How can you possibly have a career and a personal life and not feel guilty that someone is getting short changed? Is it a no win situation which just can't be resolved? Sorry for the cliche, but it's actually a win-win situation.
First, let's take a look at your personal life. You have a lot of commitments, right? But isn't this what makes you feel connected to this earth? Commitments are a good thing - you may have a commitment to a sports team, a local school, a charity or a family matter. These commitments take you away from work, both mentally and physically. (Again, this is also a good thing which I'll come back to later). Your instinct is that your priorities are in the right place, but you still feel guilty leaving clients or colleagues with unfinished business.
Now let's take a look at your professional life. You are no doubt enjoying the challenge and collaboration of working with other adults. Knowing you, I bet you're really throwing yourself into the new job, the new role, or project. But I hear you. You're telling me that despite this job satisfaction you still do experience that tinge (or on a bad day, that pang) of guilt that you should be home having a glass of wine with your partner or reading that bedtime story with your kids.
Well, if it's any consolation we've all been there . The point is you're not alone and it's not personal - it's part of the human predicament. It's part of what defines us and you've got to stop beating yourself up about it. It's not your fault, so there's absolutely no reason why you should feel guilty!
Kate Redding, the working mom played by Sarah Jessica Parker in the film I don't know how she does it, demonstrates beautifully that so much of the guilt we experience is self-imposed. We set unrealistic expectations of what we can achieve - whether that be at home or at work. Kate seems to feel guilty about everything and as a result she seems almost scatter-brained and unfocused in almost every situation. Her guilt seems to be driving her to be uber human. (She really stoops low when she dresses up a store-bought cake as homemade for the school bake sale. She doesn't want her kids to feel like she's contributing less than the other mothers. Oh, please!). In a way we set ourselves up for feeling a sense of failure, a sense of guilt, because we can't meet a pie in the sky expectation.
Ok, so although you buy into my logic, you're still not over it.
Here's the real key to getting to grips with the guilt trip. What you have to realize is that it's because of your personal life (rather than in spite of!) that you're a better professional, a better business person. People like to deal with other people. The unique approach, values and integrity you bring to the work environment are your greatest contributions. Your uniqueness comes from your personal life, your upbringing and your personal experiences. Also having a personal life pulls you away from work - it saves you from burn-out (I saw plenty of this in my corporate life!). It allows you to break away and recharge your battery, which of course makes you more productive in the long run. Ever notice how much easier something feels once you've had that mental break?
Fine, I get all that, but I still feel guilty about not spending enough time with my partner. I feel guilty about leaving the kids. Did you ever think about how your professional life makes you an interesting person - how it broadens your perspective? Have you ever thought about how your professional life enables you to support your partner's career (you realize just how tough it is out there in the real world!). So many skills and qualities that you apply in your personal life have actually been developed in your work life. You've got it - your professional life makes you a better person - you as a partner, daughter, friend or mother. You can help your relatives and close friends get out of those tricky situations because you solve problems at work all day long!
Bottom line? Although you want perfection, just focusing on that one thing doesn't get you there either. Once you accept that you can't possibly be everywhere and do everything, and also accept that it's the varied dimensions in your life that might it worth living, you're well on the road to recovery. No more guilt. Time to enjoy life's variety!
This day hung over me like a black cloud for most of my maternity leave if I am honest. I am a worrier by nature so this new experience of going back to work, with the responsibility of a baby to add to the equation made my stomach churn….Sound’s a little drastic I know.
My plan first time round was to take the 6 months off as I believed life would pretty much be the same and it would all slot into place..I couldn’t have been more wrong. As soon as my son was born I never felt the same and found it hard to function, let alone cope with a baby! The thought of entering the world of work in a matter of months filled me with dread. It wasn’t just the changes I experienced becoming a mum, it was the thought of leaving him and even worse with someone else.
I worried about this a lot and one day came clean with my husband and presented him with my fear and anxieties. We hatched a plan, reviewed our finances and decided we could just about manage until our son was 1 and then I had to return to work….phew! I still had to go back at some point.
My increased maternity time I relished every moment. My worry and panic subsided a little as I had “time” to pick up those feelings in the future. I was not going to waste a moment!
I enjoyed every minute of my “extra” time but as we hurtled towards a few months prior to returning, those pangs of guilt, dread and panic came back again. It wasn’t going away and I had to accept it would be my turn shortly and join my peers and friends who were working and juggling their family lives. This is what other mums had warned me about. I found it really hard whichever way I dressed it up or down.
“That” day approached fast and to lessen the pain I treated myself to new work clothes – a new me. Helped a little but the reality was I didn’t want to leave him. Yes the money was a huge plus….financial independance again, holidays etc “I am giving him the best start in life” “Better to provide for a easier life than constantly worry about money”. These where the conversations I would have with myself regularly.
The day came and I thought I would never survive, but I did. Plenty of women do. It’s hard and emotional but if you are organised, have selected the best childcare which works for you, don’t beat yourself up too much and try and select the positives from the working/balancing life then you will get through it. It also made it a little easier when I had some close friends to lean on when it was all too much….
If I could get through a good week without dropping a “ball” and more importantly no sickness from nursery, including baby and I then I had succeeded! The biggest reward of picking my son up from nursery and the time we spent when I wasn’t at work was worth it…..I will never forget those cherished times of indulgence…
That dreaded “G” word. You and I as working mums know how it feels….
I have committed to working in London this week to help out my former colleagues. Great fun, extra cash and a bit of old me back!
Always takes me longer to get ready when I go to work as little ones always demand extra attention and the big arm on the clock, for some reason swings around faster than usual. Two year old is “extra” clingy this morning and as I give mum the rundown I gently distract her, big kisses and leg it for the door. I haven’t noticed she isn’t feeling well.
Into London fully charged, I go through my mental checklist for the day and place the “guilt” far down the list as it “will soon be over and I will be on my way home”…I say to myself…
Rambling on through my first meeting, silently my Blackberry flashes up “home”! Heart sinks, try to keep calm, focussed and start panicking …..
As soon as we take a break, I call mum back and two year old “not herself” and has developed a temperature. Wants to sleep, won’t drink…..I suddenly want to go home. Excitement of day diminishes and I am losing my focus. Count to ten and my mind is back in perspective and I think I can keep going. Mum reassured me. “She’s gonna be fine”…..I carry on.
Afternoon flies by and I can’t wait to get home. Quick call and mum has made an appointment for Doctor as my daughter who is usually “full on” really isn’t well. Heart sinks. Feel really bad as I dismissed her a little this morning. Thought she was playing up.
Get home and take daughter straight to Doctors…..She isn’t right and he diagnoses her with septic tonsils. Now I feel really, really awful. How did I miss that! The guilt! It just doesn’t get any easier in all the years I have been a working mummy.