Here’s the scenario:
Your baby is fast asleep *hahaha, right* and your mother-in-law excitedly tells you that your daughter actually started waving “hola” today at her house while you were off holding office hours.
Why was I not there for this momentous occasion?
What kind of a mother am I to have missed this milestone?
The guilt professional moms feel about not spending enough time with their kiddos can be overwhelming, I know. But you must, must, must fight it. Fight it with everything you have because before you know it, you’ll be in the doldrums whining about your parenting skills and missing all the ways you can connect with your kids in small but meaningful ways.
So let’s take a look at some of the most important things I’ve discovered from both being a kid and having my own:
- Your kiddo’s memory sucks. I think it’s safe to say that most kids don’t remember that time when mom put them to sleep thirty minutes early because she needed to finish an article. Or that time when mom tossed some cereal at them for lunch because she desperately needed a shower. While I think we all have those moments in our own lives where we felt hurt by something our parents did, you are not your parents. You are you. You are an awesome parent. As long as you value the things your kids value and are diligent about making time to connect with them daily, then they’ll only remember the times when mom was supportive, loving, and affectionate.
- Balance is best. Pay attention to small things since these are the issues that can crop up and destroy relationships in your life. If you notice that your partner has been more distant lately, don’t blow it off. Make time to talk and be honest about the state of your life weekly. I’m not kidding. I’ll say it again – weekly. With kids it can be incredibly easy to focus on “large” issues like sleep training, publishing, and teaching and push “small” things to the side, like that fight you had with your partner yesterday. The truth is, parenting is stressful so plan in some extra time to reconnect, apologize, and talk through the stress. Taking this time will help you keep the crazies at bay by feeling confident and in control of your individual world.
- No woman is an island. Ask for help. Whether it’s close friends, a partner, or even a reasonably-priced sitter, find small but meaningful ways to find the time you need to complete your daily tasks while also meeting your kid’s needs. That might mean that your sister takes little Susie to the park instead of you or that Dad chills and watches cartoons with Johnny while you get some much-needed writing done. Expressing what you need when you need it can be tough as a mom, especially when we’re expected to single-handedly complete all the tasks ever. The truth is, you can’t, and that’s that.
- You be you. Know your limits. If your partner or little one wants to push those limits, politely but firmly let them know that no, you can’t play just that moment because mommy needs a shower and no, you can’t watch that new episode of The Comedians until after you’ve sent a few e-mails. Don’t be afraid to ask for the time you need to feel zen. If you don’t, you’ll most likely turn into that person who yells at her husband for not draping the blankets “correctly” over the couch. I speak from experience, obviously, so don’t hesitate to do what it takes for you to get back to you.
- Just say no. Throughout your academic career, your professional demands will steadily increase, meaning more work time and less cuddles with your baby boo. You know best how much you can handle when it comes to the insanity that is your daily schedule, so avoid accepting responsibilities that don’t substantially boost your “scholarly cred.” For advice on what activities will make a difference to employers, I’d like to refer back to my previous point – “no woman is an island.” Although it’s tough for most of us introverted, nerdy academic-types to put themselves out there and ask for help, you MUST do this if you want to survive the job market. Practical, job-based knowledge is learned, not innate, so find mentors in your area of study. Begin with the usual suspects – dissertation committee, advanced colleagues, conference connections – and move on to emailing professors and students in your field of study that you’ve never met before for advice. Like I mention in my post, The Foolproof Formula to Publishing in a Top Academic Literary Journal, these messages should be as short and concise as possible. Remember, brief e-mails almost always get a response!
Give these tips a go and let me know if they work for you! I’m always happy and willing to provide extra tips via the comments section if you have a specific question or issue. While I’m no expert, sometimes all I’ve needed is just someone to listen. I guess there’s a reason therapists stay in business, huh?
Any tips or tricks on being a guilt-free mom?
Feel free to comment below and be on the lookout for more “maman” posts soon!