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The stress of juggling the complications of work and family life are a source of stress for many women. Whether you work outside the home or are a stay-at-home mom, there are troubling emotions to deal with. Either choice leaves you with something to worry about.
If you work outside the home you feel guilty for not being home with your young children, for not being available for school activities, and for not waiting with open arms when the school day ends. Mothers who stay home sometimes feel self-conscious for not contributing financially, for not challenging themselves more intellectually, or for the days they feel completely incompetent as a mother, which is their full-time job.
Overall, most moms are looking for the same thing: To do what’s best for their children, their families, and for themselves.
A critical or defensive tone often surfaces when working and stay-at-home moms get together. They feel the need to defend themselves by insinuating that their choice is the better one. But could there be one right way? Why would mothers feel so uncomfortable with each other? Unaddressed envy and insecurity can make you critical of something you don’t have but might want.
Criticizing other moms could be a way of comforting yourself. Rather than facing your own frustrations or doubts, you sooth yourself by disapproving of others – even if just in your own mind.
An example of this would be judging a mother who is going back to work instead of admitting that, from time to time, it’s something you’ve fantasized about too. Or maybe you want or need to work, but you’ve also wished that you could stop rushing around and just stay home. Sooner or later, you’ll grapple with these dilemmas because you can’t be in two places at once.
If guilt is inescapable, what can you do about it?
Find a New Perspective
• Think about what’s really bothering you.
• Look back into your own childhood.
• Examine your own behavior.
If, for any reason, you grew up feeling guilty, you may be inclined to use guilt on yourself in the misguided belief that harsh negative self-talk will turn you into a better parent. Guilt, however, isn’t particularly inspiring. In fact, it causes you to feel worse by leaving you feeling insecure and unhappy.
If you can’t find any childhood reasons for your guilt, maybe you’re behaving in a way that contradicts your values. Sometimes what’s convenient, easy, or more fun, isn’t what’s right.
“It’s okay to drink too much, the kids are asleep. My daughter doesn’t mind that I’m always late. She’s used to it. I know I yell too much. It’s just who I am.” Convincing yourself that you are doing the right thing – when you really know you’re not – tears down your self-esteem over the long haul of motherhood.
When you’re upset it’s tempting to distract yourself with TV or chores. Instead, sit quietly for a little while. Rather than avoiding your feelings, try to learn from them. What is the real source of your guilt and what do you need to do about it?
Wise parenting takes effort and a commitment to understanding yourself. Even if you haven’t been dedicated to these qualities, you can certainly develop them now.