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.