If you’re a parent, you know what it feels like to watch your whole heart walk around outside of your body. Being a mama has been the most indescribably beautiful thing I have ever experienced: but it also brings a whooooole new layer of emotion and complexity to my life. I’m a working mama (however: I firmly believe ALL mamas are working moms because parenting is a full-time, underpaid, underappreciated, nitty-gritty J-O-B!!) who has to travel for my job and I am frequently asked how I deal with being away from Leni and how I cope with the mom guilt. Let me tell you, friends–mom guilt is REAL and it is hard–but it doesn’t have to consume you. I don’t mean to exclude all the amazing fathers out there, but since I’ve never been a dad before, I can only assume that dad-guilt can be real too! So for you reading this and struggling with parenting-guilt, I’ve found some great ways to not only deal with it, but also feel empowered by the path you chose to take as a parent so let’s dive right in…
Tip #1: Believe in what you’re doing.
I cannot stress this tip enough. Mom guilt is going to be persistent: for a lot of us, it is this constant presence that pokes and prods you, and asks why you aren’t at home with your little ones. But like I just mentioned, if you truly believe in what you’re doing (whether it’s a career, a hobby, or a passion project you hope will become a source of income for your family) then you are leading by example for your children. You do not have to be one thing or the other: we can be both the soccer mom and the CEO mom, the nurturer and a provider, the rock and the dreamer. If you believe in what you’re doing, it makes it so much easier to keep yourself motivated, happy, and working hard until it IS time to go back home to snuggle your kiddos.
Tip #2: Don’t give your time to things/people who don’t deserve it.
If you bear in mind Tip #1 above, that means the opposite side of the coin is JUST as important! If you are at a job you can’t stand, spending time with people because you feel like you HAVE to, or otherwise not happy when you’re away then something has to give. Misery loves company, and mom guilt can become seriously overwhelming when you’re already not having a good time in the first place. I feel my worst and miss Leni Bow the most when I’m dreading whatever it is that’s taking time away from her. We’ve all been stuck doing jobs we don’t love and I’m not suggesting you throw in the towel and quit your job the minute you finish reading this blog, BUT I am saying that your future is in your hands and if you want to make a change, it’s up to you to start that process today and not just keep wishing something amazing will fall in your lap. If you haven’t read the book, “The Best Yes“, you need to because I am LOVING the lessons it taught me about only saying “yes” to the things that positively impact my life instead of because I feel guilty.
Tip #3: Your child needs to be bonded to more people than just you.
This was a haaaaard pill to swallow for me, because it’s like, “what do you MEAN my baby can learn things from other people? And other people love her and want to spend time with her too?!” I just want to hog all the time I can with my sweet girl, but it is not healthy for EITHER of us to be with one another all the time: your child deserves the opportunity to develop and further cultivate other relationships with other kids and adults–besides, do you really wanna be your child’s only companion?! A whole, healthy, well-rounded, confident child has a village behind them…and sometimes, that means mama needs to step aside for a minute and let others love that baby as well. Of course, this doesn’t mean let the village do ALL the rearing and raising, but if they are in that trusted inner circle that has access to time with your precious little one, there’s good reason.
Tip #4: You feeling guilty doesn’t change you having to be away.
I have been guilty of this but I really try to catch it before it ruins my day because I honestly believe that we are in charge of our our attitude and this can make or break our entire day/week/month/year. When I notice myself being sad because I’m missing my girl while I’m away, although I know this feeling is TOTALLY normal and expected, it doesn’t change the fact that I’m not there with her. When it’s all said and done, being gone from time to time has to happen and me being miserable won’t help anyone! Not Leni, not myself, and not those around me. I owe it to myself and to the strong little girl I am raising to be and do better, and to try to appreciate the opportunities and experiences–and it doesn’t hurt that time flies more when you’re having fun, so before you know it you’ll be back and snuggling your kiddo who has NO idea and doesn’t care if you feel guilty or not.
Tip #5: Mama-Guilt looks different for different people.
Since I’m a working mama, I can speak from mom-guilt experience because there have been times when she’s been in the hospital while I was across the country for a business meeting. She’s been sick and I’ve had to hand her over to a babysitter. She’s woken up from her nap in tears when I wasn’t finished a conference call so I had to turn down her monitor and leave her crying in her crib until I was done. This is real life and although I don’t love moments like these, Tips #1,2,3 and 4 help me realize that focusing on these moments isn’t helping anyone and in the BIG PICTURE, I am doing what’s best for both of us. However, Mama-guilt can come wrapped in all sorts of parenting packages. Stay-at-home-moms can be KILLING IT in so many ways, but still experience the same twinge of guilt when they make a decision that they find themselves second-guessing. Dads can feel guilt because they’re working a lot and missing milestones. Grandparents can feel guilt that they can’t be more involved. We can all feel guilt and think the grass is always greener but we need to give ourselves some grace. Knowing you’re doing the best YOU can do in this season of your life is enough. Your parenting decisions don’t have to mimic your neighbour’s or your sister’s or your mom’s… it just needs to be what works for YOU and YOUR family. You are enough and God made you a parent to your child on purpose, so let that sink in.
At the end of the day, we all know parenting is the most rewarding thing we get to do, but that doesn’t mean it should be the ONLY thing we get to do. In order to model being ambitious and going after goals so our kids have the same mindset and work ethic, we have to walk the walk! Guilt doesn’t help anyone portray this in a positive way, and you being mentally healthy and happy is waaaaaay more important than you realize as a parent. Love your babies, do the things that give you joy, rinse, and repeat.
What gives you joy? How do you handle being away from your children? Tell me in the comments below!
(Photo credit to the AMAZING Jennifer Wilson Photography!)