It can strike at any time no matter what we do for a living, how many children we have, what their ages are or how much help we have balancing our career with our family.
When we are at work, we can feel guilty because we wish we were with our kids. When we are with the kids, we can feel guilty because we wish we were at work. We have a tug of war going on in our hearts and minds and it’s a war that’s has been creating stress for working moms for decades.
I have been a CPA for over 30 years and a mom for 26 years. My children have only ever known having a mom that works and for most of my early career, mom guilt reared its ugly head on a regular basis.
This week I’m going to discuss where the feeling of guilt comes from, some truths we may want to own, how we can end mom guilt and the last chapter of my mom guilt story.
Where the feeling of guilt comes from
In my coaching practice I teach my clients the “Manage Your Mind Model” which shows how our feelings are never caused by a circumstance. Our feelings are always caused by our thoughts about a circumstance.
Our thoughts and feelings are optional therefore guilt is an optional feeling. Being a working mom does not necessitate the feeling of mom guilt. There are plenty of women who do not experience the feeling of guilt even though they work outside their home.
The feeling of guilt is based on our thoughts and those thoughts are always optional. I would go so far as to say that guilt pretends to be necessary but actually gets us results we don’t want.
Once we are experiencing guilt, we can get caught in a loop of looking for more things to feel guilty about because of how our brains work.
Our brain has a filtering system, similar to a google search bar. That filtering system will look for more thoughts just like the one we’ve been thinking unless we change the “keyword search” by consciously choosing better feeling thoughts.
I like to think of the analogy of growing a plant. When we “water” the feeling of guilt, we end up with a weed or some unwanted type of plant. However, when we choose to water the feeling of love or excitement, we end up with a beautiful flower. It all depends on which plant you choose to feed.
For help with the Manage Your Mind Model sign up here for the free “5 Simple Steps to Reduce Overwhelm Today”.
Just between you and me
Instead of continuing to practice thoughts that create the feeling of guilt, why don’t we own some of the following truths about being a working mom:
- I enjoy working as an accountant
- I like being able to pay my bills
- I like putting my intelligence to use in a work setting
- I like the mental challenges that work offers
- I like being able to provide financially for my family
- I like the validation I get from doing a good job at work
- I enjoy being around adults
- I can love my children and my profession at the same time
- Being a stay at home mom doesn’t feel fulfilling enough to me
- I like helping my company succeed
- I just don’t want to give up what I’ve worked so hard for
- Guilt is an indulgent emotion that I have practiced for too long
How many of those truths resonated with you but you were afraid to admit? I believe the best thing we can do for our children is to own some of these truths and begin to drop the mom guilt.
How to end mom guilt
Learning to manage our mind is the key to eliminating mom guilt. When we have an awareness of the results we get when we indulge in the feeling of guilt we can choose better feeling thoughts that create better results.
When we use the Manage Your Mind Model, we can literally create whatever result we desire. But it’s important to first see the results we get when we practice the feeling of guilt.
My personal example
As an introvert I’ve always needed alone time to recharge. When my kids were younger I would sometimes go upstate to my parent’s weekend campsite by myself and leave the kids with their dad. I would often have the thought “I shouldn’t be spending time away from my kids” which led to the feeling of guilt. I would act restless while I was away and the result would be that I returned home exhausted rather than refreshed which defeated the whole purpose of getting away.
Instead, I could consciously create the result I really wanted by creating a new model. In this new model I could choose the result of coming home refreshed and energized. In order to create that result I would need to do things I enjoyed doing alone like reading, shopping without interruptions, taking naps, etc. In order to take any of those actions I would probably choose to feel gratitude and in order to feel gratitude I would choose to think “I’m so grateful my husband took the kids this weekend so I could reenergize.”
In my example, I replaced guilt with gratitude and got a much better result. The kids got to have one on one time with their dad and I got to have one on one time with myself.
If you want to prioritize going to the gym for spin class, the feeling of determined will get you there, not guilt. To schedule individual time with each of your kids, the feeling of excitement will get you there, not guilt.
You can create whatever results you want in your life but guilt is not the feeling that will get you those results.
The last chapter of my mom guilt story
When I was in the throes of the worst period of mom guilt, I would have loved a crystal ball to tell me how my choices would affect my children in the future. Was I worrying and stressing for no reason? As I liked to joke, “Should I be saving for their college or for their therapy?”
If I had been given a crystal ball back then I would have asked:
- Would my son have behavioral issues because he tested my patience 100 times a day in ways that only a 4 year old with ADD could?
- Would they have eating disorders because sometimes frozen kids meals were the only thing I could muster?
- Would they resent me for getting a babysitter to watch them so I could have a date night with my husband even though they had been with a daytime babysitter after school?
I felt guilt about these and many other moments, but thankfully I now have the crystal ball I wished I had back then. I have the gift of time and the ability to ask my children about their memories of those moments I felt the deepest sense of mom guilt. Here’s what they said:
Kelly (26 years old)– “I don’t remember any of the moments that you felt guilty about. I do think that having a mom that worked gave me a stronger work ethic. I saw by your example that women can be successful at work and at home.”
Brendan (22 years old) – “I don’t remember any of those moments either. I remember fun times like going upstate in the summer, learning to ski, going away with friends on New Year’s. I also think I have a much better work ethic than my friends whose moms didn’t work.”
Those are the things my children remember. They also remember having a mom that put self-care as a priority so that she could show up for them in an emotionally balanced way.
- Mom guilt comes from our thoughts and our thoughts are always optional
- By owning some of the truths about enjoying being a working mom, we can begin to get real with ourselves
- Learning to manage our minds is the key to eliminating mom guilt
- The feeling of guilt will never get you the results you really want
- My kids (and yours) don’t even remember the things that we have felt so guilty about
If you’ve read the blog this far, I want to put out a challenge to you
Let’s start a conversation with other female accountant moms and give each other permission to own our truths. If we can end mom guilt in the accounting profession, who knows how powerful that change will be for other working moms!