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Our CEO Lara Discusses: The rollercoaster of parent guilt that should be buried for good

Written by Lara Morgan, CEO of Scentered.

Today many people are lucky enough to be working from home. Yet, some might not feel so lucky with the juggle of family, no escape, distractions, too small a space, poor working comfort, noise, lack of quiet time, no escape at lunchtime for a gym routine release of pressure, or commuting reading habit gone – perhaps for good. We must consider some sadly might be a lot less lucky, having just lost jobs, perhaps trying to make ends meet. Many are worried and stressed wondering what the future holds. This is a hideous time of rising anxiety, sleepless nights and an uncertainty that is appallingly difficult for anyone and everyone to understand – humans are not good at dealing or coping with change and newness and we love a plan, a process, a pattern… we are good habit makers and they are not always positive. These times are seriously challenging so consideration for ourselves and for others takes the extra energy we perhaps barely have and hence the strain raises, tempers shorten and the days ahead can seem pretty thankless. I hope the following article gives some benefits to practice and allows you to find laughter, perhaps run a warm bath and treat yourself to gather a renewed purpose for whatever the future holds. It’s your choice, plan it in?

Step back to get a better perspective

I always remind myself that the fact is there are many, many people a lot worse off. Not that helpful perhaps to some but it is always good to have perspective on our problems. I am also always surprised when I find out how little sleep I can “get away with,” but I have always tried to get a good night's sleep knowing the whole body and mind recovery it hopefully brings. We all have problems, we all consider our problems to be important and even our own problems come in different shapes and sizes. Perspective is important. I once was asked by a midwife whether I was worried about having my first baby. It was the time when the Darfur disaster refugees camp was on the news, and I remember saying, “if a baby could survive there, I thought the NHS could handle it”.

Recently something happened that allowed me to stress unnecessarily about something that has on and off caused me concern in life since having that first child.

Rethink outdated stereotypes

I think sometimes about the stay-at-home Mum and in the past I used to suffer anguish and guilt until I made the choice to drop both bad habits. Indeed I have trained myself to change my mindset and I am convinced we should talk more about the skills and processes we can all adopt if we are taught accordingly. I do believe we have to make an effort to THINK positive.

There are always two sides to a story. There are situations where too often because of past approaches we make assumptions about who earns, who stays at home or who gets the top table seat. All of these come from past approaches which have proven to be damaging as we know now the equality, the diversity and the richness we all gain from a breadth of outlooks beats any single male white, stale and pale boardroom, any day of the week.

What about the working Dad’s thankless earning task, the pressure perhaps of earning for paying all the bills? Hard I know, versus the Dad who pulls his weight at home, perhaps always does school drop off, (lucky him?) and the Mum who may now be the major earner who feels guilty for not always being first at childcare…The pain is sometimes enhanced by passing pointless words from sometimes old fashioned values offered by out-of-date parents that mean well…gruhhh. Yes, I would like to spend more quality time with all my children but the balance is very hard to find. 

One of my team members shared this piece with me when I asked her to remind me what many years ago it was like as a single Mum working to balance the impossible balance.

Dawn said…

“Oh lord. The guilt, going from being married and not earning, being on hand all day at home with no job, having time to house keep and organise while kids were at school etc, full time mum cooking cleaning and all that it entails. Then I went from that to being at work until arriving home at 5.30 in the evening. Lee looked after Aaron, and I also remember the neighbours putting a letter through my door about not being home for my boys. It was bad enough dealing with my own thoughts about it, let alone some busy body down the road sticking her oar in. I had a stand-up row with her in the street. You can’t win really. If I wasn’t working, in her eyes I would have been a social scrounger…
Always mad busy trying to catch up at the weekend with things I didn’t get to do in the week before it all starting again on a Monday, without the luxury of a partner or anyone to take the weight off. I never felt that I could not do enough for the boys or be there enough for them.
Alternatively, I had a huge pride in that I provided for them myself, as their dad was an arse back in the day. Knowing that I can look back at my brilliant boys and think ‘I did that’.”  

 

WOW makes you think? How lucky am I to have the stability of a relationship, but irrespective of that, perhaps the shared problems that come with divided ideas on how to be bringing up children as a single mother leaves behind the stress of a partnership and discord. Parenting brings further challenges as perhaps some more diligent parents are trying to give their children the best stay at home learning whilst Covid has caused havoc to school timetables.

 The value individuals offer to their parenting roles, their desire to get the most out of life has for the first time in my existence been restricted by Covid, completely out of my own boundaries of control. I am well aware of my earned privilege but I am by no means blind to the frustrations of young parents and changing to home working whilst as too often the default is that the mother will also be primary carer. I was made quietly angry the other day because of a small but perfect example of how we can help each other bring fairness and balance into the world. I let down my daughter, not because of something she’d directly done but because her school chose to call my mobile, leave a message and due to work pressures I did not pick up the message. I am disappointed, because the school on application asked who is the number one contact person and it is not me. It is quite clearly my husband so why ring me? The raft of yet again not being able to juggle all could clearly have been allowed by me to build a mound of raging disappointment. But good news, I choose not to do this anymore as I genuinely make every effort to be positive in all I do and all my interactions. I am not perfect but I choose to use skills to behave the way I behave and I banished guilt a long time ago, it brings no value, it adds no progress and indeed it is simply debilitating.

Without my other half, my husband, we would not be where we are after 25 years. Of course there are prices to be paid, exchanges and perhaps a sacrifice or two when we choose to be the main income earner, or indeed, if both parents choose to work. But the best thing that took away the anxiety and guilt put upon us by old fashioned societal default is that a journalist once said to me “the mother guilt” is like a see saw, one week your bad for going out and leaving your children, the next your great for not having apron strings kids and allowing them to be independent and capable…

STOP INHALE RESET

Planning allows me to juggle more than most. I am honest about the fact we never quite find balance, I am brutal in the way I expect standards to be adhered to and I believe self-discipline and self-determination are really important qualities we have to teach. I do believe we can in some cases overcome issues with mind over matter but I also appreciate stress comes to us all in different ways. Built in a tapping technique perhaps to give yourself a break… I use breathing control to overcome frustrations every single day.

The other huge bonus I have recently found is having to admit past jealousy that I was simply of no supporting use when the children did homework, or sometimes missed matches for work, is that now my contract, my network, my work experience and knowledge from business comes into its own. I can help my children and their friends get on the employment ladder. I enjoy being useful to them and the balance is being re-made perhaps? The effort also to not be concerned to write this note to make a positive out of a negative, perhaps to encourage other Mums and Dads who have similar dilemmas I hope is a contribution. Whatever the stress of the situation the ability to STOP INHALE RESET  - allowing me to control the frame of mind I have towards a situation, allowing me to banish guilt because I can only be the best that can be and my belief that by setting a working example I bring value to my family, enables a better nights sleep.

 

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