Guilt factor

As I stepped out of my car in Palo Alto last week to attend a lunch with Silicon Valley Moms Blog bloggers and Kristin van Ogtrop, editor of REAL SIMPLE magazine and the author of a new book called Just Let Me Lie Down: Necessary Terms for the Half-Insane Working Mom, I was feeling guilty. Guilty because I have been saying to my kids a lot (too much?) lately: “I’m sorry, I have to go to a meeting.” Standing in the sunshine, I said hello to Kristin, whom I had met a week prior when traveling to Chicago for a Chicago Moms Blog event and was able to attend some events for the REAL SIMPLE 10th anniversary party, and admitted that I was on the G’s in her book and that “guilt factor” was exactly what I was currently reading about.

I like definitions. I remember back in college, when I was an English literature major, my pattern for analyzing a book was to find words that I was interested in, look them up in the dictionary and built my thoughts around those definitions. It was almost formulaic. I liked that. But, then I got bored of the formulas and decided that I needed more excitement. Don’t we all?

When I had a family, I had no idea the excitement that was to start. When Kristin talks about being half-insane, I truly know what she means. I feel, like I think a lot of mothers feel, in a state of survival, running from one thing to the next, but somehow…happy about it? After all, I chose to have a family, really wanted to have a family, love my kids, love my work, and find it hard to give up either of them.

I don’t really fit into either of the two extremes of the working mom or the stay at home mom. I have always worked part-time from home since my kids were born (although lately, the part-time has truly become full time…) and have had flexibility to help in my kids’ classrooms, take them to the park during the middle of the weekday, be there for their first step and loose tooth and everything. Of course, I do often work at night after the kids go to bed…ans sometimes even in the middle of the night (Kristin mentions this necessity for working moms, a bit sad, but true). I also do miss a lot.

I am happy, although half-insane to be sure, to have the flexibility that I have. I have always felt like I have the best of both worlds. I do try to get less chaotic and busy from time to time, but I also accept that this craziness is just part of life as mom, working or not or somewhere in between.

The guilt factor…well, it comes in waves. I can’t say I wasn’t warned about it from knowing moms when I was first pregnant with the twins. I was certainly warned. Living it is a different thing, however. Oh, I feel guilty. But it is really refreshing to read a book that actually celebrates working moms (while acknowledging the craziness). It reminds me of the feeling I got when I read the Shriver Report last November – it really is ok for women to work and have kids. The reality that many businesses don’t acknowledge the outside family lives of their workers (both women and men) is something that I hope is changing, will change over time.

On a conference call that Kristin van Ogtrop attended with the SV Moms Group Book Club members this week someone asked her whether she considered that her position of some power as a successful working mother of a widely-read magazine might provide her with a way to effect policy changes for work/life balance, she said “Oh, I don’t know. I’m not that ambitious.” While that saddened me a bit, she also mentioned that she leaves the office every day at 5:30 and has had the good fortune to work under many working moms, which set the stage for her to achieve some balance in her life. Although policy change is important, so is being a good role model as a working mom that is happy about working, proud of her accomplishments, and shares that life with her family as well.

The ability to turn the guilt factor into one of happiness creates a subtle but large shift. It is one I am trying to make.

This post was inspired by the book Just Let Me Lie Down: Necessary Terms for the Half-Insane Working Mom by Kristin van Ogtrop, editor of REAL SIMPLE, and is part of the SV Moms Group Book Club for April. Visit Chicago Moms Blog to view posts about the book from other SV Moms Group Book Club members.

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