“I am a busy working mother of a 9-month-old and a two-year-old, who I love dearly. However, although I adore spending time with them in theory, if I am really honest with myself, I have stayed later at work than really necessary in the past, partly because I can’t face the chaos of going home. The children are wonderful, but they are also hard to deal with, and bedtime is always a fight. I know that as a working mother I should be trying to spend every waking hour I’m not at work with them, but I almost dread it sometimes. I never thought I would say something like this, and I feel like a monster admitting it. Am I a terrible mother? Am I doing something wrong at home? Is there something wrong with me? What would you advise?”
First of all, I think the Mum who submitted this question is very brave. I know for sure that there are many other Mums out there who will have similar feelings and it is topic that comes up in my circle of friends from time to time. We live in a society where we are supposed to bring our A-game to work and to our home lives. In reality, it is an incredibly difficult balance to strike. We quickly become snared in guilt about what we think or feel we “should” be doing (or feeling) and in our own self-criticism and judgment. We rarely stop to notice what we need. Feeling like you do not have the capacity or energy to manage two small children at the end of a busy day does not mean you don’t love them but it probably means you are a bit burnt out and need to reflect on how your energy is being spent. And on how it is being topped up. If you imagine your resources and capacity to cope as a Jenga tower; every time you take out a brick, stack it on top, and do not replace it, you leave yourself depleted, tired and heading for burnout. And not matter how cute your kids are, kids are hard work!
My suggestions would be to:
- Reflect on how you take care of yourself and ensure you get a chance to refuel and see if there are any areas of your life that you could employ some energy saving tactics. This should also include building in self-care activities and routines as an ongoing commitment to yourself.
- Try to create a little bit of a buffer between leaving work and walking through the door. That doesn’t mean a great deal of time necessarily but it could be sending an email before walking in so it is off your plate and you can focus on the children. Or taking a moment just to check in with how you are feeling and doing a small relaxation or meditation exercise before going in. Anything that will make that transition a little smoother.
- Make sure you ask for help if you need it. It might be some support to work on parenting strategies so the dreaded bedtime routine becomes more manageable or it might be asking your husband or nanny to be around to help.
- Give yourself a break and recognize not just what is hard, but where you are doing well. Try to approach your struggles from a perspective of kindness, gentle encouragement, and with a non-judgmental stance…just the way you would if your friend approached you with the same concern!