Moms are gifted at feeling guilty. The start of a new school year, however, is a great opportunity for a fresh approach. This year, it’s time to, as Elsa in Frozen tells us, just LET IT GO! Stop beating yourself up about all the things you’re missing. Stop focusing on what you’re not doing right. And stop comparing yourself to others. It’s time to find peace with your circumstances and decisions.
I have gained this important perspective from my experiences running a company and a community of hundreds of moms who have shared their own mom guilt issues with me. My best advice for moms and dads is to remember that the only constant in parenting is change.
Whatever stage you are in as a parent right now is only a snapshot. If you were to take another snapshot in a year, the picture will look completely different. Every stage presents challenges, so stop putting pressure and guilt on yourself.
In addition, stop comparing yourself to others. Back-to-School Night can be a nightmare for those who question their work/life balance and how they are raising their children. On those nights, parents look around and often compare themselves to the other moms (and dads) who are accomplished in their business careers and somehow deeply involved in their kids’ lives and in the school PTA. Moms often leave the school feeling they are not good enough. They are not doing enough. They feel terribly alone. However, everyone is missing something. The reality is none of us can have it all – at the same time. And that’s OK.
In my new book, ParentPreneurs, I write about my experience with serious mom guilt that started once I went back to work after the birth of my first child, and then again after the birth of my second child less than two years later. At the time, I had two kids under two. Then, I did the unthinkable: I quit my job, pursued my longtime passion to become an entrepreneur, and started my own company — compounding my mom guilt.
Even though I was successfully pursuing my professional passion and fulfilling my dreams, my inner struggle over the time lost with my kids was real, intense, and constant. In this period, I worried I was shortchanging my kids and myself by putting them in daycare. As my children and my company grew, I felt guilty because I missed field trips and volunteering in the classroom due to business commitments.
A decade later, I want moms to realize you can be a good mother AND excel in business and your professional life. But it’s crucial to STOP feeling guilty about your choices. Here are some of my tips for crushing mom guilt:
Acknowledge the guilt. It can be cathartic.
The first part is to just realize what is eating at you. What do you feel regretful about and what do you feel you are not doing well enough or missing? Whatever it is, face it. Write it down. Acknowledge how you are feeling about it. And then own your choices.
Set boundaries! Protect your time, energy, and peace. Practice self-care.
As parents, we have limited time. You need to take control of that time and get yourself organized and scheduled to make sure you have factored in time to take care of yourself. We all have certain self-care priorities that keep us sane. For me, it is a daily run. No matter what my day looks like, I have always factored in that time for that run. It clears my head, takes away my stress, gets me out of the office and is good for my body. Am I giving up having morning coffee with a friend? Yes.
But for me, I know I have to do that run-in order to handle the rest of the load life is throwing at me between my business and kids. It is a sacrifice for me to not have stronger social connections, but I know in a few years when my kids are off to college, I will have the time to do daily coffees with friends. As I said, things change and tomorrow does not need to look like today; and just because you don’t have time today for something doesn’t mean you won’t in 6 months or a year.
Stop believing the things you see on social media.
Boy, has this been a lesson for me. It took me a while to wrap my head around what I was seeing on my feeds, but I have learned to stop looking at what I see on social media as real life. You can log on and feel like you are missing so much in so many aspects of your life and feel guilty about your choices, but honestly so much of it is a facade.
It’s hard to say, but I have seen so many parents with their “amazing marriages” and their “amazing besties” who do everything together who a year later are divorced or are no longer talking. I have seen these moms who are showing all these amazing things they are doing with their kids in real life sitting on a bench scrolling their phone and ignoring their children. It took me years of seeing so many of these things happen to finally learn to take social media with a grain of salt and stop letting it make me feel guilty or crappy! Often, it’s the ones posting who is unhappy and trying to make themselves feel better. Don’t let it suck you in.
Realize there is no such thing as a perfect parent
Just because you were raised a certain way, doesn’t mean it was the “right” or “only” way.
When I had my kids 15 years ago, I had a picture in my head of what makes the best parent and how that parent would then have perfect kids. I probably was thinking of my own parents. I was raised by a dad who was home from work by 4pm every day to take me to my soccer practice and all my activities. And a mom who knew all my teachers on a first name basis and was very involved in my life.
I felt guilty for so long that I was not giving my kids the same environment that I came from and worried I was shortchanging them. As I have gone through this journey, I have learned there is absolutely no such thing as a perfect parent or the “right way”. Don’t let anyone try to tell you differently. Everyone is just trying to make it through the day. Just do your best with whatever circumstances you have and give your kids all the love and care you can.
Talk to your kids about your work.
This can only benefit their own growth and development. Don’t hide the fact you work- embrace it. I want my kids to be aware of what I am working on and where my time is being spent. The more they understand, the more they appreciate what and why it is that I am doing what I’m doing as opposed to being singularly focused on them. Whether they would see it this way or not right now, I believe my kids have benefited tremendously from all the knowledge I have given them over the years, the exposure they have had to all the ups and downs of my business, and how they see I handle conflicts and issues.
Ultimately, what matters is not whether you work or not. What matters is that you are a happy mom. Because a happy, content mom will likely produce a happy, content child.
Remember, when it comes to guilt, LET IT GO . . . at least for today!
This guest post was authored by Jamie Ratner
Jamie Ratner is the CEO and founder of CertifiKID, a recognized best deal website for parents. Over the past decade and with CertifiKID’s recent acquisition of Macaroni KID, Jamie has grown CertifiKID from a regional deal website to one of the country’s largest parent-focused digital media and advertising companies. It reaches millions of families nationwide and backed by an investment from Shark Tank’s Kevin O’Leary. Jamie was named one of Greater Washington’s top women business leaders by Washington SmartCEO. A soccer mom and entrepreneur (aka “ParentPreneur”), she’s a leading expert in the daily deal, parent, and digital media space. ParentPreneurs is her first book, co-authored with husband, Brian Ratner.
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