Lite 98, 3.13.12
Liz Pearce, Director of Parent Engagement
Children’s Museum of Richmond
I’m one of the lucky moms who has been both a stay-at-home parent and a gainfully employed parent. When the debate comes up about which lifestyle is better for parenting, you won’t find an easy answer from me. In my opinion, each lifestyle has pros and cons, of course, and are fairly equal in terms of workload and responsibility.
My philosophy is that we are all “working parents” whether we are compensated with a paycheck or not – our “product” is an adult, ready for society.
So why are many parents wracked with guilt? Ask an insomniac parent what keeps the brain churning in the wee hours of the night, and you’ll likely hear that it relates to all the “Un-Done” tasks of the day. We worry that they aren’t getting enough sleep, we haven’t given them nutritious meals, we aren’t pushing them to study hard enough, we are pushing them to study too hard, we should give them a better home life, etc. We run through our litany of “If Only” statements, and come up feeling guilty. The To-Do list never ends. Here are a few tips for letting go of the guilt:
· Ellen Galinsky, author of Ask the Children: What America’s Parents Really Think About Working Parents, (2001)suggests that instead of seeking balance, we should consider the notion of navigating the world of work and family. She found that “many parents didn't like the notion of "balance." It sounded to them as if they had arrived at a perfect state, a state where work and family were equal.” She notes that “With navigating, there can be good weather and stormy weather, just like parenting.”
· Write down what you feel guilty about, and make a plan to move past it. Feel guilty that you aren’t working hard enough to buy a bigger house? Set a realistic goal, and in the meantime, make the space you live in work better for you.
· Write down the things you can control. Guilt can be amplified by feeling overwhelmed, and we feel overwhelmed when we feel we have no control. Writing it out can be a visual reminder of to gain perspective.
· Know that children will remember more of the small everyday moments than the big special events that we stress over so much. A bedtime routine, eating breakfast together, going to the park on the weekends – these are what kids remember 20 years from now.
· Avoid people who encourage the guilty feelings, and surround yourself with more positive colleagues or friends.
· Believe in the choice you have made. "You know yourself and your family better than anyone and know what decision is right for you. Don't take the judgment of others as the truth. Instead, tell them your reasons and ask them to support you."
As a general rule of thumb, I think we can all support each other more on our parenting journey.