For Working Moms

Are you a Mom who helps with the family finances?

Do you feel guilty for not being 100% attentive to your children?

That’s how I felt for many, many years.

There’s something even better (and easier) than a sincere, heartfelt apology.

I didn’t realize I was doing damage in a way I had never considered, simply by the way I thought about my situation.

All the time that I felt frustrated and angry about having to work, I wanted my children to grow up believing that our situation was NOT the standard.  I wanted them to believe that mothers should be 100% attentive to their children.  I wanted them to grow up expecting things to be more “ideal” in their future families.

I’d say things like, “I’m so sorry I have to work so much!  I really should be spending time with you, and I promise, we’re doing all we can to fix the problem!”

Or, “I wish I didn’t have to work!  I hate the way things are, but we’ve just got to keep hoping that things will get better.  We have to be patient; can you hang on just a little longer until things can be better?  I really believe this won’t last forever…”

My intentions were good, but what I was really communicating was doing more damage than I realized.

1) I was teaching my kids that my husband and I were doing something wrong, when in reality, we were doing precisely what was necessary.

2) I was teaching my kids that it was acceptable to complain about doing what was necessary. I realized my error when I noticed them complaining about their necessary work, and expecting things to be easier for them, too. For example, they complained about having to walk to school because I was too busy to drive them a measly 1/2 mile in beautiful Arizona weather.  They complained about having to cook, clean and do dishes because I was too busy to do my “regular motherly duties”.

3) It became easy for my kids to conclude that Mom and Dad just don’t keep their promises when the need for me to work stretched from months into years.  I believe our children had a harder time believing the things we said because of it.

4) The “guilty Mom” syndrome caused me to overcompensate in other areas. If they begged for more privileges (even privileges that contradicted family policy or went against plain good sense), I was more likely to give in, just because I felt guilty about working too much. (My friend Matt Reichmann who works for LAPD and sees plenty of domestic dysfunction says there’s nothing more dangerous than a guilty parent.)

One of the best shifts I’ve ever made in my life was the day I decided to stop apologizing for working.

Yes, I still thought it would have been more ideal for our family if I had been able to give more time to my children, but under the circumstances, the next best thing I could do for them was to change the way I felt about it:

I decided to accept my situation and make the most of it.  Instead of saying, “I’m so sorry for working so much; I wish I didn’t have to…”  I started saying things like, “Hey, this is what needs to be done, and you know, it feels really good to work!” Or, “Hey, let’s both get some work done, and at 4:30, let’s go to the park!  What would YOU like to accomplish?”

The energy in our home shifted in an incredible way.  We also decided to make our children more involved in our work, and help them see the impact that it had in the lives of others.

We showed them how doing their chores and helping the family run more smoothly (picking up the slack where Mom couldn’t do it all), was actually helping people all over the world have better lives.  We helped them see the bigger picture, and they started doing family chores more cheerfully.  They even started doing what needed to be done without being asked.

My children are incredibly independent.  They became that way because they had to be.  But I have no regrets – they are learning how to work, and how to feel good about a job well done.

This family is certainly not perfect, and my kids still complain just like anyone else’s kids, but every one of my children has had at least one wonderful moment when they made that shift, and expressed great satisfaction from being independently productive.  It only takes a few of those successes for a child to have a memorable comparison between how they feel when they’re cheerfully productive and how they feel when they are not.

I’d say it’s the Law of Polarity in action: what I thought was so horrible (me working) has turned into a tremendous blessing in our family – but only because I first decided to stop apologizing.

No matter what your work is, it’s helping someone.  Talk to your children about what you do, and the difference it makes in the lives of others.  Teach them by your example to learn how to enjoy being productive.  This is one of the greatest gifts you can give them before they leave the home: a love of work, and an acceptance of what “is”.

(Accepting what “is”, is the first step toward major transformation.  Test it!)

Do you see how children learn from our examples, whether we work or we don’t?  Teach them to find joy in making a contribution when necessary.  Teach them by your example to accept the things they cannot change, and find happiness, no matter what.

If you don’t have to work, I hope you’ll still find work to do – a hobby, a project, community service, whatever – so that your children can learn these lessons.  It’s worth it!

See, no matter how well you parent them, they will face challenges in their adult life.  How well they turn out will have less to do with whether you worked or you didn’t, but more with how they saw you to respond to your challenges.

For more on this topic, read Portal to Genius.

Leslie Householder

5 Responses

  1. I love what you shared. Although I haven’t had to work outside the home most of my married life, I too found myself adjusting my perception of daily work with my kids too. That guilty feeling is all to familiar to me as well. We still have to work at it, but I started adjusting how I talked about the things that had to be done and to find ways to enjoy the chore or job. The best part is when they get done and seeing the job finished. Its a successful feeling it feels so good.
    I grew up with a saying my dad said often “work is play and play is work you are going to work 95% of your life so you just as well start to enjoy it.”

  2. I love this, Leslie–thanks for sharing this example!! As a mom that has to work, I’ve been apologetic to my children, too, and have given in to more than I should because I’ve felt guilty. This is a huge shift in my thinking on this subject and will definitely help our family.

  3. Thank you, Leslie! I’ve wondered so much lately how to live my life passion which burns within me while being the perfect, dedicated mother. Your analogy on walking and balance also helped tremendously! It has been fun to share with my children the remarks others have made who went through my online health mentoring program- people telling me that this program was an answer to prayer. It does take a lot of time and a lot of work. I am excited to be more aware of the words I use while working and the example I am setting for my children! Thank you again, Leslie- you are an answer to the silent pleading prayer of my heart, and you have provided answers to the questions I have been contemplating for years. What made me feel good was to read other mothers who knew how much time I was taking and who thanked me, my husband, and our children for the sacrifice… I’d like to thank you, your husband and especially your chidren- they play an important part to my own prayers being answered through your writings. Tell them thank you from me for all their support- it couldn’t be done without them! =)

  4. “No matter what your work is, it’s helping someone.” “…learn how to enjoy being productive.”

    While I’m not a parent, these are words to live by for everyone, and I suspect that there are even more adults than children who would benefit from hearing them.

    As always, thank you Leslie.

  5. Hi Leslie,

    Thank you for your story on this subject. As a single mom I could truly resonate with this story. It helped me feel that I am not alone and it also allowed me to forgive myself for the things that must be accomplished. I am looking forward to using some of the tips you have supplied and applying it to my household.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.