As I sat at my daughter's rehearsal, I should have been happy and full of pride. But I wasn't watching her steps and enjoying her smile. Instead I was tense, preoccupied and frantically answering e-mails on my iPhone.
I didn't realize what I was missing until the lights came up and all the other mothers applauded. As my eyes began to adjust to the brightly lit auditorium, only one thing came to mind: Guilt. Yep, I felt guilty for working when I should have been playing. But hey, maybe I was working because I felt guilty for playing when I should have been working. Did I lose you? Welcome to the world of guilt.
This feeling is nothing new to me. I grew up in the South, where there is plenty of guilt to spread around. Leave the house without lipstick? Guilt. (If you doubt that, just ask my Mom.) If I don't call my parents in Texas often enough? Guilt. I have a hard time saying no, and I generally end up over-scheduling my time. The result? Guilt.
I thought my guilt about being a working mom would go away after I established my own business and could work the schedule around my kids. Ha! For 20 years, I worked morning until night as a TV news anchor and investigative reporter. At a moment's notice I was ready to leave because of breaking news and always had a bag packed. I'd spend nights at the station when major storms rolled in. And I thought I had to be reachable 24/7. Being ready to leave meant a baby sitter on call. Spending nights at the station meant a fab husband. And being reachable 24/7? That meant I wasn't always there for my kids. Was I a journalist or a mother? Oh dear, more guilt.
That's why I thought things would change when the economy took a turn and I got laid off. As an entrepreneur, I could structure my work around my kids, right? How hard could it be? I'd be working from home, for goodness' sake!
As you might guess, it didn't take long for me to learn that beginning my "work" after they went to school and then stopping by the time they got home didn't leave much time to write a book, create a business and market the whole thing by myself. Even my hubby (God bless him) wondered why I hadn't cleaned house since I was working from home. Seriously?! Double guilt.
What I finally realized is that we can't do it all! Superwoman is a great concept, but there's a reason she's only a comic book character. The fact is, we are real women who are trying to do all the right things while going in a thousand different directions. While we're generally fabulous at multitasking, there are really only so many balls we can keep in the air.
So let's stop feeling guilty, take a deep breath, and try to do one good thing at a time. Maybe we could even enjoy that one thing while we do it. What a concept! In fact, I just saw a study that says when we multitask, it actually takes us much longer to do simple tasks. So we're really not saving time by trying to do multiple things at once.
I vote we take an oath right now: We are not going to feel guilty just trying to do the right thing. Let's all say that together: We are not going to feel guilty just trying to do the right thing.
Yes, feel guilty when you do something you shouldn't. Feel guilty if you mess up. But don't feel guilty for trying to do it all, girlfriend.
Sometimes our personal lives and our work collide. But as much as you can, give yourself permission to enjoy life. For me, it's awesome that my new situation means I can set my own hours. I can enjoy spending time at my daughter's rehearsal, even if it means staying up later to get work done and losing some beauty sleep. There's no reason for me to feel guilty because I'm not working traditional work hours. Create the life that works best for you.
Shed the guilt and live your life the way you want to live it. You don't have to do it the way your neighbor does it or the way your mother did it. As long as you're living life fully and trying to do what's right for you and your family, the word "guilt" shouldn't even be a part of your vocabulary.
I've promised myself that I won't be checking my iPhone for work e-mail at my daughter's next rehearsal. Instead, I'll be using that cool gadget to take video of my daughter. Let's face it--work will always be there, but our kids are only young once. We shouldn't guilt ourselves for doing what we need to do, but we also shouldn't guilt ourselves for enjoying life and living in the moment.