Give Mommy Guilt a Time Out
If you're a working mom like me, I can tell you a few things about yourself.
First, you're tired.
Me too! I always thought this would get better at each stage of my kids' lives—that somehow once they got "just a little older," I wouldn't worry about them as much, or I'd sleep a little bit more. But so far, no such luck. The kind of energy and effort required definitely changes with each new stage, but somehow my amount of energy seems to stay the same. All my kids are out of high school now, but I'm still a working mom, and I still lose sleep over them. Maybe it'll get better, though, when they get a little older . . . I'll keep you posted.
The second thing I know about you is that you're feeling guilty.
You feel guilty dropping your kids off at day care (especially once they reach the age where they beg you to stay). You feel guilty when you arrive at work a little later than your co-workers, and you feel guilty when you leave earlier than them. You feel guilty at church when you don't sign up for the Thursday morning Bible study group or to volunteer in the nursery.
I know many women who assume "mommy guilt" is a way of life. Even (and in some cases especially) my Christian friends accept this extreme burden of guilt, shame, and selfdoubt as part of the universal motherhood experience. Something crazy starts to happen when you accept it as such. You stop fighting the guilt. It's no longer a problem. Instead, it becomes a sort of badge of honor that unites you with other moms. Now, in this upsidedown reality, it becomes a sign of how much you love your kids and how much you're willing to suffer for them.
What a terrible, ugly lie.
You do not have to feel miserable to be a good mom.
What if I told you there's another way?
That, in fact, mommy guilt is not universal. It's not your burden to bear. You do not have to feel this way.
We can fight mommy guilt. And we not only can—but we must.
It starts by recognizing this kind of guilt is not healthy, and is certainly not inevitable. In France, for example, American expatriates report that working French moms don't seem to suffer the same kind of guilt about their decisions. Just like Americans, they leave their kids in day care. They work all day, and cook dinner afterwards. They feel overstretched and sometimes inadequate, but, according to author Pamela Druckerman, they "refuse to valorize guilt" the way Americans do. Instead, the French actively fight against it, and they help each other fight against it.
Diane Paddison is a business professional and founder of 4wordwomen.org, local groups of professional working women committed to faith, family, work, and each other.