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Dealing With Working Mom’s Guilt, Whether You Love or Hate Your Job

If you wish you could be a better mom, you’re not alone. Working mom’s guilt is and has been a real concern to most all working mothers like me. Only 10 percent of mothers working full-time give themselves the highest rating for their parenting and just 24 percent of mothers working part-time give themselves a 10 as a parent.

So how do you deal with the feelings of guilt, whether you love or hate your job?

Is Working Mom’s Guilt Telling You Something?

Sometimes guilt can be a warning signal that you need to make a change in your life. Are you unhappy with your childcare arrangements?  Is your boss making it hard for you to find balance? Do you need to ask your husband or partner for more help around the house?

If you see a red flag, fix it. Even if you can’t correct it right away, resolving to do so can get rid of the guilt. Once you make a plan to have a better work-life balance it’s easier to brush off the anxiety and the guilt.  Here are some tips you might find helpful.

Write Down the Reasons You Work

We all work for different reasons.  We love our jobs. We need the money. We don’t want to risk dropping out of a competitive field when new positions are scarce. We realize we’d be miserable as stay-at-home moms and would make our children unhappy. We want to set an example of a successful, independent wage-earner. The list goes on and is varied.

Write down your own motivations. Once you’ve reassured yourself that you’re doing what you need to do, then simply let go of the guilt.  I know that is easier said than done, but trust yourself and the choices you’ve made for your family. But keep the list. When guilt arises again – and it will – pull it out to refresh your memory.

Stay Away From People Who Make You Feel Guilty

It sounds obvious, but may be harder than it sounds. You know you shouldn’t pause to chat with the neighbor who once said, “I could never let someone else raise my child” – so stop talking to your neighbor! It’s toxic. Relatives can be even trickier. But if your mother-in-law makes a snide comment about you working, find an excuse to leave the room.

Consider the Source

When you do face an anti-working mom comment try to remember that we all speak from our own perspective, based on our own experiences.

You have to see the comment in light of the choices that person made for her own family. Did she put her career on hold to be home with kids? Did she miss working or hate being dependant on her husband for money? Then maybe she has to believe hers is the only right choice in order to live with the trade-offs she accepted.

Play Hooky

For guilt that just won’t go away, take a day off just to spend with your child/children. Put nothing else on that day’s agenda. You’ll reconnect with your kid’s daily routine, appetite, and personality. They will relish the special time just as much as you will.

You can also take the opportunity to assess whether you’d be happier working less or not at all. More likely, you’ll reaffirm the life choices you’ve made.

If you can’t take a vacation day, try to pick your child up early for a few hours of play or declare one weekend day errand-free and spend it just being a Mom and kid.

Remember That All Moms Have Challenges

When you’re feeling work-family conflict, it’s easy to idealize the life you would have as a stay-at-home mom. The reality is that stay-at-home parents can have as much stress as working parents, if not more, depending on the age, temperament and number of kids.

So go ahead, relish your solo commute to work or that quiet cup of coffee at your desk. If you were at home full-time, you might be lucky to shower in private.

Acknowledge the Loss

That said it’s a simple fact that a working mom isn’t going to witness every single minute of her children’s day. It’s okay to be sad about missing out on the sweet moments and the fun. If you let yourself mourn the things you’re giving up by working, it may be easier for you to enjoy the things you’re gaining. It’s no use pretending there aren’t tradeoffs.

What are your thoughts? 

 
 

Mothers of Invention

Over and over again we are hearing in the news, particularly online, about the surge of mothers and their acumen for small business ventures.  We see mommy bloggers, for example, gaining in popularity and turning their expertise as consumers into a popular way to join the ranks of working at-home mothers. They become a source for hundreds, thousands and at times millions of consumers by reviewing products and carrying ads on their sites. And this is just one of many ways we are witnessing mothers becoming business women and therefore enjoying the trendy new title of mompreneurs.

As an entrepreneur and working mother of two, I have always read with interest and enjoyed hearing how others juggle work-life balance.  We are working harder then we may have ever done while in the corporate world, working for “The Man”, but we are doing it on our own timetable. In many cases, it’s safe to say that entrepreneurship represents a chance to achieve a work-life balance that’s nearly impossible to be found in the corporate world.

One of the stories I read recently was about a woman named Mary Schulman.  When she was introducing her company’s new line of children’s snacks, Snikiddy Baked Fries, to supermarket executives a few months ago, one of them predicted that the parmesan-garlic flavor wouldn’t be popular with kids, but Ms. Schulman knew better. She already had tested it with a handpicked focus group — her young children! She said, “That flavor is my kids’ favorite and wasn’t worried one little bit.”

Heeding maternal instincts has worked well for Ms. Schulman and a number of other women who have launched food and beverage companies in the past few years. Most of them had a common motivation: They couldn’t find products that were nutritious enough for their kids — and they saw an entrepreneurial opportunity in filling the gap.

For now, these “mompreneurs” represent a tiny corner of the children’s food market, but they’re making a mark nonetheless. One group of women created a fast-growing food category from scratch — organic frozen baby food — and others are winning a following in other niches, such as healthy snacks.

“They’re doing what good entrepreneurs do: finding and filling a need,” says Hannah Keeley, an influential “mommy blogger” who also hosts a show on PBS. “In this case, they’ve learned about the need on the soccer field, or at the bus stop, or in their play groups.”

Related Information

§The $555,000 Student-Loan Burden, from WSJ Online

§Are Annuities Being Overhyped as a Retirement Cure-All?, from WSJ Online

§High Trading Is Bad News for Investors, from WSJ Online

§Subscribe to The Wall Street Journal

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Some mompreneurs, like Ms. Devine, worked in the food industry before striking out on their own. Regardless of their former career, though, they have all drawn on their business backgrounds when building their new enterprises. Altogether, the women have helped build organic frozen baby food into a category that’s pushing $10 million in overall U.S. sales only three years after moving into Whole Foods markets and other natural-foods chains and independent stores.

 

What I want you to take away from this is that you should take inventory of your strengths, accomplishments and your passion to see yourself anew.  A change of perspective is the beginning of the dream and the first step to success.  Today is the first day of the rest of your life and like the Nike® slogan says:  “Just Do It!”

 
 

The Mompreneur: The Good, The Bad and The Ugly

Oh, the freedom of being your own boss. So many working mothers see it as the answer to their work-life balance woes, but once they embark on entrepreneurship many get a harsh dose of reality and before long realize it can be so much harder than they could have ever imagined.

 

There is a growing trend for moms choosing to stay at home to raise their children to look for ways to do something for herself outside of being a wife and mother, while contributing to the family’s income. Many are turning to the Internet to find the answer with opportunities ripe for the picking. Moms visualize that they can work when the kids are sleeping or at play dates, but quickly find out that running your own business and watching young kids translates into no more personal time for Mommy.

 

Having built and run several companies, I know all too well the sacrifices mothers have to make when bitten by the entrepreneur bug and having a deep desire to do it all. I must admit I have given up a lot of my personal time. There’s little to no time to read a book unless it’s business-related, lounge in the bathtub or see a movie with friends. At times, I have worked like a dog, but have always tried my hardest to keep my son and daughter at the top of my “To Do” list.

 

 

If you are married ask your husband to help out more. Don’t get trapped in the mindset that the kids, the house and everything is your responsibility and yours alone. Whether you are bringing in less or eventually more to the household you are both in this together and as such sharing everything – and what I refer to as The Good, The Bad and The Ugly.  What a healthy thing for your marriage to function as equals working towards common goals and all for the benefit of the family you have built.

 

If you are single, then enlisting family or hiring the appropriate, competent help in the right areas is one of the best investments you can make in your business plan.  You have to allow yourself the “luxury” of realizing that Superwoman is a cartoon character and not a real-life role model.  Early in my career I read a quote by Barbara Walters that is as insightful now as it was several years ago.  Ms. Walters is highly regarded as the newswoman who broke the glass ceiling back in the day when men dominated the news anchor chairs. Her view of women juggling career and family states: “A woman can have a great job and a family, BUT having a great career and a happy family is nearly impossible.” So how do you escape the pitfalls and try to successfully navigate through them?

 

First of all, you must realize that when you do anything in start-up mode, the investment of time is extraordinary. You have to accept that starting your business will most likely be all-consuming. Entrepreneurship does give you more flexibility because you control the hours, however long they may be, but you can’t have illusions that you’re going to be a full-time mother creating a business. You have to treat it like a full time business and get child care assistance.

 

Women have to forget about being supermoms and ask for help, stresses Julie Lenzer Kirk, author of The ParentPreneur Edge: What Parenting Teaches About Building a Successful Business.

 

Here are my top recommendations to Mompreneurs:

 

1.    Talk to your spouse about working as a team when it comes to child/home responsibilities.

2.    Get good child care, whether it’s day care, a babysitter or a co-op with other entrepreneur moms.

3.    Find a place in the house for your business so you can shut the door, and set boundaries for children when it comes to interrupting Mommy. Most of the mompreneurs I know have kids that feel loved, but also realize the world doesn’t revolve around them!

4.    Join a mom entrepreneur networking group, such as Mompreneurs Online.

 

If you are an entrepreneur and have some tried and true methods that have worked for you, my followers and I’d love to hear from you!

 
 

Summer Activities for Families: Sports

Children respond well to physical activity, and the benefits of engaging in sports, both organized and amateur, are multiple.  I have mentioned before on this blog that childhood obesity is rising at an alarming rate.  Diabetes, arthritis and high blood pressure, diseases commonly associated with the elderly, plague children as a result.

It is critical that a healthy lifestyle is established at a very early age.  According to www.keepkidshealthy.com, a website devoted to improving the lives of young and adolescent children, the likelihood of a child maintaining healthy habits throughout his or her life is dependent upon the routines displayed by his or her parents.  For example, children who grow up in a household with one or more smokers are eighty percent more likely to pick up the detrimental habit.  Children who grow up in a household where alcohol is consumed often are sixty two percent more likely to engage in underage drinking and have a higher risk of becoming an alcoholic.

One way to increase your child’s health is through sports.  Whether you install a volleyball net or basketball hoop in your backyard, or enroll your child in a community sports league for the summer, it is important to add physical activity into your child’s schedule every day, particularly during the summer months when your child does not have the benefit of physical education classes during the school day.

Browse local newspapers, magazines and online resources to find organizations that offer children’s sports programs in your community.  In addition, most schools offer summer activities and programs geared specifically to their students.   Always visit the program and take a tour before enrolling your child to ensure that the activity meets your child’s needs.  Speak to coaches and other parents to gain a greater understanding of the schedule, requirements and time commitments.

 
 

The Single Parent: Work at Home Solutions

Women who work from home often struggle with outside interference, particularly from young children.  These distractions come in the form of family needs, household concerns and personal health and maintenance issues.  Emergency situations at home cause employees to re-consider their priorities, often placing quality work and dedication behind the needs of their families.  Overall, these competing demands slow and prevent productivity.  Additionally, multiple impending deadlines, when combined with several outside interferences, can trigger an extreme lack of motivation, often to the point of work paralysis, thereby preventing the timely completion of work-related projects.

At the same time, delegated work assignments must remain a high priority for work-at-home employees.  If these crucial tasks and projects are not completed and to the high-quality standard, employers will likely demand that the employee spend more time in the office or will simply terminate all employment arrangements.  Although many employers are willing to provide flexible options for their employees, care must be taken to ensure that privileges are not mismanaged.

If you are working from a home office, or are seeking to do so, prioritize carefully.  Ensure that you have an adequate method of tracking the progress of, and completing, work-related projects on time.  A simple written “to-do” list on a dry erase white board will suffice, although several software programs are capable of emailing reminders of upcoming deadlines to users.  Consider using a software as a service model, such as Long Jump™ or Sales Force ™ to keep in touch with co-workers.  Other methods to stay “plugged in” include Skype™, the video conference technology, instant messaging and working on a virtual private network.

In addition, review my previous posts on time management, hiring competent household management assistance and intrinsic motivation for more information on the process of alleviating outside interferences.  These distractions destroy focus and productivity, and should be eliminated whenever possible.

 
 

The Single Parent Issue

Today’s economic climate has increased the workload of many working mothers and has even brought many women out of the home and into an office for part-time or full-time employment. When layoffs and company reorganizations abound, women often bear a heavier workload to compensate for the lost wages and reduced hours. Women who commit themselves to their careers face long days, gutsy hard work and grueling business challenges. As such, they must often sacrifice time with their families to accomplish their multiple business goals.

Working single mothers face an especially challengeing task of devoting time towards raising children whilst ensuring success in the workplace. As I have stated previously, many women lose promotions or a spot on a key project simply because they spend too much time tending to family issues. Single mothers are plauged by the constant tension between work and family and do not have a spouse to alleviate the strain and share the burden.

Time management is a key component of balancing your work and family life. No matter how busy you are, devote time on evenings and weekends to your children. Make sure they continue to excel in their school work, commit your attendance at events important to them and carve time out of your schedule for them when they have an emergency.

I have devoted several blog entries to the topic of delegating household work to a competent manager. This strategy is an important part of ensuring you have the time and ability to devote to your children when you are away from work. Cleaning and laundering are important functions in every household, but your time is better spent with the family members that need you the most.