With visions of having the best of both worlds, many parents make the decision for mom to pursue her entrepreneurial endeavors while raising a family. It's perfect since she can maintain a schedule that allows her see to her child's every need and witness every milestone, all while running a thriving business.
That's the fairy tale perspective of someone who's never done it, of course. The truth is there are many days that fall short of perfect when you juggle a business and a family. The result? Parental guilt. Lots of it.
I'd like to offer a different perspective: something in between the illusion of perfect balance and total chaos. As the mom of now 28-year-old twins, I've had the benefit of comparing my opinion of their childhood with theirs. My memories of constantly rushing them though life conflict with their memories entirely. Instead, they see me as the mom who introduced them to lots of cool stuff and whom their friends viewed as the most fun mom on the block.
Therefore, I feel confident in offering this advice: If you're going to judge your parenting skills, don't do it until your kids are old enough to offer a viewpoint that's probably more accurate. Meanwhile, take a few tips from a mom who's been there and has helped hundreds of parents strike a happy balance (I use the word loosely).
1. Be flexible.
The best-laid plans have only a 50 percent chance of survival, if that. When your first-grader stays home sick on the day you're scheduled to visit your top client, don't waste energy stressing out about it. Being in a state of panic over an unexpected turn of events will keep you from thinking clearly, causing your brain will block out the most obvious solutions. Skip over the panic stage and go right to the solutions stage, and you'll feel like a superhero instead of a guilty supervillain.
2. Be realistic.
When my clients tell me how disappointed they are about how little they've achieved during the week, I ask them to list the things they got done. As they recite their accomplishments, one of two things happen: They go into silent reflection, or they laugh. That's because their perspective drastically shifts once they realize how much they did get done. The lines between expectation and reality become blurred when you make a to-do list a mile long, thinking it should all get done immediately. Create realistic deadlines so that you don't set yourself up for failure.
3. Be present.
The best gift you can give yourself, and your family, is your total attention. Breaking the pattern of a drifting mind is not easy but you can do it. And when you do your guilt will subside, allowing your productivity levels at work to rise.
4. Be willing to put yourself first.
This may sound selfish but it's just the opposite. Selfish is being so exhausted that you can't be the fun and attentive parent you want to be. It's refusing to let your spouse know what your needs are, leaving them out in the cold. Selfish is ignoring your health and well-being to the point that you lash out and lose patience with those you love. Your family will appreciate and understand your need for time to work out, spend with friends, and enjoy a little romance with your partner.
5. Be as organized as possible.
Lists are your best friend. We tend to unnecessarily consume energy by worrying about things like what's for dinner, whose turn it is to carpool, and what we need to accomplish at work. Also, do your best to keep things in their proper place. It may be tempting to leave your car keys and shoes where they fall, but when you waste precious time frantically searching for them you'll see it differently.
6. Be grateful.
A practice of gratitude keeps you focused on the things that are good in your life, rather than all that's seemingly wrong. Capture your son's smile in your mind's eye, carry your daughter's laughter with you, and celebrate every milestone in your business. These gifts are more important than a lost client or failed product because, in spite of what you hear, there are always second chances in business.
7. Be open to change.
You may have once had a vision of growing your business with your children happily at your side. Or, you once believed that putting your child in day care was the best option. Either way, too many stay-at-home entrepreneurs won't accept that they cannot give 100 percent to parenting and 100 percent to their business--it just doesn't add up. If your original plan no longer feels right, sit down with your spouse and create one that does. Accept that it's perfectly fine to veer from your original plan if it's not getting you to where you want to be.
Share your best tips with us. How do you avoid overdosing on mommy guilt?