground – but at the same time, you feel guilty, as if you’re neglecting your responsibilities as a mother. And of course the opposite is also true: you can be spending valuable time with your kids but also be completely distracted by the unending business tasks that await your attention.
Add in the work from home factor due to the pandemic, and you’re bound to experience a whole new set of guilt and emotional setbacks. After all, most women took on a growing number of chores and household responsibilities during the pandemic, all while still dedicating as much time as possible to keep their business afloat.
These feelings don’t make you a bad mother. They don’t make you a bad business woman, either.
I know these feelings all too well.
Chances are, you’ll experience these overwhelming feelings no matter the stage of motherhood. It’s not a reflection on you, though: it’s a perfectly normal feeling. Is it easy to overcome? Absolutely not. But with a little reframing and a sprinkling of self compassion, you can create balance in your personal and work life – and feel a little bit more settled. Here’s my advice.
What type of guilt are you feeling?
Working mothers chase a type of idealistic balance: working their perfect job and running their business, while being a loving and attentive mother simultaneously.
There’s no denying that dabbling in both worlds can be overwhelming, and, at times, extremely difficult. You might feel bad for not spending enough time with your children and family, while also feeling bad for not dedicating more time to your business. And that doesn’t even factor in any time for self care, or “you” time.
Juggling both worlds can be a challenge, even more so during a global pandemic! COVID-19 left many mothers and business owners covering a disproportionate amount of the housework while still dedicating as much time as possible to their own business. Do any of these feelings sound familiar?
- Working a few extra hours and feeling guilty for abandoning your family and children
- Spending time with your family, while feeling guilty for abandoning your business
- Dedicating some time to yourself, and feeling guilty about leaving your kids AND business unattended
- Feeling guilty for working each day (and enjoying it!) instead of spending time with your family
- Feeling guilty for pursuing career goals while your kids are growing up so, so quickly
Many moms experience a range of different types of guilt, unique to their own day-to-day situations. And those same mothers wonder whether other mothers have it all together, or whether they struggle with the ever-elusive work-life balance, too.
Author and journalist Amy Westervelt says it best in her book, “Forget Having It All:” “We expect women to work like they don’t have children, and raise children as if they don’t work.”
Women feel guilty for working – and for not working. It’s a lose-lose situation.
If all of this sounds a little too familiar to you, it’s time to shake it off and let go of the guilt. It’s time to rise above.
How can you overcome “mommy guilt”?
Working moms chase an impossible balance: running their own business, or working their job, and being the mom they want to be.
It’s an elusive and mysterious goal. You feel bad for letting your kids down, letting your family down, letting your employees down, and letting yourself down. Many moms also feel embarrassed to talk about this guilt and stress with friends and family – as if it’s a type of weakness or some kind of unwarranted feeling.
Of course it’s difficult to balance all facets of your life. But working on letting this type of guilt go should be at the top of your to-do list. Such deep-set guilt will eat away at your sleep, affect your mood, and impact just about every part of your day. Here are some tips to help work through the guilt.
1. Be intentional with your mindset.
Many people roll their eyes when you start to talk about mindset, but your behaviors towards yourself have a huge impact on the way you perceive yourself. Positive thinking and intentional mindsets doesn’t mean keeping your head in the sand and ignoring all signs of negativity.
Instead, think of it like this: do you see the glass half full, or half empty? Practicing positive thinking means you’re working to talk back to that nasty voice in your head that criticizes everything you do. When you hear your inner voice say, “You’re abandoning your children,” you should reply back with your truth, whether that be, “No, I’m not, I’m at work right now, and I will spend time with them later,” or something similar.
It seems silly, talking to yourself. But if you let your endless stream of nasty thoughts run in your head, unattended, you’re letting subconscious damage happen. Try fighting back!
2. Set realistic boundaries
How many of you have heard this one before? Setting boundaries may seem difficult, especially when working from home, but it’s crucial to jumpstart the healing process.
Setting boundaries isn’t always easy. If you’re struggling, start by listing out what some of your values and priorities are in life – and then establish their importance. Many people will say, “Cycling matters most to me,” but they may not live their life according to that value.
If family matters most to you, but you feel like you’re not getting enough family time, consciously try to carve out more of that time – and rid yourself of the guilt associated with that.
Likewise, you’ll need to practice saying “no.” It’s tough, especially if you run a business. But you’ll need to exercise your “no” with unnecessary commitments, like volunteering at every single school fundraiser, or going to happy hour with coworkers.
You may also find it helpful to involve your family in tasks that need to get done, like grocery shopping or running errands. This not only gives you additional time together but helps to instill an important family value; we all pitch in.
3. Consider self care tactics, like journaling or therapy
Therapy can be a tricky suggestion. So many working moms see therapy as just another thing they do not have time for in their daily schedule. Why add another commitment?
In my experience, it can be hardest for women to ask for help. We want to appear as if we really, truly, can do it all. Instead, we fuel our stress by insisting that we can do it all ourselves – before realizing that it’s actually not possible.
Asking for help – professional help – can be really difficult at first. But once you take that crucial step, you’ll find it gets easier. Therapy can be a great outlet to discuss your feelings with a neutral third party. Likewise, journaling can be a great outlet to write down your thoughts, concerns, complaints – and then shut the book and forget about them.
4. Allow for interruptions
We spend so much time at work pretending that we have no life outside of work. Why not allow work life and family life to interact a little? After all, we’re all struggling with the same problems – especially during the COVID-19 pandemic.
My kids are 8 and 11 and love to interrupt online meetings. And sometimes…I let them. I’ll give them a hug, say hello, and then make it very clear that they need to make an exit and respect my work time. It’s not a dramatic interruption, and it shows my team members that I’m still a person with a life (just like them!). I just happen to be running a business, too!
5. Forgive yourself
This may be last on the list, but it’s critical to this entire process. First and foremost, you need to stop beating yourself up over your circumstances and your choices. If left unchecked, your guilt can spiral and snowball into something much deeper that will impact your life for the long term. It’s painful to constantly feel like you’re not enough, right? Focus instead on the choices you do make – and the reasons behind them. After all, at the end of the day, you’re doing your best! Isn’t this the same advice that you give your kids every single day? It’s time to cut yourself some slack!