Savor your work success, mama, without a shred of guilt. You earned it.
As a working mom, it’s not uncommon for projects to pop up that require extra effort and, ultimately, a tip in the work-life scale. For a few weeks, I had to notch up the work commitment, especially in the home stretch leading to the “big day.” No working mom ever likes it when this happens, but it does, and, at least for me, I accept it because I know there’s an end in sight. (Plus, I am blessed with a partner who picks up the slack when mommy is “crazy at work.”)
Here’s why the sacrifice can be worth it, at least for me:
Recently I had a major, high-visibility project, and I knocked it out of the park. Seriously, my cheeks hurt from smiling, I had a pep in my step and was slightly woozy from the adrenaline rush. It was a good day, and I did an awesome job. As my world shifted back to reality, and I came home early to make up for lost time with my family, I took a good look around our home, which was in disarray. Granted, the kids were alive and fed, but let’s just say keeping the house up to my normal standards was not the priority. So as I started the task of picking up toys and doing dishes, like a balloon with a small leak, I could feel the joy around my recent success deflating.
That night, as I was checking homework, I realized the past few assignments were not double-checked and there were (gasp!) errors. I started feeling guilty because my son was “suffering” at the expense of my desire to do a good job at work. When it was time to read, my son told me he didn’t need me to listen—that he “had it covered.” POOF. The balloon was popped. I was seconds away from bursting into tears, and the accomplishment I felt just hours before was replaced with an overwhelming sense of failure, guilt and anxiety. Am I ruining my children? Am I being selfish? I started wondering: If the work-life balance shifted completely the other way—i.e. all life and no work—would my family be any better off?
I enjoy my job, I like that I can do it all and I am committed to a healthy balance. I chaperone field trips when I can, but I don’t have to spend every day at the school cutting construction paper and organizing tempera paint. I enjoy challenges and surround myself with women who like to kick butt at work but still go home and cook dinner (or, OK, pick up take-out that at least includes a vegetable). And generally speaking this works for my family and for me. But if I can’t enjoy that moment when I reach the top of a mountain—if that happiness is so quickly replaced by guilt—then is it worth it?
While everyone will answer this question differently, this working mom has decided that I am going to enjoy the successes. I am not, and will never be, perfect. My children know they are loved and are at the center of my universe. However, they also realize that I have my own life to live. I am willing to work hard at everything I do, which is an example I strive to set.
If this story sounds familiar, know that you aren’t alone. Perhaps there is comfort in knowing that I’m not the only one struggling to keep this perfect work-life balance. And when that scale every once in a while gets off balance, I trust that tomorrow is a new day. Life goes on, and I always find a way to get the delicate balance back. So for now on, I’m going to enjoy my successes. I’m not going to be so quick to let that feeling of accomplishment slip away. I will take the time to enjoy the glory and hope you do the same. I am confident it’s a choice we owe it to ourselves to make.