As a business owner and mom of two young kids, I used to find myself with really bad cases of "mom guilt". It would get to the point where the self-talk questions would start flowing in:
Am I giving my kids enough of my time and attention they need?
Are my kids going to remember the moments of when I'm working and resent me when they're older?
Are they eating enough fruits and veggies?
Am I bad mom for leaving them with someone else to take care of them so I can run my business?
I would get so overwhelmed with the mom guilt that it poured into my relationship with my kids, my husband and my business in unhealthy ways. My patience was short, I was stressed out a lot and sadly, I was feeling disappointed in myself that I wasn't "doing enough". It wasn't until two things were said to me that I take very much to heart that I realized how badly mom guilt can ruin self-worth.
One night, my oldest son came into my home office while I was working, and asked if he could hang out on my reading couch. He asked why I work late sometimes, and after taking a minute to respond, I said, "Son, I love what I do because I get to help people, and sometimes I'm needed even when it's dark. But I want you to know that you, your brother, and your Dad always come first." He thought for a minute and replied, "Mom, I love you and I love that you help people. I want to grow up like you and help people, too." (Enter the water works).
A fellow mom boss and friend told me that she used to feel the mom guilt a lot. During her family's holiday dinner, they went around the table to say what they're thankful for. When it was her daughter's turn, she said, "Mom may not always be there, but I'm thankful for her because she's there when it counts the most." (Enter the water works again).
So how do you turn mom guilt into a superpower that fuels your drive? Here are 4 reflections that have helped me:
Your network is your net worth.
The saying "It takes a village" is truer after becoming a mom. Aside from my husband and my parents, my group of fellow #bossmoms have been my rock in overcoming mom guilt. They are able to relate to the joys and the frustrations that come with the roles I play as mom, business owner, partner, daughter, etc. My community reminds me that I don't have to go through this journey of motherhood alone. More importantly, they validate that I don't have to choose one or the other to be worthy of being happy; I can be both a mom and own a successful business.
Your kids learn from you.
Setting a good example of healthy habits is important to me. I've learned (and am still refining) the art of reframing what I say to reflect a positive, abundant mindset instead of one of disappointment and scarcity. For example, instead of telling my kids, "Mommy has to work" I say, "I love what I do because I can help people." Kids are sponges and observe EVERYTHING we say and do. If they see that I can be passionate about what I do AND be successful at it, my hope is that they can be their own bosses one day in something they love. I also share my feelings and frustrations (in an age appropriate manner) to my kids; I want create a safe space for them to come and talk to me about their feelings. This helps reduce my mom guilt tremendously because they see that I'm human and don't have to fit this idea of being the "perfect mom".
You can tell yourself it's OK to set boundaries.
Over the years, I've become better about setting boundaries with myself and my time. Time blocking my schedule with putting family activities and downtime first, followed by business activities, helps me prioritize my days. By doing this strategy, I'm able to be fully present with important aspects of my life. It's not a perfect system as, of course, life changes things, but it gives me a foundation to set healthy boundaries.
As a business owner, one of the biggest challenges I've had is "giving up" tasks for fear that it won't get done (or get done the way that I would have done it... slight control issues, I know). Every month I write down all the tasks and things in my home life and business that I feel are stressing me out. From there, I evaluate if there are tasks that can be outsourced. I value my time more than I did before having kids, and use other people's strengths to help me grow and be successful.
Last note on setting boundaries... I talk with my kids about "Mommy needing her time to work" and letting them know that when my door is closed that I am helping a client. Unless it's an emergency, they know that this is the time I need for my business. I'm fortunate to have clients that understand that I have a family life outside of work, and enjoy seeing cameo appearances of my kids via Zoom every once in a while.
Being your own boss has big perks.
One of the best things about being my own boss is that I am in charge of my time and how I use it. I'm grateful that I can take time off when the kids are off from school, or that I can take my work with me on the road. By setting the healthy boundaries I talked about earlier, I can work around my kids and family.
At the end of the day, my mom guilt doesn't go away completely. Some days are going to be better than others. Because of the support I have from my family, my community and even my clients, I have more conviction than ever that I am enough.
For my fellow #bossmoms, and truly just moms in general, know this...
...I see you.
...I hear you.
... you are more than enough.