I found myself saying it again. “I’d love to help, but I work full time.” This was in response to the current PTA president’s plea for board members for next year’s committee. I really would like to participate…if I didn’t work full time. I’ve been a PTA board member before-for two years, I was the fundraising chair at my son’s elementary school. It was like holding down a second full-time job in addition to my regular jobs-my professional one, my mommy duties, and freelance writing gigs. By the end of the two years I was completely burnt out…and to be perfectly honest, a little bitter. Still, I felt guilty saying “no” when approached by the current president to help out. That guilt, it seems, is the working mom’s constant companion.
Guilt seems to be a theme with the other working moms at my office this week. On three different occasions, with three different moms, working mom guilt came up in conversation. One had taken on the momentous task of chairing a huge school-wide event in September-at the same time as our company’s national sales meeting. “I couldn’t say no, because I feel so guilty about not being able to do much at school. But I don’t know how I’m going to pull that off,” she confided. Another mom was torn between her daughter’s lingering stomach bug and getting back to work, even going as far as to dragging in a giant bean bag chair and having her kindergartner camped out next to her desk in the office (luckily, our senior execs are very understanding about working moms). “She’s not sick enough to stay home, but not feeling 100% so I’m conflicted about what to do!” she confided. Finally, a third mom joked that she was “mother of the year” for delivering a box of Costco cookies to the school bake sale, “I felt so embarrassed, all the other moms made beautifully decorated, individually wrapped cupcakes – and I showed up with a plastic tub of cookies,” she admitted.
It feels like whatever we do, we are constantly feeling guilty for not doing enough. Working full-time, by choice or necessity, doesn’t leave a lot of time for fundraising, event planning, or allow for the spontaneous “is-she-or-isn’t-she” sick day. And that results in our ever-present companion, Guilt, to whisper in our ears, “You’re not a good mom….”
I was sharing this with my husband, who also works full-time and occasionally feels guilty about not being able to attend a daytime school event, or arrive home in time to see one of our son’s baseball games. He responded, with his trademark wit, “The only guilt you should feel is Gilt Groupe,” (the online discount shopping website) he advised. While he was joking with me, his message was clear-it’s not the end of the world, enjoy being a mom and your career and don’t get down on yourself about these things.
As women, we put ourselves under so much pressure to be everything and do everything – and feel guilty for not being physically ale to do so. We should ask ourselves why we feel terrible because we aren’t doing more than we are capable of doing and why we push ourselves beyond what is reasonable. We wouldn’t consider it acceptable to work 60-70 hours per week, why would we expect ourselves to do it for our children’s school?
We have to give up the guilt and start enjoying more. Maybe then we’d have more energy for the things we want to do, as opposed to the things we feel we have to do.