I thought I could have it all, children and a career, but it is terribly hard. When I’m at work, I feel guilty I’m not with my kids. When I’m with the kids, I feel guilty I’m not working. I just feel guilty all the time. I feel like I am failing at both. Could you give me some advice?
The new movie “How Does She Do It?” does a good job portraying a working mom struggling to find balance and a sense of success. It also does a good job portraying the guilt you are experiencing. I highly recommend you see the movie, but here are some tips that may also help:
1. Set realistic expectations. Expect this to be difficult. Expect to forget things and let people down on occasion. If you don’t expect this juggling act to be hard, you’re not being realistic.
You cannot do what stay-at-home moms can do. Accept that. If you have realistic expectations, you won’t experience as much frustration, disappointment and guilt. Don’t dwell on the negative. Just understand the realities of the challenge and give yourself a break.
2. Lower your standards. You will not be able do everything and do it perfectly. It is just not possible. Do not compare yourself to women who have less on their plates. Be okay with unmade beds and dirty dishes in the sink. Be okay with store-bought cookies instead of homemade ones. Everyone will live.
3. Invest in a crockpot. Plan meals in advance. Don’t try to figure out what’s for dinner at 5 p.m. every night. Have a plan for shopping, cooking and cleaning up. Work the plan. Get the whole family involved in these tasks.
4. Take time for yourself. If you don’t do it, you will eventually have a meltdown or get sick and be forced to take care of yourself. Work some “me” time into the plan. Make sure everyone understands — mothers have needs too — and a happy mom is a lot nicer to live with.
5. Be more organized. Make sure everything and each task has its time and place. The more organized your home and your schedule, the less stress and frustration you will experience. If this is not your forte, get help from someone who is really good at structure and order.
6. Get kids and spouse involved in housework. Make job assignments together as a team and spread out the load. Family and home has to be a team effort — you cannot do it alone.
7. Plan ahead for smooth mornings. Do as much as you can the night before. Have clothes laid out, lunches made and homework done. I realize this can mean a busy and stressful night, but it's better than a chaotic morning where you leave for work with everyone grouchy and mad. It’s better to start the day with a smile and hug instead.
8. Get smart about after-school activities. Limit your kids to one activity — the one they most want to do. Choose activities close to home and make friends with other parents who may be able to share rides to activities if you can’t make them. Identify big events your child most wants you to attend, ask them to understand if you miss some others, as long as you make it to the big ones.
9. Remember what matters most. Children grow up so fast. Make sure you take time to play with your children, ask lots of questions and listen to them as much as you can. Plan weekend activities together. Spend as much quality time as possible.
If I had my child to raise all over again, I’d finger-paint more and point fingers less. I would do less correcting and more connecting. I’d take my eyes off my watch and watch with my eyes. I’d take more hikes and fly more kites. I’d stop playing serious and seriously play. I would run through more fields and gaze at more stars. I’d do more hugging and a lot less tugging. — Diane Loomans
10. Smile and laugh often.
“It would seem that something which means poverty, disorder and violence every single day should be avoided entirely, but alas, the desire to beget children is a natural urge.” — Phyllis Diller
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Kimberly Giles is the president and founder of Claritypoint Life Coaching and 12 SHAPES INC. She is an author and professional speaker. She was named one of the top 20 advice gurus in the country by Good Morning America in 2010. She appears regularly on local and national TV and Radio.