Before I quit my job to be a stay-at-home mom turned full-time-blogger, I worked in corporate marketing at a home and auto insurance company. I worked 12+ hour days with tight timelines and ridiculous deadlines and LOVED finding order in chaos. I enjoyed having a career and being part of a team, but once my daughter was born, I didn’t feel that returning to the corporate world was a realistic option. My husband is the main breadwinner and has zero flexibility when it comes to helping out with drop-off/pick-up, school holidays, or sick days, and having watched other women in my field struggle to return to work after having kids, I knew it would be too much for me to juggle.
So I made the decision to be a stay-at-home mom and, much to everyone’s surprise, I embraced my new role with nothing but excitement. I signed us up for mom-and-me classes, sought out other moms in the neighborhood, and planned on joining the PTA and helping out in my daughter’s classroom once she started full-time school.
I wish I could tell you that I’m currently living out my dream of being a room mom in my sweet girl’s grade 3 classroom, but the truth is that being a stay-at-home isn’t my bag. I spent years pretending that being a mom and wife and managing a home was enough for me, and harboured so much guilt that I didn’t feel as fulfilled as I thought I would. The only problem is that I knew that returning to my corporate job would throw our world upside down and that it wouldn’t be fair to my daughter or husband, and that left me feeling…stuck.
I can’t remember exactly what prompted me to start a blog all those years ago, but it ended up providing a good creative outlet for me while I tried to figure out what the next chapter of my career would entail. I never intended for Meraki Lane to be anything more than a side hobby, but it has since exploded and now reaches over 2 million women each month. It has become a full-time career for me, and something I’m extremely proud of.
I feel fulfilled, busy, and accomplished and still get to do all of the important mom stuff with my daughter, and while I feel like I’ve finally come into my own, the reality is that I struggle with immense working mom guilt. Instead of being bored to tears each day, I’m run absolutely ragged most of the time, and I worry constantly that I’m falling short in every single area of my life.
But then last year I heard Glenn Close’s Golden Globes speech, and it gave me pause:
“…and I’m thinking of my mom, who really sublimated herself to my father her whole life. And in her 80s she said to me, ‘I feel I haven’t accomplished anything.’ And it was so not right. And I feel what I’ve learned from this whole experience is that women, you know, we’re nurturers, that’s what’s expected of us. We have our children, we have our husbands if we’re lucky enough and our partners, whoever. But we have to find personal fulfillment. We have to follow our dreams. We have to say, ‘I can do that and I should be allowed to do that.’” —Glenn Close, Golden Globes⠀
Those words put everything I’ve felt since becoming a mom into perspective, and made me realize that I’m not only allowed to have goals and aspirations for myself, but that it’s up to me to show my daughter that she can have everything she wants in life – and that she doesn’t need to apologize for a damn thing.
If you struggle with working mom guilt, here are 7 tips that have helped me maintain the best of both worlds.
7 Tips to Beat Working Mom Guilt
1) Stop comparing yourself to others
One of the hardest parts about being a mom, in my opinion anyway, is that it comes with an incredible amount of unhelpful and unsolicited advice. It can sometimes feel as though there’s another mom on every corner judging your every move, and this can be particularly challenging for those who struggle with working mom guilt. There will always be another mom who seems to do everything a million times better than you do, and it can be really easy to misinterpret the way others interact with and look at us at school drop-off/pick-up when we’re already feeling inadequate and defensive.
If you only take one thing away from this post, remember that comparison is the thief of joy, and that we never truly know what other people are going through. Don’t allow the organized PTA mom make you feel guilty for pursuing a career you love, and unless she tells you directly, don’t assume she looks down on you. For all you know, she feels insecure and jealous of the fact that you effortlessly juggle a career and motherhood and would trade places with you in a heartbeat.
Own yourself and your choices, and remember that the things that work for you and your family don’t need to work for anyone else. As long as you and your children are happy and healthy, the rest is just noise.
2) Remember that you’re allowed to have dreams
For a very long time, I felt like I wasn’t allowed to have aspirations outside of being a mom and wife, and this was further complicated by the fact that it took my husband and me longer than anticipated to get pregnant with our daughter in the first place. I figured something must be wrong with me for not finding motherhood completely fulfilling, and I have struggled with working mom guilt in some way or another for YEARS. And then one day last year, I absent-mindedly made a comment to my husband over lunch about how I was struggling to make some of my visions and ideas come to life as I was so caught up in the day-to-day of balancing a lot of different things and wearing so many different hats each day.
I felt stuck. Uninspired. Bored. Silly, even.⠀
By the time we’d paid the bill, my sweet husband had reminded me that even though I’m a mom, I’m still allowed to have dreams, and that there’s no shame in doing whatever it takes to make those dreams a reality. His words really stuck with me, and then a few weeks later I saw Glenn Close’s Golden Globes speech, and it felt like the world was trying to tell me something.
Why am I telling you this?
Because you, my friend, are allowed to have dreams outside of being a mom. Having a career is nothing to feel guilty about, and you should never (ever) feel ashamed for enjoying your job. Full stop.
3) Ask yourself if your guilt is warranted
Another great tip for those who struggle with working mom guilt is to write out all of the things that make you feel guilty, and then ask yourself if those feelings are actually warranted. If you’re really honest with yourself, I think you’ll find you harbor guilt over things you really shouldn’t feel badly about. I’d even hazard a guess that the real reason you feel guilty is that you worry your job is interfering with your ability to be a good parent, and that you’re using things like ordering takeout multiple times a week, forgetting to fold the laundry, and letting your kids have extra screen time as a scapegoat.
Remember that juggling a career and motherhood isn’t easy, nor is it a sin, and that you’re allowed to cut corners and let rules slide when life gets busy. As long as you’re spending quality time with your children (more on that below) and everyone is healthy and happy, everything else can wait.
4) Avoid people that trigger feelings of guilt
I’m a firm believer that our lives are a direct result of the people we surround ourselves with, and if you struggle with working mom guilt, try to avoid interactions that are likely to perpetuate those feelings. Does this mean you need to cut the people you love out of your life forever? Absolutely not! Just be mindful about how these people make you feel and make a concerted effort not to allow their negative energy to take residence in your mind and spirit.
I find it helpful to engage in something positive after interacting with negative people, like going for a walk with some upbeat tunes, watching my favorite TV show, spending time connecting with my husband and daughter, or writing out a list of 5 things I’m grateful for. Once those initial emotions have simmered down, I spend some time brainstorming WHY the person tried to tear me down. More often than not, it’s because they feel insecure about themselves, and while that doesn’t excuse their hurtful comments and behavior, it helps remind me that their negativity has nothing to do with me and everything to do with them so I can move forward.
5) Put calendars and reminders in place
Have you ever forgotten an important event at school, like crazy hair day or a field trip? It can be really devastating, and while these things happen to even the most organized stay-at-home moms, it can really amplify working mom guilt. If you struggle to stay on top of the activities, appointments, and social commitments for everyone in your family, create ONE master family calendar so you know what’s happening each day and can keep everyone organized. There are so many different ways you can do this – you can go old school and buy a wall calendar to hang in your kitchen, or you can download a fancy app that allows multiple users to make updates and changes. Whichever option you choose, make sure there is only ONE place where everything is recorded so you stay on top of it all.
6) Set aside regular mom-and-me dates
Figuring out how to spend quality time with your kids after school can be challenging, especially if you’re a working parent who gets home closer to dinner or bedtime. The late afternoon and evening hours can be particularly tricky as everyone is tired and there’s so much to do in preparation for the following day. It can be tempting to rely on the iPad or TV to occupy your kids while you power through household chores, but experience has taught me time and again that in order for my daughter to feel happy and secure, she needs to feel a connection with me.
If you want to know how to spend quality time with your kids after school, rest assured it doesn’t need to be an Olympic event. You don’t need to pull out all of your board games, put a 1,500-piece puzzle together, or create Pinterest-worthy crafts. You just need to carve out some regular, uninterrupted time to connect with your children and remind them they matter to you. CLICK HERE for 13 tips to help you squeeze in quality time with your kids on the daily.
7) Remember that you’re setting a great example
My last tip to beat working mom guilt is to remind yourself that you are setting a fabulous example to your children that it IS possible to juggle a career and be a stellar parent all at the same time. Talk to them about your job and why you love it. Tell them when you’re feeling overwhelmed and explain the strategies you use to stay on top of everything. Ask them for help when you need it. Remember that you are your child’s biggest role model, so lead by example and never apologize for who you are!
I hope these tips and ideas help you overcome your feelings of working mom guilt as much as they have helped me. Remember to stop comparing yourself to others, to avoid people who trigger feelings of guilt within you, to prioritize quality time with your children, and to stop apologizing for having goals and dreams!