[un]common sense: Managing your guilt as a Mompreneur
Today’s blog is written by Alyssa Veneklase – mother, wife, doula, and business owner. She talks about not just mom guilt, but very specifically the type of guilt we have as mothers and business owners. Enjoy!
I worked full-time in an office when I found out I was pregnant, and my assistant at the time was pregnant as well, due a few months before me. She came back to work after a couple months of leave and decided after two hours at work she wanted to quit and stay home with her baby. That was that.
Even though I hadn’t had my baby yet, I knew for certain I did not want to be a stay at home mom. I was going back to work, no question. But I began to feel this sense of guilt. “Am I a bad mom because I don’t want to stay home all day with my baby? Is she a better mom than me because she loves her baby so much she physically can’t be separated from him?” This guilt came from somewhere outside of me – a perceived notion; a very conventional belief that mothers should stay home with their children. But it was not my belief, so why was it making me feel guilty?
I had my baby, went back to work, and everything was great. Except that I began to feel another sort of guilt. I resented my husband for having (what I thought was) an uninterrupted schedule. He still got to go golfing whenever he wanted, meet the boys for a beer without worrying about who was watching the baby… I, however, felt trapped. When I did go out I felt guilty. “I have a baby at home. She needs me.”
It took several months for me to realize that this guilt I felt was my own doing. I was not allowing myself the opportunity for self-care and time apart from my baby. “Why can’t I leave her to go out with my friends more often? Why don’t I get a babysitter so I can have an afternoon alone?” I felt like because I was her mother, I was stuck with this extra responsibility that my husband didn’t have, when in reality he just valued his own time more than I valued mine.
This type of guilt came from a place inside me. It was only mine. I created it, nurtured it, and then took it out on others (namely my husband). It took a while for me to understand, but now I make self-care a priority. I make sure if I want to do something, I do it. No excuses. And I don’t feel guilty about it. I’m still an amazing mom!
So let’s talk about that extra special type of guilt that comes with being a Mompreneur.
If we work from home, we get to play more often…right? We’re lucky because we get to spend all this extra time with our kids while they’re small. Or does it mean we just feel more guilty because we are home on our computers instead of playing with our kids?
For moms with office jobs they are more likely to be able to disconnect when they get home. I mean, we’re never really fully disconnected since our phones are attached to us, but I think the moment we leave the office something happens in our brain that allows us to focus on home. The physical disconnect creates a mental one. Unless you own that office, then going home is just an extension of your office.
When you own your own business, when are you ever able to disconnect? You are the one your employees and clients call. You may be the receptionist, the manager, and the marketing coordinator. You’re the boss.
When you have a newborn at home, you’re on-call for that baby. It doesn’t matter how important the project is you’re working on, baby needs to be fed or held or changed. As our kids get older they’re just as needy, but in different ways.
Even if your child goes to daycare during the day, we struggle to focus on them in the evening because we’re still at work. The phone still rings and the emails keep coming. And we just can’t put down our phones.
The thing that works best for me is to set a schedule and stick to it. If your child is home with you while you’re working, set specific times of the day that you are focused on work only. That means no laundry, no dishes, and no distractions from your child. So… you will need another care-giver there to help.
If your partner is able to help, make sure you set strict guidelines. “I’m working from 9-12, don’t bother me. That means you don’t need to tell me when she’s crying or when she poops. Handle it.”
You can hire a mother’s helper, babysitter, or nanny to help out part time during the day. You can find a childcare establishment that you trust. It’s amazing what you can accomplish in 3 hours without a kid around!
No distractions means no distractions while working, but on the flip side that means no distractions when it’s family time. If you can have dedicated times to focus on work, it should be easier to set work aside when it’s time for family. That means leave your phone in the other room. Don’t check emails or browse Instagram while playing with your kids. Physically separate yourself from it otherwise you will not be able to give them the quality attention they desire.
It’s much easier to focus on your kids when you know your work is done. And it’s easier to get your work done when you’re able to fully focus on your work. A half-ass day of work makes for a half-ass evening with family. You will be distracted. It seems so elementary, right?
The biggest thing I’ve learned from having a baby is it’s okay to be selfish. Being selfish does not have to be a bad thing. There’s still a gender bias that mothers need to be selfless especially when it comes to our children. Why do we have to give up our sense of self, sacrifice our passions, for our children?
Do you think men sit around and talk about Dad guilt? Probably not.
I see a shift happening, especially now with the amazing movements that women are making in politics and leadership roles. We are redefining what it means to be a woman. We can be strong leaders and also great mothers. But do not let this discount the significance and magnitude of our maternal urges. They are real. They will always separate us.
I’m not giving you many specific tips or secret formulas for managing guilt. I think instead I’m asking for a shift in how we see ourselves in our roles, therefore eliminating the guilt and pressures put on us whether by external sources or internal.
When you start to feel guilty, think about what a great role model you are for your kids. You are setting the standard high. They see a strong, independent woman who owns her own business! They see her working hard and providing for her family. I get to see my postpartum clients from an outside perspective, and they often feel guilty and scared and angry, but you know what? They’re doing a lovely job. We are sometimes hardest on ourselves. The fact that you feel guilty sometimes means you’re a good mother and care about the time you spend with your children. And more than likely, you’re doing way better than you give yourself credit for.
So remember you’re a badass Mompreneur! You’re making it all happen and when you start to doubt yourself or feel guilty, take a look at everything you’ve built and feel proud.