I had a really hot debate with a fellow WoMo last week on the subject of guilt. We talked about feeling guilty about time spent away from our kids.
What was interesting is after talking about the things we felt guilty for, such as missing a school play, not being at home for first steps or first words, we realised a lot of what means we feel guilty is the expectations put upon us. Expectations from the media, other mothers at school or even our own parents. We want to be there for those things, and it feels painful to miss out on special moments, but when the emotion triggers into guilt, it can be from the opinions of others.
Comments along the lines of ‘Oh how awful, it must be so hard not to be there’ or ‘How can you be running late from work when you know it’s the school play’. Those comments are unhelpful, they make things worse and in most cases result in us feeling judged, and then in turn guilty for not living up to what we ‘should’ be doing.
Some friends of mine do this brilliantly. They divide and conquer. If one of them cannot make the parent teacher meeting, the other parent goes. They commit to having one parent at school things and if they are both travelling for work, the nanny or a grandparent goes. My friends Sister, Auntie Claire has been known to make an appearance. AND the couple I know are divorced.
With the right co-parenting, and the right attitude, guilt can be held at arms lengths. The older your child gets, it can become easier. Being able to tell my children I would not be there but Granny (insert other significant adult in their life here) would be there to see them, was pitched as something positive. By explaining Granny was excited to be there, made it special not just for Granny but for my daughters. It’s how you pitch it and genuinely, I think we were all so excited about Granny going to the play, even I forgot my own guilt.
Remember, you are doing your best. Being a working mother who is at the office more than the school gates comes with challenges. Guilt can make it all feel much worse.