Posts Tagged ‘guilt’

I just read Laura Vanderkam’s post on  ‘core competency moms’ on the Huffington Post.

It’s an interesting perspective on how working moms compensate for not having enough time to do it all by prioritizing and focusing on the things that really matter, not necessarily the things that keep the house looking pristine. These moms thrive by knowing what they’re best at, and what’s essential for them to do, like teaching their kids about nature, and outsourcing everything else, like laundry, housecleaning, and dishes. They follow the same principles as companies that focus on what they do best and outsource what’s ancillary, like cafeterias and health care plans.

I’m a big fan of this way of thinking – I’m all about focusing my attention where it matters. But I do have a bone to pick with one of her prime examples – using paper plates instead of doing dishes. Teaching lessons about waste and responsibility for the planet actually seems like one of those things that parents should do for their children. Plus, whose kids don’t like to help with emptying the dishwasher?




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I’ve written about feeling guilty for being a working mom – both about what I can’t do at work and about not always being around for my husband and my kids. This week, though, I found a couple of things that as a working mom, I get to not feel guilty about. So, let’s stick it to the should be’s and celebrate not feeling guilty.

1) Having someone clean my house. I have some friends who are stay at home moms with household help. Mostly, it’s someone doing the heavy cleaning once every two weeks. I think they have nothing to feel guilty about, as even stay at home moms can get really busy. But they all seem to feel like they should be doing it themselves. We now have someone coming to clean our house every week, and I am loving it. And I don’t feel an iota of guilt. Minor victory.

2) Outsourcing most of our Seder to Whole Foods. I am very excited to be hosting family and friends at our house for Seder on Saturday. And while I love to cook, I’m getting most of the food from Whole Foods. A Passover Seder requires elaborate preparation, with special foods, special table settings, and a special ceremony. I’m going to be out of town for most of this week, which means I won’t have a lot of time to prepare. I did take time to find a Haggadah, or guide to the ritual meal, that I’m excited about using. And I’ll make a brisket. But everything else is coming from Whole Foods. It’ll be delicious and I won’t be exhausted. A fabulous combination in my opinion.

While I’m happy to acknowledge that I can do these things without feeling guilty about it, I think they are things that everyone should be able to do without feeling guilty. I am aware, of course, that there’s a vocal, strong, ongoing debate about what a good mom should and shouldn’t outsource, even if she works. If you have no idea what I’m talking about, check out the response to this post, on Penelope Trunk’s Brazen Careerist blog. It’s an extreme example, but it gives you an idea of the vehemence of opinion on this topic.

To me, being able to focus on the things I care most about (like the Haggadah, spending time playing with my kids, or giving a talk at a conference) and being able to have someone else do the things that I love having done but don’t like doing (matzoh ball soup or cleaning the bathroom) goes beyond being just a privilege I can enjoy because I can afford it.  

It becomes a way to acknowledge my limits, and to be OK with those limits. I know that I can’t do it all, but if I prioritize my energy, I can do what I enjoy and get done what needs to get done. Without sacrificing myself, my husband or my children’s well-being. And that’s something that all parents, and all people, should be able to be comfortable doing.

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I’ve been working part time since the monkeys were born. When I first went back to work it was two days a week and over the last two years it’s slowly inched up to four days a week. That actually seems like the right amount for me to be able to feel somewhat successful in my career and also feel like I get to spend a lot of time with the monkeys.I say somewhat successful because it’s still a challenge. I can’t do everything I’d like to do and I have to really prioritize how I spend my time. I say no to a lot of requests. This is especially hard as I work for a small and growing consulting firm and there’s always more than enough work to go around. I’ve been with the company since it was really small, am a leader there, and am vested in its success. I often feel bad because I can’t do as much as I know needs to be done.I feel especially guilty when I see my colleagues and friends struggling with working many hours and having too much to do when I know that it is technically possible for me to take things off of their plates. But it’s not possible for me to do so and maintain my part time status, so I don’t.  For a while, this was really challenging for me. But I’ve recently decided not to stress over it, because it is what it is, and feeling guilty isn’t actually helping anyone. In fact, my friends and colleagues at work have told me not to feel so guilty, that they just accept that I give what I can and so should I. And I have indeed felt much less guilty about work lately (1 point self aware adult; 0 points Jewish heritage). And then there is the other guilt. Last week, I was in California for a couple of days for work. I hadn’t traveled in about a month, but it was to be the first of two longish trips to the West Coast in the course of two weeks. And it was my first trip since we lost our nanny. So I felt guilty just getting on the plane.

Of course, as I settled into my work, I forgot about the guilt and concentrated on what I was doing. I was immersed in my work and feeling pretty good about it. Until I got this text message from my husband: Monkey 2 has infections in both ears. Cue spiral into guilt and recrimination, vision of husband on sofa buried under two screaming kids, fantasies about quitting my job, vision of myself on sofa buried under two screaming kids,  worries about paying the mortgage, etc. Oh, and then off to lead a team of 15 people in a working session.

This other guilt is equally bad for my job, equally unhelpful to my husband and the monkeys, and equally unhealthy for me. Yet I can’t seem to figure out how to get past it. Is it even possible to not feel guilty over not being with your kids when they’re sick? If I can get over the guilt about traveling for work and leaving home and childcare responsibilities to my husband, does it make me a bad mom? If I was the dad, would I even be writing this post? I know this last question isn’t quite fair, just like I know that there are some moms who do travel for work without the guilt. What I’d really like to know is, what’s their secret – and can I get some?

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