Mommyhood Musings, Week 12: How to Handle Mommy Guilt
There it was, staring at me right in the face. That thing I always heard existed, but didn’t personally feel until it hit me (quite intensely) last week while traveling for work: MOMMY GUILT.
In between multiple FaceTime chats with Evan and my mom’s texts letting me know that her heart was ‘broken’ for my son who was missing his mommy…the guilt got laid on. Thick.
What got me through it – and thriving? I’ll tell you.
1. Knowing my boy was surrounded by love and more than capable adults. Between my phenomenal husband (who was able to take the week off thanks to his company’s generous paternity leave policy), my amazing mother-in-law visiting from Pennsylvania and my terrific nanny, Evan was surrounded – and hopefully distracted – by a team of responsible and loving people. As my mother-in-law said to me, “You’re allowed to miss him. But you’re not allowed to worry.” Thanks Gigi!
2. Remembering that he’s only 3-months old. It’s never easy to leave your kids for 8 hours during the workday, let alone several days during a business trip. But, as I write in When She Makes More, as a working mother, it’s arguably less hard on the children when parents invest a lot in their careers during the early years, compared to when they’re in grade school. My best friend Kate, also a mom, had a very hard time leaving her infant son for a work trip, but as she told me, “Babies don’t hold grudges.” So true.
In my book, I also use the example of Michelle, an entrepreneur and mom of two. “You can afford to be absent during the day when your baby is 9 months old, but not when he’s 9 years old,” she told me. That’s when kids really become much more self-aware, and begin to learn about themselves, relationships, and how to deal with conflict. Michelle spent a lot on childcare until kids were ready for school, but it was money well spent (and yes, this was in addition to the care that her husband provided). By then, thanks to never reducing her work hours or workload during those early years, she had earned the flexibility and seniority to say “No” to certain projects and schedules that interfered with quality time with her kids. Today she can pick her kids up from school at 3 pm—those 15 minutes in the car with her 11 year-old son, especially when he’s had a bad day, are “priceless.”
3. Realizing I was making money, dammit. I’m the breadwinner in our family. I have a critical financial role to fulfill. It’s my job to do my best to support my family and the life we’ve created. If that means taking off for 5 days to bring home the bacon, then I must. It’s time well spent. Nuf said.
4. Knowing other moms have it worse. I’m incredibly lucky. I get to work from home and enjoy my baby’s company throughout the day. I don’t have to rely on daycare. Instead, I have the world’s best nanny who loves my son like her own. And my husband is an incredible partner. The best, in fact. I am in awe of him. Without him I wouldn’t be able to have the same wonderful quality of life. Each day I count -and thank- my lucky stars. I know I am truly blessed and have no reason to feel sorry for – or upset with – myself.
5. Accepting that time away is good for me. Really good. My business trip spanned five days across two glorious cities. The first stop was in San Antonio. The second, New Orleans. Saturday morning in NOLA I woke up early before delivering my keynote address and explored the French Quarter, while indulging in warm, powdery beignets. There is much to savor in life and sometimes spending time away reinforces that. Time away also made me further appreciate how great I have it back at home.