Get a grip on your G-Spot

It seems a week doesn’t go by without reading an article about how guilty mums are feeling. Latest research shows that 81% of mums feel guilty about returning to work. But it isn’t just reserved for working mums, stay-at-home mums suffer from it, and I’m sure Dads do too. Evidence suggests guilt is in abundant supply – it’s a G-spot we don’t struggle to find. Whilst it may be momentarily comforting to know we’re not alone, all this talk of guilt doesn’t do anything to lessen it. Guilt isn’t a helpful emotion – it only makes us feel worse and gives us something else to worry about. So rather than soldiering on, let’s look at what we can do to get a grip on our guilt-spot and lessen it a bit.

I’m a working mum. I work as a freelance coach and trainer and deliver management and personal development courses that use tools from positive psychology to help people be at their best. Following the birth of my second baby I started to really think about how some of the tools that I use in a work environment can be useful to home life too. Overall I think the key to finding a good balance with family and work boils down to good management skills. But when it comes to guilt, what I’ve found most helpful is to focus on what I can control rather than worrying about what I can’t. Not working for me isn’t an option. Not because I have to fund an extravagant lifestyle, just so that we’re able to live comfortably. Whenever I feel myself getting overwhelmed with anxiety or guilt, I use the following tool. I’d recommend writing down your thoughts (so grab a pen and paper or go electronic) to the following questions:

  • Write it all down. First write down a list of everything thing that is concerning you right now about being a parent (whether you’re a working or stay at home mum)
  • Where do I have influence? Go through each concern and ask yourself can I influence it – yes or no? Be quite tough on yourself here, I sometimes enlist the help of a straight-talking friend if I think I’m going to let myself off the hook or am in danger of wallowing.
  • Accept what you can’t change. If you can’t do anything about that concern e.g. if you have to work to make ends meet – you can’t change that so you’re wasting valuable time and mental energy thinking about. So stop.
  • Take control. If you can do something to influence it (and you’ll probably find that you can influence more than you think) you can start to think about what you can do to take control and minimise that concern – e.g. maybe you could cut down your hours and take a salary cut. I took the decision to only work 2 days a week and have had to change my spending habits (I’ve become an expert in DIY beauty treatments!). Or if you’re overwhelmed with everything you have to do at home perhaps you could get a cleaner. Now I know you may be thinking ‘yeah right, a cleaner is a luxury’ but readjusting your spending habits may free up some cash (my take-away coffee habit has been curbed). Maybe you’re finding the idea of putting your baby to crèche upsetting – so you could research getting someone to come to your house, or arrange a nanny-share with a friend. The more creative you can be the better. Again – I find enlisting the help of a friend useful here to help me think outside the box.

“Grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change; courage to change the things I can; and wisdom to know the difference”

Whilst you may not be able to get rid of guilt completely, knowing that you’re doing all that you can to make the best of your situation, and doing what’s right for you as a family will help you feel more in control.

Not all of us feel guilty of course. Some manage to get a good handle on it. I spoke with one mum who said ‘I compartmentalise things. I know my kids are happy with our minder, so I don’t need to worry when I’m at work, plus I have someone who come in once a week to clean so I don’t need to worry so much about chores when I’m at home’. So in case you’re about to start feeling guilty that you don’t feel guilt – stop there and congratulate yourself.

In summary, here are 5 top tips to help you get a handle on your G-Spot.

  • Recognise when you’re in guilt-overdrive and stop. Decide to be pro-active and do something about it.
  • Decide on what actions you can take on the areas that are within your control. The more specific you can be the more like you are to do them. Be creative with your solutions and enlist the help of a friend if you need to.
  • Focus on what you are managing to achieve rather than what you’re not. There will always be more that you could do, but do you need to do it?
  • Enlist the help of or hire an army of helpers (cleaner/gardener/someone to do the ironing) so that when you’re at home you can have quality time rather than rushing around. Maybe you have a great family that can help out for free. But if you don’t have family nearby maybe you’re willing to make sacrifices so that you can afford to pay for a bit of help.
  • Be kind to yourself. You don’t have to be perfect. Just be the best that you can be on each given day.

Mumager’s A to Z of Returning to Work

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A is for Awesome – You are awesome! Parenting is hard work. Occasionally reminding yourself of your awesomeness is not a bad thing. We’re not talking about loudly blowing your own trumpet, we’re
talking about remembering to acknowledge that you’re doing the best you can and that’s awesome.

B is for Boss – Your boss is there to support you in doing the best job you can. Remember your boss is happy when you are engaged and happy in your role.

C is for Colleagues – Some of them may not understand your need to leave on time and make jokes about half days etc. We all have choices and those people could also choose to leave on time. Their
comments to you, like all put downs is about them, not you. Smile sweetly and politely ask them to
respect your choices.

D is for De-clutter – De-cluttering your home and your wardrobe can help to de-clutter your mind, freeing up space for you to focus on the important things. Recycle baby toys that they have now
grown out of by either packing away (for the next one?) or giving to your charity shop. The less
‘stuff’ you have, the less you have to tidy up.

E is for Energy – Eating right is part of the energy equation, eat as little processed food as you can and increase your intake of fresh fruit and veg and water. Walk short distances rather than drive where

F is for Flexible Working – Investigate your company’s policies on parental leave and flexible working. If you don’t ask you don’t get. It costs more to hire than to retain and working a slightly different
pattern might just be a win-win for you and your boss.

G is for Guilt – We all have a guilt spot! How you manage your own guilt is key. Check out our blog on Guilt!

H is for housework – Adopt a mantra of ‘good enough’. You may need to relax your standards and
accept that some degree of mess comes with having young children. If you can afford help – get a
cleaner. Otherwise, decide what is important to you – maybe having a clean loo and kitchen helps
keep you sane and it doesn’t matter so much about the rest of the house. Start getting the little
ones involved in ‘tidy up’ time as young as possible.

I is for Image – Having confidence in your image as you return to work after maternity leave can
boost that inner confidence and self worth. Your pre-baby clothes may not fit the same, or perhaps your shape has changed. Whatever your budget, its worth buying a couple of new outfits to help you feel the part – be it from Primark or Prada.

J is for Juggling – It’s hard keeping everything going – but which balls that you’re juggling are the most important? Brian G. Dyson the former CEO of Coca-Cola famously said “Imagine life as a game in which you are juggling some five balls in the air – Work – Family – Health – Friends – Spirit, and you’re keeping all of these in the air. Work is a rubber ball. If you drop it, it will bounce back. But the other four balls – family, health, friends and spirit are made of glass. If you drop one of these, they will be irrevocably scuffed, marked, nicked, damaged or even shattered”.

K is for Kindness –Be kind to yourself as you make this transition and give yourself credit for every achievement no matter how small. You are doing the best that you can every day for your family.

L is for leave on time – Start as you mean to go on. Leaving on time doesn’t mean you’re less
committed to the job. It just means you have other commitments. If you stay late, it also gives mixed messages about what you can and can’t do.

M is for Mumager – Well, we had to put that in somewhere! Mumager is the only practical workshop running in Ireland currently aimed at supporting employers to support their mums returning from
maternity leave.

N is for No – When you need to say ‘no’ don’t dilute your message by giving a list of reasons. Check out our tips on saying ‘no’ in our blog

O is for Optimism – A positive optimistic attitude will get you everywhere. So your day may have got off to a bad start – you’ve had no sleep, you were late leaving the house to get to crèche, your baby wailed when you left and now you’ve missed your train. Try not to let it ruin the rest of your day. Stop. Breathe. Remember you will find what you are looking for – if you tell yourself you’re going to have a bad day – you’ll have one. Decide to make it a good day.

P is for Productivity – Work smart. Turn off your email alerts when you’re working on an important piece of work. Decide how many times a day you need to check your emails – 3 times should be enough for most people – morning, lunchtime and an hour before you go home. Think about when you’re at your best. If you’re at your best first thing in the morning – why not work on that challenging spreadsheet when you’re at your most awake and leave your emails for a mid-morning coffee at your desk.

Q is for Quiet time – Take some quiet time for yourself each day, even 5 minutes to yourself can help to prevent stress accumulating. Check out our tips here –

R is for Rewards – Reward yourself regularly. As a working mum you deserve it.

S is for Support – Everyone needs a network of support. Don’t feel scared asking yours for help or suggesting to other mums to share some of the pick-ups, drop-offs, afternoon childcare etc. to make your lives a teeny bit easier.

T is for turn it off –When you’re at home try to forget about work and be fully present, in the moment. Take email (and Twitter/Facebook) off your phone so you’re not tempted to just do a ‘quick check’. If that’s not possible at least turn your phone off whilst your kids are around. Very few things are truly that urgent that they can’t wait a few hours.

U is for unwind – After a day of juggling drop-offs, meetings, deadlines, pick-ups, the list goes on, try find some time to unwind and relax.

V is for Values –Know your values. Understand those things that are really important to you. Knowing your values brings clarity to decision making and can help to alleviate unwanted emotions such as guilt.

W is for Worry-It is natural to worry about how you are going to juggle everything when you go back to work after maternity leave. Annoyingly time spent worrying is time completely wasted. Instead look at your options, talk to others to see how they manage and spend time trying out your new routine before you go back.

X is for X-factor.-No, not the telly programme. But what makes you special? What did you love to do before you had children? What makes you feel great? Whether its setting up a book-club with other mums, doing a cookery course or going for a free make-over at one of the beauty counters – make it happen.

Y is for You.-Always remember to take some time out for YOU.

Z is for zzzzzzds –We can’t help your child sleep through the night or give you the occasionally lie-in but we do know that relaxation techniques found in yoga and meditation can help you get to sleep quicker and increase the quality of your sleep. The skill of power-napping is one worth learning so that you can catch some extra zzzzs whenever possible. When the going gets really tough, go to the spare room for the night and leave your partner ‘on duty’. Its amazing how a full nights, uninterrupted sleep can make you feel ready to tackle anything.