Letting Go of Mom Guilt: Good Enough is Actually Perfect
Have you ever heard this nursery rhyme before? “Clap hands, Clap hands, ‘til daddy comes home. Daddy’s got money, but mommy’s got none.”
Not anymore, kids.
According to this study released by Pew Research Center, “How American parents balance work and family life when both work,” you’ll find mommy and daddy are both bringing home the bacon in 46% of two-parent households these days.
With more of us mommies sharing the financial burden with our daddy counterparts (and more daddies sharing the household burden) – there is a spike in criticism as to what a good mother is or should be. Who’s the critic?
The working mom’s most prominent critic is the working mom herself.
That’s right ladies; it’s us.
We beat ourselves up in our mad dash for perfection. We feel guilty at work when we need to take a day off to tend to a sick child. We feel guilty at home for not being able to give our spouse and our kids enough of our attention. We feel guilty for even thinking about the possibility of taking some of that coveted “me time” we hear so much about.
We put an insane amount of pressure on ourselves to reach the ultimate (and impossible) goal of having it all. This pressure is what I call “mommy’s guilty pressure”.
MY PERSONAL STRUGGLE WITH MOMMY’S GUILTY PRESSURE
I am Denise. I am a wife, a mom, a marketing director and in my “spare” time a passionate advocate for the development & growth of women in business. Not always in that order; not always that clearly defined; and never without a constant tug-of-war between feeling fulfilled and feeling forever inadequate.
For me, just getting to and from work every day eats up quite a bit of time (like 3 hours a day, but who’s counting?). Now add in the time I spend at the office, time spent writing, attending networking events, taking professional development courses, taking on a few side projects and volunteering – it all adds up to seriously exhausting – and fast.
When I arrive home at the end of the day, I am greeted by two very excited and enthusiastic little people:
“Mommy, look what I made you in school today!”
“Mommy so-and-so tried to kiss me on the playground today!”
“Mommy do you want to know what a pterodactyl eats?”
As the little ones run through the list of every thought they had throughout their day – I push through to take off my coat, all the while nodding my head, and offering an “mm-hmm” now and then to appease their excited chatter. But, I’m usually not fully listening or fully engaged in what they are sharing.
And then it hits.
A good mommy would have burst through the door with her arms wide open, grinning from ear to ear, scooping the children up into the air and spinning around in slow motion…
This isn’t the movies. This is real life, and we are real women.
Still, we insist on comparing ourselves to these “picture-perfect freshly baked cookies and a glass of milk waiting when the kids get home” moms we see on television.
While it is essential to be fully present for our families, and we should certainly strive to improve that end-of-day-just-give-me-a-moment-to-breath mental state, it’s ok to miss the mark every once in a while. I mean, we are all human, right?
(Oh, by the way, a pterodactyl eats fish. In case you were wondering.)
KEEPING THE “ME” IN “MOMMY”
I’ll never forget the Thanksgiving dinner when my well-meaning but unabashedly opinionated family was discussing (or rather judging) my sister’s decision to work a full-time job when they believed there was no reason for it. Her husband’s salary was more than sufficient to provide for her family – she was just selfish. They didn’t understand that sometimes people work because they want to work – not necessarily because they have to work.
So, my sister, bless her heart, used me as a shield, “Well, Denise works full time, and her kids are doing ok.” (Oh, hey thanks – I’ll take that as a compliment. )
My Aunt replied: “I’m sure Denise would stay home with the kids if she could – but she has to work.”
I felt the heat start at my ears and slowly creep across my cheeks and down my neck. I was blushing. In a very low, meager whisper of a voice I responded: “No, I wouldn’t.”
I blushed because I was embarrassed. I was embarrassed because I felt guilty. Guilty to admit that I preferred going to work every day as opposed to tending to my babies at home. Sure, I miss my children when I’m at work – but not as much as you’d think.
I feel guilty even admitting right now that I’ve found spending too much time home with my children makes me resent my children. I start to feel trapped, overwhelmed and out of control. I see my work to be meaningful and challenging, and I enjoy it. It allows me to the keep the “me” in “mommy.” No need to be ashamed of that – still, it is another example of the many guilty pressures we face as working moms.
SO MANY THINGS TO FEEL GUILTY ABOUT, SO LITTLE TIME
With a never-ending to-do list at home and work, it’s no wonder we all want more hours in the day. But, I’ve got great news! As it turns out – our kids aren’t affected by our time out of the house as we like to think. According to a study published in the Journal of Marriage and Family, the amount of face time kids have with mommy and daddy doesn’t matter. Not in the slightest.
The study, which measured the welfare of children’s education, behavior, and emotional well-being, found that there is no correlation between the amount of time we spend with our children and their long-term success.
This is a seriously revolutionary finding. Mommies and Daddies everywhere have carte blanche to stop worrying about the amount of time we have with our children, and instead, focus on the quality of time.
The insane amount of pressure facing working mom’s today is created by working mom’s today. We feel we need to do it all, have it all, bet it all. Fight the feeling.
We are doing the best that we can. We aren’t perfect, but we are good enough. Sometimes, good enough is actually perfect.
Change the mindset. Manage the expectations. Cut yourself some slack. While we’re at it, let’s change that stinkin’ song!
“Clap hands, Clap hands, ‘til my parents arrive. They both work so hard just to keep me alive.”
There. Now, that’s more like it.
Meet the Author: Denise Lee
Denise the Director of Marketing for a midsize commercial law firm in New York City and the creator of iDeaLee, a marketing consultancy dedicated to helping professional services companies execute marketing strategies that blow the mind not the budget. In her spare time, she is hell bent on making an impact on the world in a kickass positive way, celebrating and advocating for women. She is the Alliances Committee Chair for the National Association of Women Business Owners – NYC Chapter and is a contributing writer to Women on Business. She has been described by colleagues as a “bright, proactive, high-energy leader who thinks creatively and acts decisively.”