Escaping the tyranny of “busy mommy guilt”

One of the things I deal with as a work-at-home mom is “busy mommy guilt.”

 

I’m sure you know it. It’s that nagging, creeping feeling at the back of my mind and that tugging feeling on my heart that tells me I’m neglecting my kid. It hits me whenever I’m caught in a whirlwind of work… and my sweet little boy is looking up at me–wooden alphabet puzzle in hand–asking me innocently, “Mama, A-B-C.”

 

Waaaah!

 

Can you relate with me?

 

I’m sure you can; we’re all busy moms, even those of us who have a horde of house help (and I am not one with hordes of househelp!). Of course we love our children. Duh. We know how to love them with hugs and cuddles, how to pepper them with kisses (no matter how big they get or how much they resist). We know what makes them tick, and to give in to that request for Stik-O once in a while, just to see that silly smile on his face.

 

Being a new mom at that, I’ve learned a few things here and there about showing love to my kid, even if I’m really busy. Let me share a few here with you.

 

 

1. Drop everything you’re doing for some one-on-one time.

 

I find myself having to drop everything just to spend another ten minutes playing with my son; he’s fine after that. It’s the fact that I take a break from whatever I’m doing that matters.

One-on-one time. This is as necessary for babies as it is for teenagers. I know, I was a teenager who wished for her parents just drop everything and spend time with me. They may not have done it perfectly, but they did it. Kids are like that: They need undivided attention. And more often than not, they need it when mom or dad are super busy.

 

2. Listen, don’t just hear them.

 

We as parents tend to try to fix things or correct our kids when things go wrong or insert our opinions and say “Because I said so,” or some cliche like that.

When I think about how I get this way sometimes, I realize it’s because I am still a young and naive parent, too. I think for once out kids would want us to just listen to what they have to say without us giving feedback or comments… unless asked. Instead, I need to stop… and just listen to my kid.

 

3. Validate their sense of discovery.

 

My kid is fascinated by everything. Even by the way the fridge door shuts on its own, or how lights magically turn on and off at the flip of a switch. I’ve got to appreciate that he lives each day in wonder about the world around him, even if it’s just in our little apartment. And I’ve got to seize each moment I can spend with him, because it’ll all go by so quickly!

 

4. Be silly with them.

 

I admit; I can get pretty cranky while I work. I hate it when I’m like that. So goofing off once in a while to dance around the living room or balance cups on my head is a great excuse for me to act like a child. The reward? The most satisfying laughter from my two year-old. No amount of work can justify missing that.

 

5. Seek to understand them in every way.

 

I am guilty of trying to be a “super mom” every now and then. Especially if I want to do things in a rush so I can get back to work! It’s not a good thing for my kid, especially if he wants things done a certain way–his way, and not mine. 

Slowly but steadily, I’ve learned to let him do some things his way, even if it is not my preferred way. Like putting away his toys, for example: I know I can do it faster and more organized, but he feels so accomplished when he can do it on his own, no matter how messy his room still is after his apparent cleanup operation. It doesn’t make it wrong, anyway. (Chill, that’s the keyword here!)

 

6. Leave your routine behind–once in a while.

 

Sometimes my husband and I just want to chill with our son during the work week. And so we go out of the house, just to see new things or learn something new. It doesn’t have to be anywhere fancy; sometimes we just play ball with our son in the parking lot below our building! Other times, we hie off for a snack (which is more often than not a trip to the nearby kopi tiam place).

 

7. Instill value and confidence in them, in every way.

 

If there’s one thing I don’t want to screw up, it’s in bringing up my kid well. I want to help him succeed, to help him learn from his mistakes, to have faith in his abilities, to love God and others. I know that by giving him the undivided attention he needs–even when I’m super busy–I am building up his confidence day by day.

If there’s anything I want to accomplish in a day, its to help me kid know who he is: to know that he is loved, and to believe that he has unlimited potential. That won’t happen without my utmost support! Work can wait; time with my kid–never.

How do you escape those moments of “mommy guilt?” How do you show you kid you love and appreciate him, even if you’re drowning in work?

 

Comments

  1. says

    I hear your every word Martine! Thanks for sharing with the Launching Mom community!

    As I said there, I think that sometimes the guilt we are feeling isn’t as bad as we think it is… but your tip of DROP everything, break the routine- even for a minute and play with the kids is THE BEST cure! I do it often with my kids- and how very lucky are we that we have that option as work at home moms – right?

  2. says

    i can so relate! thanks for sharing your tips.
    for me, i make sure that weekends are sacred, office stress-free and showered with lots of quality time. whenever i can, i try to come up with new activities to do with my 2 year old, simple things like playing with water sprays or making pancakes.
    i try to go home early so we can our bedtime routine. :)
    keep the posts coming :)

  3. says

    These are excellent tips. I too am guilty of sometimes brushing off my daughter when I’m busy. I sometimes forget that there is nothing in the world more important than her. Besides, if it was my last day on earth, I’d much rather spend it with her.

  4. says

    wow! i may not be a working mom but kahit stay at home mom ako without any help at all, I do feel all the sentiments. lalo na pag nagsama-sama na itong 3 kong maria. hahaha! nandyan yung 2 asking for help in their homeworks tapos yung bunso nagpapapansin. wwwaaahhh!!! hahaha! but what i usually do is i tell them one by one especially to the 2 older ones. with the youngest one i usually tell her, anak you had me the whole day it’s ates turn naman…though i know she wants my attention as well i believe being with her the whole day is more than enough. so sila ate naman. ako nga okay lang (is it?) that wala ng time for myself. hehehe! basta with them yung time okay na ako. remember fellow moms, TIME REALLY FLIES SO FAST, literally yan. hehehe! and i love your post mommy… :D

  5. says

    Yes i have this all the time despite of doing all the mom stuff perfectly n the best possible. i have a 4 year old and 18 month old and i homeschool too so theres really no FREE time. So i try to do the work past midnight when i can. to lessen my guilt, we do projects every day and go somewhere everyday. then when i am working, there’s less guilt. i have given up projects and other things on my plate until they are a little older and need less attention. i don’t have and dont want cable for them. and if i am working at home as if i am outside working, then i am doing something wrong bc the plan was to be a mom first who happens to work.

    • Martine says

      Hi, Jennylou; thanks for commenting!
      I so admire you for homeschooling. I was homeschooled myself for a few years! I plan to homeschool my kid, if he is up to it. You’re right about that one important fact: Being a mom comes first before work! Busyness can often make us forget this! :)

  6. Krystyna Quimpo says

    Don’t you just wish you can just do everything? Sometimes I do. There are definitely days that I feel guilty because I spend time at the office more than I spend time at home. I just make it up to them over the weekend OR drag myself out of be earlier than usual so I can play with them before they go to bed. Working in a call center don’t really give you that much option in terms of your work schedule. Forevery GY shift na ako. wahhh. I’m just so thankful that my husband is there…if mama is tired, they bug their father. :D

    • Martine says

      Hi, Tyna! Yeah, I can relate. Sometimes I work during odd hours (my work is flexitime). As a writer, inspiration seems to hit me during the wee hours of the morning, so I end up sleeping late and waking up late & tired! I never win, haha. But it’s OK; I’ve accepted that shorter sleep hours and shifting work schedules are my “new normal.” :)

      You know what helped put things into perspective for me, in terms of work + everything else about momhood? Mandi Ehman’s eBook “How to Have Your Cake and Eat It, Too.” It’s not about making the money or being the perfect wife/mother, but about how to revel in all aspects of motherhood, work, family, marriage and life so that they call come together and work for you. (Check it out on my sidebar under Resources!)

  7. tine says

    Love this post, Martine! Thank you for doing it. Guilty feelings can sometimes feel so isolating, it really helps to actually “hear” that there’s someone else in the same boat you’re on. I have 3 kids, 11, 6 & 2. Not only do they need one-on-one time, I want to have it with each of them too! Guilt & frustration escalates…
    One way I’ve found to deal is to actually impose myself when they don’t necessarily want my attention, I’ll initiate a game or conversation with each one (God knows how many Halo games I’ve lost only because, try as I might, I don’t get the game! My 6 & 2 yr olds are easier to please Ü). That way, they would’ve had “enough” of me on a regular basis not needing me when life’s other demands need attending to—parang preventive measures. Thanks again, and hope my two cents helps Ü

    • Martine says

      Hi, Tine!
      I agree with being the initiator; I have learned to be one myself when it comes to playtimes and games! I like your suggestion, it’s what intentional parenting is all about, isn’t it? :)

  8. says

    Martine, thanks for writing this! This will help me a lot! I often feel guilty of having to do so many things. Parang laging kulang ang time. I feel hindi na ako nakakapagspend time kay Anika masyado. So guilty that I often postpone my haircut, facial, mani/pedi even (kahit masasakit na talaga kasu-kasuan ko) massage basta I’d get to spend time with Anika during my free time. I don’t feel good na tuloy about myself in most days. I feel guilty na, I feel ugly pa.

    But with your tips, super helpful talaga. Super thanks!

    • Martine says

      Hi, Fleur! Hindi ka nagiisa–I also postpone my haircut/facial/mani-pedi/pampering for Vito, too. Minsan ampanget ko talaga! Ugh. I think we all crave that balance. I’m a firm believer in “happy mom = happy baby,” but I have to remind myself to take it easy sometimes and just relax! My kid deserves a happy (and pretty!) mom,!

  9. says

    I hear ya! Sometimes I feel like I can never win, I’m always guilty about somethng when it comes to metheirng. Working mom, stay at home, work at home, part time work, full time work. Whatever it is I’m always fumbling, screwing up and being REALLY cranky. But I am also on call 24/7, I rarely miss meals and bedtime, and we do a hell of a lot of fun stuff. We moms all do, sometimes we just forget.

    • Martine says

      I can relate with the fumbling-cranky mothering! My friends always say I’d be the ideal mom; that’s cuz they don’t have kids!!! The ideal mom is a fallacy; the REAL mom is the one who does her best with what she has and is OK with things not being, well, OK all the time. Oh yes, I’m all for the fun! Vito’s lots of fun now, but I see the proverbial terrible twos on the horizon… Eep. Help me, God.

  10. says

    It breaks my heart every time I hear Matteo say. “Put down laptop on the table, Mama” or “Sit down beside Matato (Matteo), play”. I’m a single mom so I’m really grateful my parents and siblings are there to fill the gap.

    • Martine says

      I know the heartbreak! Sometimes Vito will look at me with those puppy dog eyes (which he naturally has, the cutie!) and I will just melt and play with him, regardless of the work on my plate.

  11. Bettina says

    Reading your post made me look back and REALLY think, of what I did when my son was a toddler. Circumstances were different for me then, I was getting “better” and trying to “find” myself again. I will be forever grateful for my parents and relatives who have helped me along the way. My son is 12 years old now and in the 7th grade, he is practically a teenager and has his own “life” so to speak. However, my heart melts when he still hugs and kisses me in public. How he animatedly shares his stories of the day etc. Even though we are in the same place at the same time, it doesn’t necessarily mean that we are together doing things. It’s more of knowing that I’m just around and he can come to me anytime he pleases. We give each other space. Which I firmly believe is important. Why am I saying this? There are times when I feel like such a delinquent mother in terms of not even checking his homework, or knowing what’s happening in school or brushing him off when he wants to show me his new Minecraft creations. Luckily, my son is very independent, resourceful, and persevering. AND he talks a mile minute to that point that sometimes, I have to pretend that I am asleep. Haha. In all of this, I understand how sometimes, we have this “guilty” feeling of NOT being able to spend time with them. Just as you stated, all it really takes is a little “time out” from our BUSY daily grind, drop everything and just reaffirm our kids that WE are just “around”. A simple HUG is a “break” already. I’m sure VITO will cherish all those “breaks” you have taken for him.

    • Martine says

      Thanks, Bets. I am so grateful that I can be around my son 24/7, but sometimes I get worked up with, well, WORK. There is no ideal mothering style, even for those maternal types; what matters really is those moments we connect with our kids. Hugs, kisses and laughter–these are things I cherish the most during our “breaks.” Never fails to revive me during a long day at work!

  12. says

    Great post Martine! You really hit the nail on the head! I love your suggestions. We all need to “tune” into our kids once in a while and indulge their needs. Great reminder, thank you for writing.

    • Martine says

      Thanks, Leah! I like how you put it, about rocking your business and babies at the same time: It’s HARD work. But our kids inspire us, and it CAN be done. Thanks for the comment love, too!

  13. says

    Great Post! I’m not a mommy yet, hopefully soon…. In God’s time. But i’ll be sharing this on my FB page (Teacher Weena and Pink and Blue Doha) so your words can reach out to more moms. :)

  14. Blessie says

    So many of us can relate to this, I’m sure. Thank goodness our kids are so forgiving. I am keeping my fingers crossed that they will stay that way, happy with a bedtime story and an hour of playtime, until they are 18 (or until mommy can retire, whichever comes first — I am rooting for the second option).

    • Martine says

      Yes, our kids are amazing, especially when we parents screw up so much. They are gifts. I don’t deserve to be a mom, but now that I am, I’m determined to NOT fail my kid in terms of spending time with him.

  15. says

    like you, i take a break and just see what they are doing :) play with them, read stories, watch something together or do a project together…

    this is a very timely post. nice reminder for moms like me :) thanks for sharing!

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