As a writer who covers millennial parenting and entrepreneurship, I've had the opportunity to talk to a lot of mom entrepreneurs. Just like myself, so many of them work out of their homes, and as similar as that supposedly makes us, I’m often still surprised at how diverse each of our experiences are. However, there is one emotion that nearly every mom I’ve spoken to has experienced, and that's the dreaded mommy guilt.
Guilt can be strangely pervasive — especially when it comes to parenting — and while there are lots of things work-at-home moms should never feel guilty for, the feeling can be hard to avoid. Especially for moms who work at home, guilt can be magnified from opposite sides: people who think moms at home shouldn’t work, and people who think working moms shouldn’t be at home. With push and pull from everywhere, it can be hard to find a balance that works for you.
I worked from home for a year before I had my son, so I’ve had to let go of a lot of things that make me feel guilty. That’s not to say I’ve conquered it — I often have days where I struggle. But I do firmly believe that there are some things that are absolutely not worth a working mom feeling guilty about, like...
Saying “No” To Plans With Friends
When I’m on a tight deadline or feel buried in work, I can’t always break for lunch — much less take a leisurely one to catch up with a friend. It’s not that I don’t want to; I simply can’t, and sometimes it’s really hard to say “no” to lunch, drinks, dinner, or happy hour over and over again. But that's parenting. I knew this going into it, and I’ve made my peace with prioritizing.
Saying “Yes” To Plans With Friends
On the flip side, one of the reasons I'm happy to work from my home is that my schedule is flexible. So, if I decide that yes, I actually do have time to meet for lunch, that doesn’t mean I’m lazy or aren’t really working. It means that I’m enjoying the freedom of dictating my own schedule.
Not Watching Someone Else’s Kids
Watching my own kid while I'm working is time-consuming enough. Adding another kid is pretty much guaranteed to wreck the precious slivers of productivity I cling to between naps and feeding. If it’s an emergency, of course I’m willing to help you out if I can, but I'm not going to feel bad for giving you a hard "no" when you start depending on me for free child care just because.
Hiring A Babysitter To Watch Your Kid
People assume that moms working from home don’t need child care, and I'm here to tell you that’s not always the case. I personally have a babysitter come once a week, and that’s unquestionably my most productive day of the week. Shaming a mom who decides to utilize child care is ridiculous.
Not Being Available 24/7 For Clients
People nowadays feel immense pressure to be connected at all times. Bosses expect you to reply to emails after hours, co-workers may text you on vacation, and don’t even get me started on clients who immediately call me after I send them an email. Setting reasonable boundaries is becoming increasingly necessary and shouldn’t make you feel guilty. In fact, it should make you feel empowered.
Having A “Dirty” House
I’ll admit that I often find myself doing little chores around the house when I’m procrastinating on writing. A quick load of laundry turns into a dusting marathon, and before I know it, I’ve cleaned the entire bathroom and haven’t written a word. On the other hand, there are days when my husband gets home to discover a kitchen sink full of dishes and a floor riddled with clothes from the day before.
It’s easy to feel embarrassed by a cluttered house, but there are going to be weeks where your work will take up more time. Recognizing that you’re human and you have limitations to what you can accomplish may help you to stop beating yourself up for not being Superwoman.
Taking A Vacation
Finding that balance between enjoying the flexibility of working from home and taking advantage of it can be tough, especially when you’re just starting out. But it’s crucial to schedule down time. Nearly half of Americans leave vacation days on the table, and it’s hurting our mental health. Reminding yourself that taking breaks is just as important as working hard should help to shrug off any guilt about booking that much-needed trip.
Buying Store-Bought Instead Of Homemade
While there are some amazingly Pinterest-savvy working moms who show up to every school bake sale with impeccably decorated gluten-free vegan cookies, there’s no shame in snagging a box of pre-made goodies from the local grocery store.
Giving Up Breastfeeding
OK, this one’s a doozy. Finding room to pump in an office can be really tough, so having the comfort of home can be really nice for breastfeeding mothers. That shouldn’t mean you should succumb to the intense pressure of “breastfeeding at all costs” just because you work from home. If it works for you, fantastic! But if it doesn’t, don’t let the fact that you’re at home make you second guess your decision to feed your child the way that works for you.
Putting Your Kids On Hold For Work
There have been occasions where I’ve plopped my kid in front of the TV or iPad for an hour (OK, two hours) so I could meet a deadline. I try not to make a habit of it, but working moms do what they have to to survive.
Asking For Help
There is zero shame in admitting that you need a wingman every now and again. Being a working mom is incredibly difficult, and even the “strongest” moms need support. Find your support system and don’t feel guilty about using it.