I still remember the day. I smell the soccer pitch. I see my 8-year-old son, blood gushing from a cleat to the head; “get my mom! she needs to help now before she flies away on business again, hurry she’s leaving!” I was 4 weeks into a 6-month project which took me out of the country, away from my 3 kids. Having my son so distraught made my heart break, but I cleaned him up, sent him for stitches with dad, got into my car and headed to the airport.
As a parent we are often reminded of what we miss, what we aren’t and how others are doing it better. We look at Social where we are told how to dress, how shift work is bad for family life or that choosing career means rejecting children. The barrage of messages overwhelms. As Women in Manufacturing we are already trying to be courageous in a role that is perhaps non-traditional, often stressful.
Logically, mom's guilt is a choice. It is not gender specific nor is it a required part of being a woman or a parent. If you break it down to the lowest level; logic says you can feel guilty or not, the choice is up to you. Reality is a much harder.
How do we solve this issue? With courage and resilience as our pillars; We embrace it! Embrace what makes you feel guilty and then create strategies. A few suggested strategies…
Forgive yourself. Make a commitment to yourself to give yourself a chance, allow yourself to fail. Your family actually does support and understand why you are away from them. Ask them; don’t assume. Call a meeting and let them express their thoughts and opinions. Hear them out. Then, take time to realize you matter. Support your own choices. Tell yourself, “You matter. You are doing your best. I am proud of you!”
Affirm your values. Ask yourself, do you believe in what you are doing both personally and professionally? If family time is a top value – make time. Put away your phone, play a game or just talk. Be intentional on how you spend your time.
Ask for help. In the 90’s when I was raising little ones there were only YMCA mom’s groups. Now there are many options: Women in Manufacturing, Women in Construction, Women in Business groups available looking to make connection for woman who think they are alone. I assure you there are women like you - everywhere. These groups are business based however they address real issues for working families. Research your options and join one of these groups; find your community, your people. Find out what others, like you do. #WIM, #MWC, #untapped_potential. #Ask_the_Lady_in_the_Hard_Hat for options in your area.
Be like Mary Poppins – Practically Perfect. The kids don’t care about having the cleanest house, inventive food guide meals, interactive play dates that rival Disney™; they care about you. Attachment researchers, such as John Bowly, discovered that parents need to be emotionally present, to comfort their child, connect with their child’s feelings, show delight when seeing the child, and provide support to have healthy parent-child attachment. Mr. Bowly doesn't mention being perfect.
Talk to your organization. Covid-19 has taught us a great deal about WFH, flexible work and Zoom everything. Be intentional regarding your time at work. The reality of work travel, long shifts, 24/7 operations and stressful days are part of working in Manufacturing, however a solid conversation with leadership that includes checks and balances can be helpful. Remember - the best employee your company has...is right in front of them; don’t forget!
My son survived his ordeal, he even has a cool scar as a memory. Honestly, he probably doesn’t remember the day. I do and I always will. That is part of being a parent. He is now a graduating all-star headed to University. When I ask him why engineering; “Mom, you made hard work look fun. I want to be an engineer and work in Manufacturing like you”.
Mom’s guilt… gone.