Today I went to work half an hour earlier and returned home like an hour later than my normal working hour. My husband and my lovely son already had dinner so I sat on the table and ate dinner alone. I took my son a bath, wrapped him in a towel and brought him to bed, kissed him good night.
As I told him good night, he started crying.
Because it means his dad would put him to bed, and it means I have to work late at night so that I cannot be with him.
And my belly clenched with guilt.
I could totally replay how his face changes in under 2 second, when he heard his daddy said "say good night to mommy" and when I told him "good night".
He felt sad, heart-broken and disappointed. He might even feel betrayed.
Because I am supposed to be with him at night after a whole long day at work.
He literally sees me less than 2 hours a day while I've been around my colleagues more than 10 hours a day, not even counting 4 to 5 more hours sitting at the dining table alone every night to complete my work.
My eyes got wet as I am writing this.
I mean, what the hell am I doing? My son only be a little boy once, and everyday is a gift, and I am just letting this gift slip through my fingers while I get busy doing something else?
I feel guilty as hell. And I realize, working mom guilt is real.
What's bad about working mom guilt?
I am not saying it is bad that you have working mom guilt. It is actually good because once you feel guilty, because it can help you to change your behaviors and actions, so that you can care for your little ones better.
However the time you feel working mom guilt is non-efficient. No matter what you do, once you feel the working mom guilt starts hitting, you loose focus on what you are doing and stop your track.
I literally have to finish a big file of financial statements when my working mom guilt hits, and I cannot keep going. I cannot even listen to music anymore. So I have to stop my work and write.
Being a working mom is so damn hard already when we have to balance our work and our lives. Especially when you are the sole provider (yes there are many husbands loosing their jobs during this crazy pandemic, mine included), the weight on your shoulders gets heavier and heavier.
And the tears of your little ones when you have to say good bye to them, is a hard heavy stone that hits your heart so bad that it hurts.
5 actionable tips to fix working mom guilt
As we working moms really don't have any spare time to waste, or stay in a daze for too long, we need to tackle that working mom guilt, to get out of it fast and get the wheels running.
Here are a suggestion list of 5 actionable tips that you can try.
1. Thank yourself
Have you thanked yourself today? For such a living miracle you are?
Don't believe me. But let me ask you this and you can decide if you are a really living miracle, or just garbage.
Are your little ones perfect and amazing? I'm sure they are. And do you remember how they are brought to this world? Your amazing body, your effort in carrying all the weight, dealing with pregnancy sicknesses all help to bring them to this world. A swan cannot come out from a duck's egg. If you are not amazing, how can your kids be amazing?
Are your little ones well fed and taken care of? Yes. And by whom? Your husband maybe. But if you do not step up, who will bring food home to the table, who will pay the bills, who will buy new clothes, new toys for them that make their eyes twinkle?
Your little ones are happy because they have an amazing mom as you are, who love them, sacrifice for them, take more responsibilities than anyone could ever imagined because of them.
And thanks to how you take care of yourself, how you stay safe everyday, your little ones are not orphaned.
2. Come to your core
Answer these questions honestly. Why do you do what you do? Why do you have to step up and carry the weight with your shoulders? Is it because you are a workaholic and it makes you feel good? Or is it because you need to provide for your family and this is the best that you can do?
A trick is that don't make up any excuses to justify your crazy working hour. For example, if you really enjoy working and that is your dream, don't sooth your inner critics by saying that you are doing that because of your family. If you are doing things for yourself, admit it.
There is no right or wrong answer, this is just simply how to make you realize what really matters to you.
For me, as I am stuck in the corporate world at my daily job, I have no other choice than trying to meet the deadlines and complete my tasks on time. But other time, as I just simply enjoy writing, I put my son to sleep and sleep together with him, then I wake up early to write. Just for the fun of writing and sharing. And I enjoy it.
3. Make up plan (and keep your promises)
Even though there are days I work late nights and cannot put my son to sleep, I try to have make up plans and I always keep my promises with him.
If I say no more work on weekend, I do not open my laptop when he is up. (I do work when he is napping or sleeping at night).
4. Set up boundaries
I know that working mom guilt is real, especially when your work is crazy and you have to keep up with the rush. But remember one thing, you have to learn how to say "no".
Yes I know it is cliche too.
Everyone tells you to say "no" more often. But not many people explains why.
Here's why. People are wired to be ungrateful. It is nothing personal. It is just how our brains work.
A very obvious example in pretty much every working mom's house. If you are a working mom and your husband is a stay at home dad, what do you expect to see when you get home from work?
A freshly-cooked dinner, or an empty kitchen with dirty dishes in the sink? Well, we know what we like.
But here is the harsh truth. Your husband is not obliged to cook for you. Maybe he already ordered a pizza, or maybe he did not. But he is not obliged to cook for you. But you, as a working person, expect that from him all the time.
Instead of thanking him for cooking (even just a little) for you, you feel resentful if you have to move a finger around the house after coming home from work.
Same thing applies with work.
We all know the promotion can be tempting. And everyone wants to complete their work so that the boss would say "good job" the next morning. But if you keep pushing yourself too hard, your boss would forget you have a life too. When you cannot take it anymore, and you miss a deadline, he will not remember all the nights you stay up to work, but he will talk about you as a person who cannot commit to a deadline.
So set up the damn boundaries. Give yourself time to work but also time to reset.
This is really depends. Some people find affirmations to be effective, some people find them fake and annoying. And I have no judgment at all.
Sometimes I find affirmations to be effective, but other times I doubt them.
But there is a really an affirmation that I say often, and it helps me greatly to overcome stress and guilt.
"I love and accept myself. I approve of myself. I am doing the best that I can do"
Say this often and you will feel the change.
Working mom guilt can be a time that you come back to your core and focus on what really matters.
Working mom guilt will happen. Even though you do all of above tips often, one day, out of the blue, it will hit you.
But you will realize that it is not as scary and painful as you thought it would be. You can take this chance to be aware of the present and commit to be present for your little one.
Remember, you are doing the best that you can. Trust your instinct.