Mommy guilt is one of those topics that comes up time and again for working moms, especially in the summer. It’s time for working moms to let go of mommy guilt this summer.
Mommy Guilt doesn’t Help Make Us Better Moms
Some of you who are reading this work full-time and you feel guilty because your child is in day-care or all-day camp. And some of you reading this are feeling guilty because you’re focusing on family and aren’t getting enough done professionally. Here’s the thing about the guilt…it doesn’t help. It brings you down and makes things harder for no reason. Let’s shift our thinking about mommy guilt this summer so that we can kick it to the curb for the next few months.
Be an Enabler for your Child's Fun
Your child is probably having fun this summer, whether in day camp, overnight/away camp, day-care, time with a sitter/nanny for the summer, or maybe even family or friends. In fact, he or she might be having a blast this summer, even if it's doing something super mellow and simply hanging out with friends.
If all of this is happening with you, that’s great. And if it’s not with you, it’s still great. He or she is having fun and that is a wonderful thing to enable as a parent instead of your child being bored, lonely, or generally grumpy. You're showing that you understand your child's needs. That’s amazing!! Kudos to you for being an enabler for your child and knowing him or her well enough to know what’s fun, interesting, exciting, etc.
Permission to Slow Down
Let’s say all of this is fun is happening with you, but you’re not doing everything you want to do professionally. If you aren’t getting as much done this summer at work or in your business, that’s OK too. Let that guilt go too. It’s the time of year when many people build in time off and slow down. After all, it is the highest travel time of the year. You deserve some time for fun because you work hard the rest of the year. Take a breath and enjoy the time with your family when you can.
Put in place different ways to harness opportunities you can’t take advantage of right now. That might help you be more comfortable with a summer slowdown. See how you can work on the next amazing project for someone you want to work with at your employer. Start putting the steps in place. Do some online training. Use this time to network, whether within your organization or with potential clients. That way you’re taking advantage of a slowdown now and still building on next steps in your career.
Continue to build your pipeline as an entrepreneur. Have in-person and online meeting to reconnect with your network. You never know where your next project might come from. If your kids are with you, set up a networking playdate with a fellow working mom or dad. See if you can work on your business instead of only in your business if things have slowed down in your pipeline.
Change How You Work
Let’s be real, though, not everyone can truly slow down every day this summer. If things are busy at work, you’ve got a few options. It's not too late to make adjustments for this summer.
- Front-load your summer. Work your tail off now and schedule in a slowdown in August or, better yet, schedule some time away late in the summer. This can help you be more productive once school starts again in the fall.
- Consider small shifts in your workday. Wake up earlier to get some work done or work later into the evening after kids are down for the night. Maybe you can’t change the days you work, but you can change when you work each day. Move things around. Be flexible. Experiment and see what really works and adjust your schedule. Make small shifts. Even ending your workday an hour earlier can make a difference in how you spend time with your kids this summer.
- Work remotely. Maybe you need to change where you work. Maybe work from home a few days this summer (or even one day per week) so that you can play with your kids during your lunch break. Be uber productive on that day and then take your kids to the local pool or for a fun outing. I remember writing and working for two hours each day when we were on a vacation. I couldn't get out of doing the work I needed to complete, but my kids don't even remotely remember that I worked.
Schedule Family and Fun Time
I mention that you can make small shifts to open up your calendar. As you figure out where you can find the time, block the time off so you can have family time instead of letting it get filled by another work meeting. I'm a big believer in your calendar reflecting how you want to spend your time. In fact, if it's not on my calendar, it's probably not going to be done. Block the time off and let your kids know when it will happen.
Maybe even plan what that time will look like. We just started putting together our bucket list for the summer, which is a great suggestion I got from a few fellow working moms. It keeps you focused on what "fun" looks like and allows our different family members to have input.
Plan and do fun things, enjoy the moments that present themselves, get the work done that you can. Don’t beat yourself up, though, when things work out differently than you had originally planned.
And honestly, not every day of summer has to be fully planned out and amazing. Take advantage of opportunities for fun and downtime as they present themselves. Sometimes that random overnight getaway or unexpected swim time at a friend's house can be the most fun.
Summertime and Electronics
Our boys don’t usually get more than 30 minutes of electronics on any given day other than movie night, which we do a few times a month. And during the school year they have quiet time after school (boy do I miss naps).
That routine can change a bit or a lot in the summer. I sometimes use electronics – TV or the boys’ tablets – as a bribe or a treat when I need time to get things done in the summer. And, if you want something that is more learning-based, there are plenty of apps or learning games you can download. That way kids aren’t simply playing, but they are actually learning something new or reinforcing something from the school year.
What it comes down to is that it’s OK to have electronics be part of your summertime strategy. Just don’t have it be your only strategy and you’re set.
Don’t Forget about Self-care
And don't forget to include self-care as you work on managing mommy guilt. You might try to focus as much as possible on your family and work and leave your own needs behind. That might not be the best idea. Remember, it's hard to be your best self when you don't take care of your needs.
Hopefully, taking mommy guilt out of your life this summer will start to become a habit during the rest of the year. Don’t worry about that yet, though.
Are you feeling mommy guilt this summer? If so, how are you dealing with it? If you've been able to manage the mommy guilt, what's helped you?
Suzanne Brown is a work-life balance speaker, strategist, and award-winning and bestselling author. She lives in Austin, Texas with her two active young boys and husband. In their downtime, you can find them on a nearby or far away adventure. You can find Suzanne online at @mompowerment on Twitter, Instagram, and Facebook or at mompowerment.com.