Whether you are an employee, a small business owner, a consultant, or a CEO; if you are also a mother, you find yourself constantly faced with the choice: provide for the family and children you love, or spend more time with them?
When the things we love come into conflict with the way we earn a living, oftentimes it’s work that takes priority. Your family, after all, can’t fire you–at least not as easily as a boss or client can–and bills have to be paid.
Working Mom Guilt
Small business owner Laura Eaton of Philadelphia is no stranger to “mommy guilt;” for many entrepreneurs, a business is like another child that takes away from the time they spend with their actual children.
“It can be overwhelming at times,” Eaton says. “I have to remind myself that what I’m doing now is going to benefit our family in the long term.”
But even knowing that what you’re doing is necessary for your family, it can be difficult to balance being there for the people you love with earning a living. So how do you cope?
Check out these three lessons from an entrepreneur and mother to help you balance work and family–no matter what your job situation may be.
You Can’t Have It All Every Day
Any working parent will tell you, you can’t get it all. There will always be something that gets kicked to the curb, whether it’s a full night’s sleep, vacation time, date night with your spouse, or seeing every soccer game every weekend.
So start by adjusting your attitude: you can’t have it all every day.
Monday you may miss a game. Tuesday you may only get five hours of sleep. Thursday you may work two jobs and miss dinner. Saturday days you may give up on getting anything done and spend the afternoon watching movies with your kids.
This isn’t a bad thing–it’s okay if the balance of each day is a little different.
To find places where you can adjust your balance, take advantage of where your schedule has flexibility. Can you work from home occasionally, or work longer hours only four days a week? Does your work year have slow months? Schedule time with your family when you know work will be slow, or schedule work when you know your family will be all right without you.
Eaton tries to plan her work hours around her daughter’s schedule, which is made easier by not having a traditional 9-5 job. “Sometimes that means I get up at 4am to catch up on emails,” she adds, “but being able to spend most of my time with my daughter at this young age makes it worthwhile.”
Remember, it’s not necessary to get everything done in a day. Long term balance is much more important that being a supermom 24/7.
Don’t Be Afraid to Ask For Help
If you find yourself losing balance, getting overwhelmed by the working mom guilt, or having a hard time being available for work when you need to be, stop and ask for help.
“We try to do it all and be everything to everyone, it’s not possible,” Eaton says of working mothers and the drive to get it all done. “It’s not about being perfect, its about doing the best you can do with the time and energy you have available.”
Telling your friends and family that you can’t handle it all can sometimes feel like an admission of failure, but everyone needs help now and then. So take a look at your support network and see who can help you pick up the slack.
Does your job or the local school system provide childcare that you aren’t taking advantage of? Can your spouse split household tasks more evenly? Can you share carpool or babysitting duties with other working mothers, each of you taking only one or two days a week? Can your parents watch your kids so you can travel for work?
Often, our friends and family have the solutions we need–but you’ll never know help is there if you don’t start by asking for it.
Why Do You Feel Working Mom Guilt, Anyway?
Sometimes, when work and guilt feel overwhelming, it’s important to stop thinking about what you’re missing out on and start thinking about what a great thing you’re doing for your kids by working.
Your work is putting money in the bank and groceries on the table. It’s paying for piano lessons and trips to see the extended family. And it’s a vital tool for teaching your kids as well.
It’s just as important for a parent to demonstrate a healthy work life as it is to make it to every recital or game. Lessons about responsibility, work ethic, motivation, and following a fulfilling path can never come too early, so use your work to set an example for your kids.
Eaton reminds herself that her daughter “is seeing me creating something from nothing” as she develops her business. “I want her to trust her instincts and do something that she loves, not just what is expected of her–it took me many years to figure that out; I’m hoping I can get her there faster.”
Sometimes, just remembering that you are already an excellent role model for the people you love can help make things feel a little less overwhelming.