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I’ve gotten a lot of emails recently about mom guilt, and how we’re supposed to overcome that feeling that we’re doing everything wrong. It doesn’t matter what we do – it’s never enough (cue dramatic music).
And I get it. That’s actually the REALITY for how a lot of us feel.
I feel guilty for not being a “good mom” to my kids.
The biggest guilt factor? Not being emotionally present with my kids often enough that I can help keep their bucket full.
Don’t get me wrong, I do a lot for my kids. I buy them everything they need and a lot of what they want. My oldest is in extra-curriculars ( the youngest will too once she’s old enough) and we try to keep screen time to a minimum.
We read stories MOST nights, sing bedtime songs, and tuck them in at night.
But all of the “measurable” things don’t necessarily matter if we aren’t giving them the most basic emotional necessity – our full attention.
I wasn’t there when my oldest crawled or walked – she was with the sitter. I was sick of losing those kinds of moments, which is why I eventually decided to start working from home when the opportunity presented itself.
Because I’ve been working more on the online business, I’ve had to spend LESS time with my girls. This completely defeats the purpose of why I wanted to work from home in the first place – which was to be home with my girls and not miss anymore “moments”.
Which I’ve ended up missing even more moments because my face was buried into my cell phone too many times.
If you work (or have in the past), I’m sure you’ve been in this situation. It seriously tugs on those heartstrings to see your kiddo tear up when you’re walking out the door.
But then when you ARE home, your mind is in a faraway place. Maybe it’s stressing about bills, work, or the house. Maybe you’re too tired to play and instead sit down to watch TV for a while.
This problem doesn’t only exist with working moms though, stay at home moms ALSO struggle with staying present with their kids.
Personally, I think SAHM’s get a little burnt out from being home with the kids all of the time. Nobody enjoys packing up the diaper bag, finding clothes, shoes, and snacks to then load up in the car – so many of us end up staying home (even THINKING about it makes me tired).
There’s just never enough time and energy to go around.
My three year old is BIG into pretend play…and she pretends that she’s going to work sometimes. The other day, she grabs a bag and her little fake computer and says “Ok mom, I can’t play with you right now because I have to go to work for a really really long time. Don’t be sad I always come home. Ok bye!”
UGH – so sad…. But we can’t spend ALL of our time with our kids.
So what do we do?
Make the time you have COUNT.
I know you’ve heard this before – because it’s turned into semi-generic advice. But it CAN absolve some of that mom guilt if you follow through.
The AMOUNT of time that we spend is less important than the QUALITY of the time we spend – studies have proven this.
So what does this look like?
Carve out specific time with your kids every day (or every other day – I know every day isn’t realistic for everyone).
This needs to be time just for you and your child. Mark this time down in your calendar, put the phone away, and intentionally be there with your kiddo. Even if it’s for a short amount of time – this is important.
Tip: When you MAKE A SPECIFIC plan and write it down, you’re statistically more likely to follow through.
The goal right now in my house is to make that time between 6-8PM. In reality this doesn’t ALWAYS happen, but I intentionally plan at least one “activity” that we can do together every day. Sometimes it’s coloring, doing dishes, going to the park, or even a trip to the grocery store.
Even if this is a Facetime call at the end of the night, this is still better than nothing. Just show up. Make that time about THEM.
Turn OFF your phone
This one is the hardest. Since I work online, I’m constantly connected to the world via email and social media. Even if I’m home with my girls all day, I still spend time checking it and responding to short messages.
Related: How to Work From Home with a Toddler
This has noticeably been turning into a problem for me. My daughter was trying to show me a “trick” she can do, and she asked me to watch.
I responded that I was watching, but peeked down at my phone for a second as I was in the middle of answering an important email. I looked back up and realized she was WATCHING MY EYES.
It occurred to me that she’s seen me look down at my phone so many times when she just wants my attention that she began checking to see if I was paying attention.
Luckily I’ve apparently earned back that trust, and she’s stopped watching me so closely.
During intentional time, the phone HAS to go away. This is a non-negotiable (especially if you suck with impulse control as I do).
Truthfully I’m ashamed of the situation above…I feel like I wasn’t respecting her personhood enough to give her my attention.
The hard lesson I learned was that when she asks me to watch something while I’m trying to respond to an important message, I let her know I can watch in a minute. I then PUT MY PHONE AWAY so that she knows she has my full attention.
Let them choose the activity if it’s within my power, and I let them lead (while STILL engaging fully).
My three year old loves crafts, so that’s often the route we’ll go. Because she’s three, her idea of “art” is VERY abstract, but I just go with it.
Lately we’ve also been doing a lot of tea parties. We pretend play that she’s the mom making tea, and I basically do whatever she tells me to. It doesn’t matter if she tells you that the play tomato is actually a cookie, you just go along with it.
It’s good for them developmentally, and it is wonderful for your relationship.
Even when we’re spending time with our kids, our minds sometimes go to a faraway place. Being mindful and in the moment is extremely difficult.
Bills, work, the house, relationships…everything takes a bit of a toll on us. And studies have shown that most of us get distracted more than 50 times a day.
Remember this being mindful bit applies to all moms. I had a short stint as a stay at home mom before I started working from home, and although I was with my kids 24/7, I wasn’t “with” them as much as I am now (even though I’m physically around less).
By the way…they notice if you aren’t paying attention.
I swear – even my one year old can sense it…kids are smart.
So carve out that time, redirect your attention, and turn off your phone. These are simple changes that can make a world of difference, and we see fewer behavioral problems from BOTH girls since doing this.
Please let me know in the comments below what you’ve done to try and be more intentional with your kids?