Family life

How to deal with mom guilt

Tracy Chappell has been juggling too many balls in the air — she's starting to feel a heavy dose of mom guilt.

1MommyGuilt-November2013-iStockphoto

Photo: iStockphoto

Follow along as Today’s Parent senior editor Tracy Chappell shares her refreshingly positive take on parenting her two young daughters. She’s been blogging her relatable experiences for our publication since 2005.

I missed Anna’s first goal of the season because I was working late. I missed Avery’s Sparks enrollment because I had tickets to see Les Miserables with some friends. I missed bedtime four nights in a row one week last month because of bootcamp or plans I’d made or obligations I had. I feel guilty.

This is a new emotion for me, in terms of time spent with my kids. I know the “mommy guilt” term is thrown around like it’s an inevitable staple of a parent’s wardrobe, but I’d been happy to evade its starchy discomfort. Don’t get me wrong — I feel plenty of guilt about parenting in general, in a “Why did I react like that?” “Why can’t I be more patient?” “Will this be the incident they’ll discuss in therapy?” kind of way. I’ve felt good about the quality and quantity of time I’ve spent with my kids (and without them) and have been lucky enough to be present for the stuff that mattered to me — the sports games and the school plays and the walks to school and the bedtime cuddles.

Read more: 4 tips for giving up the “mommy guilt” >

What has changed? I’m working more. And the work part is fine, it just changes the dynamic of our lives, and we’re all feeling it. It means more busy mornings getting everyone where they need to be, and less time for family dinners and evening downtime together. It means more commuting, which leaves me a little drained (though I’m reading more!). It means that going to an exercise class two nights a week is two more nights of missing tuck-ins, even if it’s good for me in other ways. It means invitations to go out on an evening or weekend I’m not already busy have a bigger impact on my kids, not to mention my energy levels, if I say yes. Even though I want to say yes. But these days, I also want to say no.

It’s tough. I love my work and I can’t imagine not doing it. My colleagues are great and accommodating to the juggling of priorities (many of them are doing it, too). My husband does all he can to help make this easier. I have a lot of things working in my favour. No one is making me feel guilty, yet it’s there anyway — that stiff, scratchy collar that makes it hard to breathe when I can’t be everywhere and do everything I feel I should. I end up feeling I’m not doing a very good job of any of it.

The concept of “having it all” has been debated and dissected to death, but having it all isn’t my goal. I heard a talk last month that discussed the problem with striving for balance in your life; balance is precarious, always at risk of toppling one way or the other at the slightest change of circumstance. We should instead be striving to blend the elements of our life in the right amounts, to create a strong, solid, powerful base to thrive on.

Happiness is my goal. And in the spirit of my previous post on focusing on the good in the year ahead, I just need to find my way back. I’ve got all the elements I’ve always wanted, so I now I have to figure out the right blend to make it all work.

Have you found the right blend in your life? How do you make it all work (or do you?)?

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