Every mother I have ever met has suffered from mom guilt on some level.
Personally, I’ve struggled with the guilt that often comes with being a working mom. During my chaotic life as a pediatrician, seeing children in the office and tending to sick kids in the hospital, I have missed important events in my kids’ lives, including both of my babies’ first steps. To this day, I desperately wish my childcare provider hadn’t told me and instead let me believe my children took that momentous milestone for the first time after I came home from work.
There have been times when I’ve missed recitals, sports practices and school presentations. I did so because I was taking care of children who needed me, but that doesn’t erase that nagging feeling that creeps up inside me at times.
Here’s what I’ve come to understand: As moms, we have no reason to feel guilty. Whether you are a mom who works in the home or outside the home, it’s tough and there will always be moments when we feel like we should be with our children more.
As a mom who has spent 17 years working 50-70 hours a week, I’ve learned a few things about how to process my own mom guilt:
1. I’ve strived to become a master of time management and multi-tasking. I plan every day in 5-minute increments, and I generally do a minimum of two tasks at any given time, like answering emails while putting on makeup, and making meatballs while helping with algebra and writing a blog post.
2. I use the drive home from work as a time to be mindful—to purge my brain of the multitude of work-related issues and prepare my heart and mind for my family.
3. I put away my iPhone (and everyone else’s) during family meals, my kids’ music practices and other moments when my kids are with me.
4. I let more things at home go than I otherwise would, just so the time I am home is spent interacting with my kids. I’m not the mom who stencils our pumpkins at Halloween or cuts my kids’ sandwiches in the shapes of little giraffes for school. And while it used to bother me that I didn’t do those things, I’m OK with it now.
5. I give up a lot of “me time.” It’s pretty much just about my work, my kids and my marriage. There isn’t much time for the gym, drinks with girlfriends or hobbies. And I’m OK with that, because I know that when the kids are grown, I will have time to pursue my own interests.
6. I call upon my “village” to help me give the kids as much time at home as possible. Family, friends and childcare providers have always helped make it possible for our children to spend as many hours enjoying the comfort of their home as possible, even when I’m not there.
7. Most importantly, I talk about my work with my kids. I started doing this when they were little, just so they could learn how I think and what I do when we are apart. The result, after many years, is that both my son and my daughter believe that what I do is important. They support my decision to work. They forgive the times that I haven’t been fully present. My daughter wants to be a pediatrician and my son wants to marry a woman who enjoys her career. For me, their approval is the ultimate compliment.
Every mom, no matter what she does with her time, struggles to keep everything in balance. Generally, the women I see are simply amazing and manage to take care of the needs of multiple people and accomplish so much in short amounts of time. My greatest wish for all of us moms is this: FORGIVE yourself. Know that you are doing a great job and what matters most is the quality of the time you spend with your children and that they feel cared for, appreciated and loved. Breathe in self-acceptance. Take today for what it is and make the most of the time you have with your kids.