Settling in to Mommy Guilt

4 pm and the phone rings – “Hi Mom, just wondering when you’re coming home…?”

I glance at the clock, mentally flip through the mountain of small details left unfinished from my day, then move on to the evening’s schedule. I wince, realizing that when everyone closes their eyes tonight, I’ll have to put in an hour or two on the laptop. “I’ll be leaving here within the next half hour,” I promise, stifling a sigh as the ever present mommy guilt pushes it’s way into my consciousness.

One hour and 45 minutes later I’m on my third rewrite of an important email. “Leave it,” the voice inside my head insists. “You’re distracted and under pressure; this is no time to write a carefully worded anything.” This time I give in to the sigh; there’s no-one around to hear it. The staff is long gone. I’m alone at the office. Defeated, I pack up my laptop and hit the road.

I Have No Reason to Feel Mommy Guilt

I’m living the life every red-blooded North American girl is supposed to want – I own my business, we have a beautiful facility and good clients. I have two fabulous children and a handsome hubby at home who loves me. I “should” be happier, if only it wasn’t for the persistent feeling that I could, no that I should be accomplishing more. That nagging undercurrent that lets us all know when we aren’t quite living up to the promise of the Enjoli woman.

The only thing I can be sure of on any given day is that there is more that needs doing than I have hours to do it in. I tell myself it’s irrational to feel persistent guilt when I’m trying so hard. Not only do I still feel guilty about what doesn’t get done, now I feel guilty for feeling guilty.

This has to stop!

Feeling sorry for myself didn’t help. Admitting my weaknesses didn’t help. I tried all the trite wisdom from the cookie-cutter coaching spiels – I asked my family to step up and came across as whiny. I tried setting boundaries with my kids, and ended up feeling worse. I even tried reaching out to other business leaders I know for suggestions or input – most of them told me “oh, my wife handles that!”

Even worse, some people view any invitation to offer feedback as an opportunity to assert their superiority and make themselves feel better. Result – I felt even worse again. TIP: Be careful who you ask for input!

What the heck, lean in!

Finally, I tried something new – Sheryl Sandberg style. I’ve been leaning in to the mommy guilt. Yep, today I failed. Again. My desk is cluttered. My laundry’s undone. My china is dustier than the Sahara. My garden is a disgrace. Dinner is more likely to be meat loaf than coq au vin. And the last time I saw a negligee it was hanging in the store window. I should feel lousy.

Acknowledging my feelings for what they are – a sign that I truly care about both my business and my family, turned guilt into motivation and changed the question to “What do I need to do to create a business where this isn’t an issue?”

It also becomes abundantly clear that I don’t really have time to embrace mommy guilt in this moment. So I’ve scheduled an appointment with myself to feel crappy about today in exactly three weeks time. Right now, I have to get home and make dinner, then get that proposal out.

Ironically, giving myself permission to feel guilty created space for me to feel better. It turns out that guilt becomes a much lighter burden when you allow it less power.

What triggers your mommy guilt? Tell me your story in the community forum. And I promise, I’ll let you know how the meeting goes.

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