When my oldest son was born, I vividly remember holding him in my arms in the hospital and feeling myself changed as a person. Motherhood changes all of us, and while I expected the change in perspective, the softening of my personality, I wasn’t prepared for something else that tends to come with motherhood too – the guilt.
It doesn’t seem to matter whether you are a stay at home mom, a working mother, or a work at home mom, guilt just comes with the territory but learning to cope with it is essential, not only for your own health but for the well-being of your children as well. It’s important to figure out why you feel guilty so you can reduce guilt-induced stress in your life.
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As a work at home mom, I’m well used to deadlines that come in many forms. There are demands on my time from all directions, and they rarely adapt to make room for each other. As I’ve spent the morning trying to reach a weekly deadline, my 3 year old has been consistent in his pleas for attention.
- “Mommy, do you want to play with me?”
- “Yes, I do want to play with you, but I have to work.”
- “Ok.” . . . . 2 minutes later – “Do you want to play with me now?”
It’s heartbreaking to turn down requests from a child, especially knowing how quickly these tender moments pass. So how do you overcome the mommy guilt when there are multiple demands on your time?
Listen to Your Guilt
We hear over and over again that we need to let go of our guilt, but the truth is, not all guilt is bad. Sometimes guilt is a sign that we need to reevaluate the way we are spending our time.
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- If you are a working mom, you may be working out of necessity but are you spending extra time everyday socializing after work or working more hours than are really necessary to balance your family budget.
- As a work at home mom, are you using your time wisely and getting your work done as quickly as you can or are you letting yourself get distracted, causing you to put in longer hours than you need to in order to get a job done. If your job is flexible, are you working primarily during times when your kids don’t need you, such as nap time, during school, or after bedtime?
- As a Stay at home moms with many demands on your time are you easily distracted by paperwork that needs to be filled out, household tasks, budgeting, coupon shopping, or hobbies. Evaluate your time to be sure you aren’t letting things get out of balance in your daily routine.
I used to work for Franklin Covey and one of the things they really emphasized was separating things that were urgent and things that were important. There are many urgent demands on our time – bills have to be paid, deadlines have to be met, and they often overshadow the things that are important but don’t demand immediate attention. Sometimes sitting down and reading a book with your child is the most important thing, even if it isn’t the most urgent.
Urgent – paying bill, making a phone call, answering the door, returning a text, finishing a work project, etc.
Important – Reading a child a story, rocking a baby to sleep, having a date night with your husband, teaching your child an important life lesson, paying attention to a child who wants to tell you something, etc.
Evaluate your Schedule
If you are feeling short on time, you may actually be short on time. Evaluate your schedule to determine whether you or your kids are over-scheduled.
- Are you spending too much time running around to after school activities and making yourself tight on free time in the evenings?
- Are you in the habit of saying yes to things when you don’t really have the time to do them?
- Are your kids constantly stressed and grumpy?
- Are you feeling consistently overwhelmed and rushed?
Try and reserve at least one weekday that is free of activities after school and make the weekends a time to recharge and spend time together as a family.
Choose your Battles
There’s no way around it – some things simply have to get done during the course of a day, but it’s easy to get side tracked and end up spending too much time on things that are ultimately not that important. If you have been feeling guilty that you haven’t been spending enough one-on-one time with your child because of your busy schedule, make time. Opt for a quick and easy dinner (try these freezer meals and make 7 meals in an hour) so you can spend some extra time playing a board game with your kids or take a trip to the library. Settle for the house being clean-ish rather than spotless (like that ever happens anyway, right?) and go for a walk around the neighborhood as a family.
The Right Kind of Multi-Task
As moms, we’re all expert multi-taskers by nature. Most multi-tasking prevents us from spending quality time with our kids – think checking your email while having a conversation with your child – but the right kind of multi-tasking can be a good thing. Bring your kids into the kitchen and let them help with meal preparation. It may take a bit longer but your children will be learning important skills and enjoying quality time with you. If you have jobs to do around the house, work with your kids.
If your kids are younger, it may take a lot of patience in the beginning to work with them. Do whatever you have to do (bite your tongue, take a sedative) to stop yourself from stepping in and just doing the work for them because as they get older you’ll be glad for the extra help if you have kids who know how to work. Teaching kids to work is one of the most important lessons you can teach them and you’ll get the work done faster so you can all enjoy some down time later on.
Mommy guilt can be rough. What do you feel guilty about the most?
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