Mommy guilt has swallowed me. As I’m typing this blog post, my heart is thudding in my chest and my brain is replaying my 8-month-old baby looking at me from his grandma’s arms as I waved goodbye to him.
I wasn’t really going anywhere because I am working from home and I’m lucky enough to have a relative to care for my baby as I focus on today’s to-do list. But sometimes the mommy guilt is so unbearable I can’t focus on doing my work and end up fluttering from site to site, not really getting anything done. All I want is to finish my work as fast as I could so I can go back to playing with my son.
Ever felt this way?
In the olden days, women did not need to worry about feeling like this because their job is to purely manage the house and take care of her husband and their children. But times have changed; women today find themselves needing or wanting to work outside of their homes.
In my case, it was self-inflicted. When I told my husband that I wanted to start a profitable blog, he told me that I didn’t really need to because he was earning enough for our family to live comfortably.
While I appreciate and love being a full-time homemaker, I wanted to do something for myself. I needed a creative outlet that had the potential to earn me extra money. You must know the feeling.
If you’re a mom and you are working full-time against your wishes, you’re probably rolling your eyes at me thinking I’m already lucky enough to be able to do both. But here’s the thing, I secretly worry about spreading myself too thin and failing to keep up with either of them.
Whenever I’m working from home, this mommy guilt bubbles up inside like some kind of punishment for my selfish desire to achieve more than just a clean and nourishing home.
Am I really selfish for wanting to be more than just a doting homemaker?
I really should stop using the word “just” like it dilutes the importance of homemaking.
And that’s the problem. I think we falsely believe that one role is supposed to be greater than the other. Is the grass really greener everywhere but where we are?
Surely society has something to say about it regardless if we are purely homemakers, or a full-time office worker, or both!
How do we cope with these feelings? How do we rise from the guilt that we press upon ourselves?
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Here are some 10 ways I learned to handle the mommy guilt:
- Admit your feelings. It’s okay to not be okay. After all, you are a nurturing mother who feels a sense of duty to prioritize your children’s needs before your own. This sense of obligation already makes you a great mom; having to feel sad about your shortcomings makes you an even GREATER mom.
- Lower your ideal “homemaker” standards. We do strive to be the best mom that we can be so why should we feel bad when we can never seem to get it right? Let’s stop putting pressure on ourselves because we don’t have to be perfect to be great homemakers. Cliché as it may be, nobody is perfect — not even the Stepford wives. Your best is good enough.
- Don’t let anybody make you feel guilty. Expect the stream of criticisms on your parenting style, cleaning methods, or home management skills, but don’t be bullied into believing that you are doing it all wrong just because it’s not the way others are doing it. You know what’s best for your family and their needs because no one knows them better than you! Sometimes others forget to be tactful; don’t take it to heart because they usually mean well. When you encounter one, just let their unsolicited advice enter one ear and exit the other.
- Accept that you’ll miss out on some things. Missing milestones are the hardest, but good things come with sacrifices. They’ll grow up to understand why you can’t be there for them all the time and they’ll turn out better than you think. Which brings us to my next tip.
- Know your child will learn to do fine without you. My 8-month old baby, for instance, is calm with being carried by relatives. I don’t have to watch him cry his lungs out whenever I leave him with others. The little ones won’t have to have their world revolve around you. They can explore things on their own and meet new personalities in the form of age-group friends, guardians, teachers, and other interesting individuals. As they grow, they’ll gain some independence and the confidence to make their own choices.
- Know you are sharing your love with the world. Your kids are a gift to this world. You’re not the only one who loves them. There are people who love being part of your child’s life. And your child is most likely happy to be with these people too.
- Remind yourself that you’re not the only one. All moms have their own struggles. Mine is to become a work-at-home mom, to balance having to build my own successful online business while managing a loving home. Others may not want to work at all and are struggling to become a stay-at-home mom.
- Know you can’t let the pressure get to you. When the stuff we need to do piles up and we feel like we’re falling behind with everything else, chances are we put more pressure on ourselves: work harder, get involved with the kids’ schools more often, more homecooked meals, better organization skills, better time management skills. We want to do all these things that put us over the edge. We are not robots. Believe in your heart that you’re already doing the best you can!
- Know it’s OK to say NO, and let some things go. You are contributing to the family’s income and therefore have the option to hire some house help on some days so you can spend more time with your family. You may eat out more often because you don’t have time to cook. You can choose to go on family holidays or do some family-oriented activities instead of going to the office party or your friend’s anime marathon night. *cough*
- Remind yourself that this is not permanent. Someday you’ll have saved enough to stop working forever. Someday you will earn a steady flow of passive income so you won’t have to worry about working away from your babies anymore. This is why it’s important to have goals that are broken down into actionable steps so you can see yourself getting closer to your dreams of becoming a full-time stay-at-home mom.
Emotions are difficult to control, and this is why I’ve learned to use my goals as my motivation–to bring some sense and logic to how I’m feeling. If I know the steps I need to do, and the path I need to take, I’m able to focus more on the job and get things done quickly.
Here are 10 actionable steps that you can take to manage the mommy guilt:
- List your reasons and goals. Why are you working? Is it for additional income? Self-fulfillment? Social needs? Ask yourself why you do what you do and write it down somewhere where you can see it every day as you prepare for work. It will remind you of your personal convictions during those times when you’re feeling like a failure as a homemaker and your mommy guilt is strong.
- Get organized. Before you leave home, ensure that you’ve prepared everything your family would need the next morning the night before: prepare their clothes or school uniforms, leave love notes on their lovingly packed lunch, have some ready-to-go snacks in the fridge, do what you can to make them feel your love even when you’re away. Create a family calendar and have it somewhere where everybody can see it so they know everyone’s schedule and when you are available for them. If you don’t know how to go about it, my friend Abby has a wonderful free course. You can check out her beautiful home binder +planner if you want a shortcut. Also, I highly recommend you read this book; it is unlike any other book I’ve read that teaches you how you to organize your entire life!
- Stop comparing your life with another’s. This is a toughie, especially with the popularity of social media; it’s like everybody’s out there trying to prove they’re living it up better than everyone else. It’s stressful and pointless. And moms. I can’t even begin. We don’t have to force ourselves to do something that doesn’t fit our family’s lifestyle just because it works for another family [looks at the giant tub of bento boxes with matching accessories].
- Savor your kids when you do have time. Whenever I’m feeding my baby, I’m sometimes tempted to scroll through my phone “just to check” my email or facebook. Don’t mom! Don’t dilute your presence with any distraction. Plan a special time to spend with your children. Bond over something that your child loves to do and be present mentally and emotionally so that you can recall these memories in detail when you want to.
- Stay connected. If you’ve read my older posts, you’ll know that we’re in the process of moving. My hubby has returned to the city to continue with his work while we are staying at his mother’s house until we can get our visas to New Zealand. My daughter cries for him every morning when she wakes up, but he makes up for it by calling her every night on Facetime or Skype. It’s not as good as being here with us in the flesh, but it sure keeps my daughter happy enough to get a good night sleep.
- Connect in different ways. Place your list of reason and goals and a picture of your family on your work desk and look at it every time you’re feeling your mommy guilt rising up. Ask your daycare center or your relative/ child’s guardian to occasionally send you some photos or video clips of your child’s day so you don’t feel so disconnected.
- Look for a reliable guardian or flexible daycare center. Having your relatives to look after your children is a plus because they’d be able to enjoy the kids while you work and you can be assured that they are in good hands. If you don’t have this option like I do, ask around for the best daycare center that gives you the option for video chats and daily reports of your child’s activities.
- Ask your boss if you can work from home. Before my sister-in-law gave birth, she talked to her boss about her need to stay home for longer than her maternity leave would allow, so she was given the option to work from home. If you have a 9-5 job away from your kids, you can talk to your superior about the flexibility of your position; maybe you’ll be given some options that could work for both of you.
- Fully commit to your work. Don’t get distracted. Remove clutter. Have your work tools on hand so you can do your job quickly. The sooner you finish your tasks, the sooner you can get back to your kids. Be efficient with your time; limit breaks, avoid gossips, finish ahead of time so you can get home early. If you’re wanting to work more hours for the extra pay, decide if it’s worth the time to be away from your family.
- It’s okay to enjoy working. Indulge in your guilty pleasures as you work. I find myself enjoying most aspects of blogging because I get to drink some iced tea and eat as many sweets and pastries as I go about my work. I get to talk with people who are on the other side of the planet and get to learn new things. I’m enjoying the simple pleasures of being a work-at-home mom, and it makes me a happier homemaker.
Remember, your family will always appreciate the things that you do for them regardless if you choose to stay at home or to work a day job. The most important thing is that your choices are made with their best interest in mind.
As for me, I know that this arrangement of working at home in my in-laws’ house will not be forever… and I can’t wait to move forward.
What about you? Do you experience mommy guilt?
Are you a stay-at-home mom? A working mom? Or a work at home mom? What are your goals?
What are your goals?