Hello, dear readers. If you’ve clicked on this article, chances are, like me, you’ve grappled with that nagging feeling of not being “enough” in any role. As mothers navigating the world of careers, it can often seem like we’re short-changing both our professional responsibilities and our families.
Interestingly, when you dig into the definition of “guilt”, Merriam-Webster defines it as:
“feelings of deserving blame especially for imagined offenses or from a sense of inadequacy.”
The word ‘imagined’ stands out to me. Much of the guilt we experience is a concoction of our minds. You might believe that changing jobs, cutting back hours, or making external changes is the answer. While these might help, unless you address the internal narrative, feelings of guilt can persist regardless of external changes.
So, grab a cuppa, and let’s tackle this head-on. Here are three steps guaranteed to alleviate that guilt:
1. Shine A Light On The GUILT:
First, we must recognise and understand the origin of our guilt. Society, aided by platforms like Instagram, often portrays an idealised vision of motherhood and a professional career. We then compound this by adding our standards, maybe we idealise influencers on social media or compare ourselves with peers who seem to have it all together. The initial step in combating guilt is recognising its roots.
- Dedicate 10-20 minutes to jot down EVERYTHING causing guilt in both your home and work life.
- Review the list and identify the top culprits creating the strongest feelings of guilt. Aim for no more than three.
- Challenge these beliefs. For each point, list reasons or evidence against it. Remember, your brain defaults to old habits and ways of thinking. Offer it concrete proof to counteract these old beliefs.
2. Reframe Your Perspective:
Instead of dwelling on what you feel you’re missing out on, focus on the gains. Your career might be teaching your children about resilience, passion, ambition, and dedication. On the other side, the skills you hone as a mother—patience, multi-tasking, empathy, love, compassion — are traits that are invaluable in the professional realm.
Using the guilt-triggering points from step one:
Create two columns labelled ‘Disempowering’ and ‘Empowering’.
In the ‘Disempowering’ column, write down the guilt triggering beliefs you came up with in step 1.
Challenge each of these with a positive, believable sentence in the ‘Empowering’ column.
Now write down your Empowering sentences on a post-it and stick it somewhere you will see it daily. Keep reminding yourself of these!
Here’s some examples:
|I’m failing my children by not being there for them more.||The quality of the time I spend with my children is more important than the quantity. Even if I’m not always present, I try to make our moments together meaningful.|
|Other mothers are doing it better than me.||Every family is unique, and each mother’s situation is different. I am doing the best I can for my family, based on our needs and circumstances.|
|I’m choosing my career over my family.||I am making choices that benefit our family in the long run (whether that’s providing financial stability, modelling resilience, or pursuing personal growth). My career and family are both important parts of who I am.|
|Other colleagues without children have an edge over me; they can commit more time to their work.||Being a mother gives me a unique perspective and set of skills in my career. I bring to the table empathy, patience, and resilience.|
|If I prioritise my career even slightly, it means I’m selfish and neglecting my family.||Prioritising my career at times doesn’t make me any less of a mother. It’s okay to have personal and professional ambitions; they can coexist with my role as a parent.|
3. Define ‘Presence’ For Yourself:
Ask yourself: “What does ‘being present’ mean to me?” Not to society, not to your neighbour, not to your colleague, but to you?
Are you equating it with the number of hours spent? Remember, physical presence is different from emotional or mental presence. Sometimes, it’s not about the amount of time but the quality of moments shared. It’s about being genuinely there in those moments. The world tells us to multitask, but there’s value in being fully immersed in one thing, whether it’s an office task or a bedtime story.
Get your pen and paper again:
Brainstorm five ways you can be ‘present’ in your career and another five for your personal life. Prioritise these and experiment one by one. Keep what works and discard what doesn’t.
A few suggestions:
- Create a tradition. Make one day of the week ‘Movie Night’ and sit down as a family to eat pizza on the couch and watch a movie together.
- Batch cook some evening meals so that instead of spending time cooking, you can go to the playground or for a walk.
- Plan family outing just like you plan meetings. Go to the beach on a Saturday and bring a picnic.
- Choose the times and days you will completely disconnect from work to be with your family.
- Have a family discussion about everyone’s feelings, needs, and schedules. It helps children and partners understand the demands on you and allows your family to articulate what they want. Talk about how you can support one another.
- Seek out mentors, especially other working mothers, to provide guidance, share experiences, and offer a different perspective. Being part of a support group or network (like careering into motherhood!) can also be empowering as it helps you see you’re not alone in your experiences and feelings.
- Invest in personal and professional development workshops, courses and coaching that address the things you are struggling with. Enhancing these areas can provide tools and strategies to combat disempowering beliefs effectively.
As we wrap up, it’s vital to remember why you took on both these roles. The love for your children and the passion for your career are not mutually exclusive. They are intertwined parts of your identity. So, when that guilt creeps in, reconnect with your reasons. Use this ‘why’ as a compass, guiding you through doubts and grounding your choices.
And lastly, embrace self-forgiveness. Every single mother, whether working, stay-at-home, or somewhere in between, feels guilt in one form or another. You’re not alone in this. By forgiving our perceived shortcomings, we free ourselves to be the best versions of ourselves—for our careers, our children, and most importantly, for ourselves.
Stay strong, stay compassionate, and remember you’re doing the best you can, and that is more than enough. 💛
This article was written by Negar Farah, one of Careering into Motherhood’s Partner Coaches. Negar
is helping her clients to find the courage to chase your dream life and career. She guides clients in creating and achieving their Life & Career Plans. You can find out more and book a free discovery call through her profile page.
October 1, 2023