You’re late for work and as you head out the door a little voice behind you says, “Mum, I want YOU to take me to school today...” Your eyes well up, guilt tearing at your heart, “Sorry darling, mummy can’t take you, but I’ll read you a bedtime story tonight, OK?”
If this sounds familiar, you’re not alone. A recent survey by Mother and Baby Magazine found more than half of working mothers feel guilty about leaving their children at home.
But career coach Fiona Clark, founder of Inspired Mums, (www.inspiredmums.co.uk), says mums are often their own worst enemies.
“I regularly see women who love their jobs, but are consumed by guilt because they feel they don’t have a right to be away from their children. They care too much about what others think and can often achieve a better perspective on the balance on their lives through a few small lifestyle changes.”
Fiona’s 5 top tips for guilt-free working:
Switch of the mobile phone when you’re with your kids
Whether you’re building Lego or splashing in the paddling pool – be present. Switch off your phone - even if it’s just for 30 minutes - channel all your energy into being there for your children. They’ll love it. When you’re at work, focus on the task at hand and park any thoughts about your children. You’ll feel calmer and cut out that sinking feeling that you should be somewhere else doing something else.
Hang out with other working mums
This doesn’t mean you should delete all stay-at-home mums’ numbers from your phone or blank them in the street, but make sure you socialize with working mums too. They may be having similar guilt pangs, and you can support and encourage each other to feel more positive about your choices.
What you do is nobody else’s business
Women are experts at making themselves feel bad. They feel guilty at the click of a mouse or the sight of a raised eyebrow. Be confident about your life choices. Don’t feel you have to justify yourself to anyone or make excuses.
Learn to block out that inner gremlin
Tune in to what your inner gremlin is saying about work. Often I hear people say: “I feel like I’m doing a half-hearted job at work and at home” or “I feel guilty about not being there for every new stage of my child’s development.” Turn these negative, energy-sapping thoughts into something positive. Remind yourself of the positives of being back at work. Be kind to yourself and rather say: “I’m doing a great job of juggling my various priorities” or “I’m a much better parent when I feel fulfilled in other areas of my life.”
Be brutal with your to do list
Decide what’s really important to you. Break it down into two or three things you’re going to do today. That means you’ll actually get them done. A list of 500 things will send you straight to the biscuit tin. Certain tasks, like tax returns, can’t be ignored, so either do them and stop thinking about them, or delegate them. Force yourself to identify items that can be scrapped off the list– do you really need to research Christmas presents online in July? If you get more things done, you’ll feel calmer and have more time to spend with your family.
Be proud of the positive role model you are
Whether you’re working because money is tight or because you love your job or both, you’ve taken control of your life by sorting out childcare, earning money and running a household. Be proud of setting a good example for your children and focus on enjoying your time with your children AND your time at work.
Fiona Clark is a qualified confidence and career coach and founder of Inspired Mums, www.inspiredmums.co.uk, a career coaching company aimed at helping women find fulfilling, family friendly roles. To find out how you can find a better work/life balance or any other career advice, visit her website.