Jenine Butroid, a counsellor, psychotherapist and founder of Supporting Minds, gives her top tips to help you overcome feelings of guilt
No matter who you are, operating a franchise requires motivation and perseverance. And despite being a great way to start a business venture, like everything in life, franchising comes with obstacles and challenges that you need to overcome to succeed. Unfortunately, when you are a parent, you must also contend with an added struggle that might hinder you from carrying on – mum guilt.
Welcoming a baby into your life can be the most incredible feeling in the world. However, it is also a huge adjustment and can seemingly double your to-do list overnight. When some of these items (inevitably) do not get done, some mums start feeling inadequate or guilty, especially those of us running our own businesses. But do not panic as these feelings are normal. In fact, 94 per cent of us get them! If your mum guilt is becoming overwhelming and you are struggling to cope with your guilty feelings, there are a number of strategies that may help.
Ask for help
As much as we like to believe we are, we’re not Superwomen and it is only natural that we need a little help from time to time. If you have a partner, ask them if they can pitch in on chores that are not already on their list. If you are single and in a fortunate position where you can afford to get some help around the house, whether that be with laundry, shopping or cleaning, then do it! This way, you can free up more time to spend on your business and with your children.
If you cannot afford to pay for help, reach out to a relative or a friend. Or, if that is not an option, create a strict schedule and get the kids involved with tasks around the house. Of course, only include the kids if they are capable, such as cleaning up their toys or laying the table, and turn these mundane activities into a fun and enjoyable game for everyone.
Being open with your children is also key. Explain to them that in order to spend more time together doing the things you both love, there must be a little bit of work involved. Having someone else lend a hand will also improve your mental health.
Schedule time with your children and loved ones
Whether you are just starting out as a franchisee or an established franchise owner, the peaks and troughs of owning a business will mean you are sometimes forced to put in longer hours. Naturally, this can increase your anxiety because you cannot spend as much time with your family. It is essential that you schedule them into your day and stick to the time you spend with them, whether that means doing the school run at either end of the day, taking them swimming or simply arranging to play with them after supper. Make sure you put time aside which is both business and phone-free and the quality time you have together is not interrupted. Whatever you do, once it is in the diary, do not disappoint them, or you will feel even guiltier.
As being a business owner and mum means you often must juggle a business alongside being a parent, it is common for your other relationships to take the backseat. However, you do not want this to drive a wedge between you and your partner. Spending time with your significant other is vital in maintaining a strong emotional connection with your partner. Remember, you are setting an example, and this will help your child understand the importance of valuing relationships. Of course, not everyone can manage a weekly date night, but at least set aside some ‘couple time’ — even if it is just a 10-minute catch-up or a cuddle.
Surround yourself with a positive team
In franchising, the people you choose to surround yourself with impact the way you think, act and feel. They can affect your self-esteem, decisions, outlook and desires. This is the same when you become a parent. I suggest surrounding yourself with people who lift your mood. Find and focus on relationships with those who can share their wins and positive vibes and help you realise that you can do the same. Life is too short for negativity and for people making you feel guilty for being a working mum.
Do not compare yourself to other mums
We all know a parent who loves to brag about their child. They are notorious for it and, given half the chance, would happily chew your ear off for hours talking about how great they are. Resist the urge to engage! Making comparisons often leads to feelings of inadequacy and guilt. The next time someone wants to compare how early your kids started walking or how long you breastfed your babies, politely change the subject. Remember, you and your child are unique — embrace the parent you are and the child you have.
It can be particularly hard when you talk to mums who have decided to stay home with their children. But take comfort in the fact that you will be giving more back to your children by becoming an entrepreneur because you will be sharing life’s lessons as you go along. Reduce mum guilt by involving them in your day if you can and sharing your day with them if you can’t. Your kids will benefit a whole lot more if you follow your dream. You will instil confidence, discipline, commitment, diligence, a positive attitude and much more.
Children learn by example. Your persistence in this will inspire them. And who knows what greatness they will bring to the world! Do not deny yourself the opportunity for a fulfilling career. There is no reason for any woman to feel guilty about wanting to pursue something she loves. Give your children every reason to be proud of your efforts. After all, these are the kinds of things that will bring you and your kids closer together.
Tackle irrational thoughts when back to work
For those just stepping back into the workplace, it’s common to worry that being away from your baby hurts their development. It does not. My advice is to trust your childminders or daycare provider and know that most children thrive and flourish even when both parents work full-time. The truth is, returning to work is harder on you than on your baby.
On the other hand, if you have chosen to work from home and are worried you will not be able to focus on your work because you have to care for your child, I recommend embracing the distraction. If you don’t, you’ll become easily frustrated and feel guilty for neglecting your child. I understand this may sound counterintuitive, but instead of asking your child not to disturb you while you are working, allow distractions. Answer their questions – give them that hug or see to that problem. That way they feel satisfied, and you do not feel guilty and can quickly return to what you were doing.
Seek out a therapist
Finally, if guilt continues to plague your days and prevents you from enjoying your life, you may benefit from talk therapy with a mental health professional. When kept to yourself, mum guilt can feel very isolating and lead to more mental health problems, so it is essential to seek help if you start feeling overwhelmed. Although it’s not technically a diagnosis, the heaviness and impact that guilt can have on overall daily functioning is alarming. Finding healthy support, both from peers and professional support groups can be incredibly validating. And talking to a therapist regularly can help you build insight and navigate how to manage these feelings.
Key tips for managing mum guilt
Remember to ask for help
If you have a partner, ask them if they can pitch in on chores. If you are single and cannot afford to pay for help, reach out to a relative or a friend. If capable, the kids could also get involved.
Make time for your children and loved ones
Whatever you do, once it is in the diary, do not disappoint them, or you will feel even guiltier. Try to set aside some ‘couple time’, too — even if it is just a 10-minute catch-up or a cuddle.
Surround yourself with positivity
Life is too short for people making you feel guilty for being a working mum. Instead, surround yourself with people who lift your mood.
You and your child are one of a kind
The next time someone wants to compare how early your kids started walking, remember that you and your child are unique — embrace the parent you are and the child you have.
Manage your irrational thoughts
Going back into the workplace does not hurt your child’s development – most children thrive and flourish even when both parents work full-time.
Reach out to a therapist
If you start feeling overwhelmed, talking to a therapist regularly can help you build insight and navigate how to manage mum guilt.
Jenine Butroid is the founder and CEO of Supporting Minds, a counselling service that makes talking therapies accessible through a range of affordable, quality therapies.