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This morning, as my tired 3-year-old screamed because I had to leave town and my nanny was tasked with the morning drop off at school, my insides crumbled. Upon watching this very exchange from just inside the front door, my husband smiled, commented on our son's "flair for dramatics," and kissed me goodbye as he headed off to his own job. I delayed my exit minutes longer, crippled with guilt and a hint of envy that my husband, who adores our boys every bit as much as I do, felt none of what I did at that moment. Guilt that I should be available to take my child to school, that we shouldn't have a nanny in the first place, that I wasn't making myself available enough, and that I wasn't committing enough to this role of motherhood that I had taken on.
I should note that I was leaving town for a day trip, because I wanted to be there when my kids woke up the following morning. For this decision as well, I felt guilt, because I wasn't taking full advantage of the slew of meetings available to me the next day; I was missing out on some key introductions and hadn't secured as many commitments as I could have. I wasn't being the best CEO I could be.
I feel guilt all the time for this balance of professional vs. mother, knowing full well that it accomplishes nothing. Here's the reality: either we have too many choices before us (should I work? should I stay home? should I freelance or moonlight or...?), or we have no choice at all (I have to work to pay the bills. I must stay home because childcare is too costly.). Whatever the case may be, guilt doesn't make either reality easier to deal with.
Instead of wondering if we are enough, we must decide the role we aspire to when it comes to raising our children. For me, I decided early on that I want to raise boys who respect the capabilities of men and women equally, who understand that hard work, commitment and a desire to impact the world matter. I want them to love me not only as their mother, but also as a dreamer, innovator and believer of change. It is this decision that I must make myself remember every time guilt rears its ugly head.
When I consider that I am teaching my children even when I'm not with them, my guilt morphs into motivation. I am driven to work extra hard to create results through my work in supporting women entrepreneurs around the world. If my kids cry because I have to leave, I remind them (and myself) that we all have an opportunity to improve the world around us, and encourage them to make that difference at school or at the park while I work to make an impact through my job. Conversely, when I cut a meeting short because I promised to read a book to my son's class, I tell myself that holding up a commitment to my child proves the importance of following through on our word.
There is no clearly defined path in motherhood, but if we aspire to be and create something greater than our current selves, we can do right by our children, both from the office and at home. Wherever I choose to teach my kids, I'm beginning to accept that guilt doesn't belong there.