One day at work, I was getting ready to leave for an author's lunch at my daughter's elementary school. As I gathered my things, my phone rang. It was a businessman who I had been trying to reach for days to interview for an article. He was headed out of town and willing to give me a few minutes of phone time before he boarded his flight. I sat back down and furiously took notes on my computer. By the time I finished the interview and arrived at my daughter’s classroom, she look as if she wa holding back tears. She already had read her story to the class.
I felt like crud. The guilt overwhelmed me and lasted for days. I even considered quitting my job.
Now, 15 years later, my daughter has no memory of that day. Instead, she remembers the many times I was at her elementary class parties, awards ceremonies and field days.
Still, it was so relieving to hear from author Samantha Ettus that many other working mothers also experience that "terrible working mother moment." Last week, Samantha Ettus spoke about her new book, The Pie Life:A Guilt-Free Recipe for Success and Satisfaction, at the Broward County Library Literary Lunch. In writing her book, Samantha encountered many working mothers who experience that moment when they miss an event in their child's life or forget to pack their child something he or she needs for school and the mom melts down, consumed by guilt. As Samantha pointed out, the crazy part is that years later, the children don't even remember the incident that caused all the guilt and feelings of inadequacy.
In her book, Samantha guides readers to become aware of how much time they dedicate to each slice of their home and work lives and offers a key piece of advice: "If you choose to open up the well of guilt, you'll find that it is bottomless. Guilt is dangerous; it eats up our time and drives poor decisions."
Yes, guilt drives poor decisions. It drives heat of the moment decisions, and those actions often create problems for us in the long run.
Ettus speaks from experience as a mother of three. She has learned what I have discovered from balancing work, family, friends and heath and hobbies -- to survive with your sanity, you must drop the quest for perfection because it's an impossible goal.
So then, how do working mothers survive those moments when they feel like a "bad mother" or "bad employee" or when they see another woman soaring and wonder how she has such a put-together life?
Here are five survival tactics:
*Know that everyone has messy moments. "Empathize with yourself until the messy moment passes, at which point you will have the perspective to reflect on it rationally," Samantha says.
*Make life decisions rationally. Base decisions on goals, values, desires rather than reactions or emotions.
*Define your non negotiables. (No work on Sundays, Friday night dinners are untouchable, etc.) Once you know them, you can set boundaries to protect them, Samantha says.
*Never apologize for working. "You are a role model to your kids. Why would you apologize for that," Samantha says.
*Talk to another working mother. No one understands the struggle to do it all like another working mother. When your are at a low, feeling the support of a friend who gets it can bring you back up. "Having a healthy slice of friends is essential for your health and happiness," Samantha says.
When working mothers have messy moments, we want to tell our children to remember a wonderful moment instead (Remember this, not that). But what many mothers don't realize is that we don't need to give those instructions. When we do our best to show our children love, holding on to those wonderful memories just happens. Now, that's some incentive to lose the guilt and live The Pie Life.