There’s no doubt that raising children is a challenge. When you are working or running a business on top of it the challenges are even greater. Being a parent is a role that everyone on the planet seems to feel entitled to have a say in how you’re doing.
Most women entrepreneurs experience childcare guilt at some point in the growth of their business. It can be challenging finding yourself torn between these two important roles in your life.
It’s ironic really because often one of the reasons women work is so they can give their children a better life. And those who choose self employment do so to create flexibility to be there for their children whilst growing their financial independence.
There is enormous pressure to be the perfect parent with no other desire than to be there for your children, and this can take its toll on female entrepreneurs.
Let’s face it. Your business is one of your children. And if it’s not, you’re probably just playing at this business game. It takes that level of passion and commitment to your business to grow it.
But that leaves many women torn. When they’re working on their business they feel guilty, and (paradoxically) when they’re with their children they feel guilty that they’re not dedicated to their business.
So what’s the solution?
Here are some simple things to help overcome childcare guilt
1. Don’t feel guilty, make decisions.
The purpose of guilt is for you to make changes in the future. Let’s say you feel you’ve spent too much time working and not enough with your children, and that makes you feel guilty. Either use that guilt as a sign that you need to change your behaviour or use it to decide to change what you believe about childcare. If you decide to change your beliefs, you can choose to believe that what you are doing is fine and let go of the guilt. Either way you will stop feeling guilty.
2. Recognise that you are always doing your best.
Although you best may be different on different days and at different times, you are always doing what you believe to be best at the time. So some days you will spend more time with your children than others. Some days you’ll be an attentive parent, other days when lot’s is going on at work you’ll be distracted. So what! You’re still doing your best.
3. Don’t be influenced by other people’s ideas about childcare.
Never before has there been more societal pressure on parents to be perfect or more conflicting views on what is the best way to raise children. Children now rule family life in a way that they never did before. In past generations outsourcing childcare to grandparents (for the less affluent) and nannies or boarding schools for the more affluent was considered entirely normal.
Nowadays if women show any sign of not wanting to be surgically attached to their children until they are 25 seems to be taken as evidence that that they are not “proper mothers”.
The truth is that there is no right or wrong way to bring up your children. Some mothers like spending more time with their children than others and that doesn’t make them bad mothers, it makes them different mothers.
4. Children will always want more attention.
Even if you were with them 24 hours a day, they would probably still want your attention when you were asleep if you let them. Growing up is about learning to be independent and that starts by you allowing them to play without your intervention.
5. The purpose of childhood is to learn to be adults.
With so much emphasis on having a “happy childhood” it’s easy to forget that the real purpose of childhood is to learn to be adults. So by showing your children how you behave responsibly and that you expect them to do so too you are teaching them a valuable lesson. By saying “no not now” you teach them boundaries. By having others look after them you teach them “you’re OK even when I’m not here”. By asking them to behave responsibly and independently when you need to work you’re teaching them how to entertain themselves and behave responsibly. That’s much more important for their happiness right into adulthood.
6. Teach your children the importance of care of themselves.
You teach your children how to take care of themselves by showing them how you take care of yourself.
Take time out for yourself and say NO to all and any interruptions. This shows, by example, that we all need to take responsibility for our own health, and happiness. Working yourself to the bone, only to then work yourself even harder when you’re with your kids only teaches them to become a martyr. Instead take time out for a lie down, watch a movie, take a bath, meditate and let your children know that you are NOT to be interrupted unless they are on FIRE! It will only take a few times so just keep enforcing your boundaries, and don’t reward interruptions with attention.
7. Be a role model not a martyr.
Studies show that children of women who don’t work can grow up with very limited expectations of women. Boys can grow up to believe that women don’t or can’t work and that women are not as important as men.
Girls grow up with low aspirations. By showing your sons and daughters how to be happy and successful and dedicated to achieving your dreams and ambitions, they are more likely to have higher aspirations and enjoy working towards achieving their dreams. They will be less likely to grow up with an entitlement mentality too. Stop feeling guilty that you’re not with them all the time, and change your attitude of one of teaching by example that this is how people achieve their dreams.
If you put your dreams on hold till they have grown and left you will miss this opportunity to teach them how to be successful. Rather than apologising for working and not being with them, celebrate your successes with them even talk to them about how much you enjoy working for and achieving your goals. You will inspire them.
8. Consider learning how to release guilt from the past.
Feeling the emotion of guilt in the present has the positive purpose of guiding you to change behaviour, but if you continue to feel guilt in the present that results from actions taken in the PAST then this is useless and damaging. Consider a therapeutic intervention to release it.