By Lisa Frers
It feels like I have always worked. I grew up in a home where my father insisted that I work, so at 14 years old I started my first job cleaning dental instruments after school for a local dentist where I made $2.00 an hour…. I kid you not… $2.00 an hour. Even with a full course load through university I worked. What I have come to understand about myself is that I like working… I like getting my paycheck, I like the feeling of accomplishment when I close a deal or solve a problem. Actually I LOVE working…. I have been working in Christian radio advertising for 22 years. The pace, the style of selling and of course the product…. I LOVE it all!
However, when I had my first son at 30, I was determined to become the stay at home mom that all my friends made look so natural… and easy. My friends who were staying at home felt a total contentment and satisfaction with this baby stage and all I was feeling was stress. I felt like I was failing… this maternal instinct was not kicking in like it was supposed to and all I felt was sadness and growing more anxious by the week as I felt more disappointment in myself each day for not being able to enjoy life more. I remember feeling that something was wrong with me. I wanted to feel what they felt. I even went out and bought a kitchen aid mixer and started baking every day because that’s what moms are supposed to do right… By month eight of trying to be a full time stay at home mom, my husband sat me down and suggested that I go back to work at least part time … it was music to my ears! He understood that working made me a healthier and happier person… and he was right. I like working… I think I just needed someone to tell me that wanting to work was ok.
However, this is when I hit the “mom guilt” stage. As a mom, I felt like I was supposed to choose my kids and stop working. As I thought through going back to work, I remember feeling like I was choosing my job over my kids. Did this make me a horrible mom? All I know is that I felt really conflicted inside.
There have been things over the years I have missed…school field trips, track meets, I have forgotten to send snacks for the class party or I have had to travel when they have been sick. I would wallow and sit in the guilt… it was oppressive and debilitating at times. Lets’ be honest…guilt is something all moms feel regardless of if you work or don’t work outside the home. I think we live in a society that thinks we are the most open minded and less judgmental then other generations of women but I am not so sure that is true… I think as moms we all feel like we have to be perfect at everything. That we have to be at every single event that our kids participate in, that our kids need to be great at everything… that their whole sense of happiness and wellbeing sits squarely on our shoulders…so our inability to admit the mom guilt and act like everything perfect is in fact making others around us feel guiIty!
I think every women has their own skill sets in which they thrive.. for some its being a stay at home mom, those women who constantly volunteer at the school, drive for every field trip or pick up my kid when I am running late from a meeting! For those moms I am very grateful for the sacrifice’s they make to do that. For other mom’s it is working during the day and then being a chef and taxi driver at night:) I think we need to help each other out and encourage each other with were we thrive most.
I used to down play my job and my desire to work to most people other than those that I worked with or other working moms. But over the years I have become more and more proud of my job… I love my children as much as any other mom. I have been able to focus on what I have been there for as opposed to what I haven’t been there for. I have become more honest with who I am to those around me. I have tried to let the guilt go, to find contentment in who I was created to be, to stop comparing myself.
Dr, Christins Hibbert has 5 tips for overcoming the mom guilt:
1) First, acknowledge the guilt. We can’t do anything until we acknowledge something needs doing. Only once we’ve identified, “Yes, I feel guilty,” can we truly begin.
2) After you acknowledge the guilt, examine it. Ask yourself, “What is this guilt all about?” “What am I really feeling guilty for?” This will help you determine if it’s guilt for something you feel remorseful about and want to change or guilt that’s just pointing fingers, filling your heart with despair, and dragging you down.
3) Ask, “Is this depressive guilt or motivational guilt?” Answer honestly. Remember, guilt is a feeling, an emotion. It’s not a reflection of who you are.
4) If it’s motivational guilt, pointing you to change, then it’s time to start the process of change. You might go and say you’re sorry right away; you might take some time to formulate a plan for change in your parenting approach; or you might need to take a whole lot of time as you work on true forgiveness. As long as you use the guilt as fuel for change, it doesn’t matter how long it takes
5) If it’s depressive guilt, then the answer is to practice letting go. I know “letting go” is much easier said than done, but it’s an essential element in overcoming mom guilt, much of which tends to be of the depressive sort. How can you let go?
FEEL. “Freely Experience Emotion, You can’t let go of something you haven’t fully experienced yet. You must FEEL the guilt in order to heal from the guilt, in order to let it go. Tell yourself you can feel the guilt and that, even if you don’t like feeling it, you will survive feeling that emotion.
Lean back from the emotion. As you FEEL the guilt, lean back from it, reminding yourself that it is not you.
Remember letting go is a choice we make over and over again. Yes. Letting go is a continual choice only we can make. When I work on letting go, it’s helpful for me to ask myself, “What would I feel like if I didn’t have this emotion? If I didn’t carry this burden? If I could really just let this go?” I then imagine how I’d feel, and let me tell you, it is a hundred times better than carrying things around I can’t change and don’t need. Try this, and then cling to that imagined feeling of release, and choose to let things go.