How to Handle Working Mom Guilt

QUESTION

 How can I stop feeling guilty and resist the temptation to be “Superwoman”? I’m a working mother with a preschooler and a couple of school-age kids who are also involved in lots of extra-curricular activities. I have to admit that I feel bad whenever I’m not doing something “productive.” My family’s schedule is so tight, and there’s so much to be done, that I feel compelled to “work” – and sometimes that involves multi-tasking – all the time. If I don’t, I quickly become gripped by the fear that things won’t get done.

ANSWER

 We’d suggest that a new lease on life begins with an overhauled attitude. If you want to escape your burden of workaholism (and that’s exactly what you’re describing), you’ll have to change your way of thinking and adopt an entirely new philosophy on life.

Let’s face it: the concept of the “Superwoman” who “does it all” is not just a fantasy-it’s a dangerous fallacy. In almost every case it does far more harm than good. Nobody needs to be able to “do it all.” In fact, it would seem prideful to suppose that you can. What’s more, that approach to life produces unhealthy and destructive stress. So let go of the idea that you can be everything to everybody and try implementing some of the following strategies for minimizing strain.

First, don’t feel pressured to do something productive every time you’re faced with a block of free time. If your preschooler takes a nap on weekends, turn naptime into “you” time. Relax, read, or have a quiet time. Watch an enjoyable movie. Take a bath. Turn off the accusing voices in the back of your mind and do something that makes you happy.

Second, involve your older kids in family decision-making and household chores. Give them a chance to help you bear the burden. You may also want to consider limiting after-school activities to one or two favorites. This can alleviate excessive running around, allowing more quality time for family togetherness. Remember, too, that it’s always helpful to “bounce” things off other mothers with children in similar age brackets. Sharing experiences and concerns with women in a similar situation can remind you that you aren’t alone.

Third, since you’re in the workforce, find ways to chat with other working moms about the challenge of balancing and juggling home, office, school, and personal time. Discuss shopping ideas (where to get the best deals in town), meal preparation (planning meals for the following week or fixing several meals and freezing them for the future), organizational tips (color-coding a calendar with children’s activities – pink for Gina, purple for Matt and green for Tim), or suggestions for fun things to do as a family. Save yourself some driving time by getting involved in a carpool.

Fourth, bear in mind that working moms aren’t the only ones who are tempted to behave like “Superwoman.” Whether single, married, working wife, or stay-at-home mom, we all need to learn how to prioritize our time. There are some simple, practical ways to do this. For example, you might try making a chart or table to help you divide and allocate your time according to order of importance: God, family, work, friends, self, etc. While you’re at it, be sure to set aside some time specifically for the purpose of connecting with your spouse. Even if your marriage is healthy and good, you’ll find that regular “date nights” will strengthen the bond between you and benefit your entire family.

Finally, remember this simple tip: when all is said and done, one of the best things you can do for yourself, your marriage, and your entire household is to keep life simple. Make it your goal to breathe deeply, smell the flowers, and enjoy everyday pleasures. And don’t get down on yourself if you can’t do it all-nobody can.