How do we get the balance right and ditch the guilt?

Most of us are trying to find balance in our lives. Often it is about finding the right work-life balance. For many working mums, the struggle to maintain a good balance between work, family, partner and self, leads us to conflict and strong emotional feelings.

On Saturday I went to the inaugural at ExCel presented by My Family Care in association with Guardian Jobs.  I met many wonderful enterprising and inspirational women who are tackling this balance in different ways.  Many of the exhibitors were, like me, coaches who specialise in supporting women and small businesses. There were also several image and style consultants, opportunities to find out about setting up your own business or launching a franchise operation, as well as family services and networking organisations.

I chatted to many women as we waited for one of the stage debates or theatre sessions to start. What amazed me is the sheer scale and range of what women do take on, not just the tasks but also the huge feelings and guilt. In one of the personal theatre sessions, 80% of the women in the room raised their hand when asked if they feel GUILT around the work-family balance.

Now is that because we are trying to be supermum taking on everything and never saying no, or are we the absolute perfectionist who hates to compromise and doesn’t want things to be “good enough” but wants everything to be perfect, or do we simply have unrealistic expectations. I know where I started out on my journey when I became a mum. I am a perfectionist in every aspect of my life. I didn’t just want to be a good mum, I wanted to be the best mum. However, logically I know (and the evidence shows us), that it IS enough to be a good enough mum. And in fact we don’t even need to be a good enough mum all the time, just some of the time is enough for our children to develop into well-rounded, emotionally mature adults.

Over the years, I have reflected on what’s really important to me about being a good mum, what really matters. And that might be different for you, different for my mum, and it is certainly different for my mother-in-law. But it’s what’s right for me. And that’s why, in the face of so many demands, I choose to focus on what’s important to me about being a mum. I don’t worry about how others might judge me.

For example, to me, a home-baked birthday cake is really important. When I worked full-time in a law firm, even if I had a really long work day and I was working to very intense deadlines, if it was my daughter’s birthday, then it has to be a homemade birthday cake. The ideal is it is one that I had baked and decorated myself; but occasionally that was not possible. The only compromise I was willing to make, is to let my husband bake and decorate a cake. I would not entertain the idea of a shop bought cake (though of course he suggested that, just the once). Other mums wouldn’t give two hoots about where or who had made the cake. But for them, it might be really important to be at the school gates at the end of the school day, or it could be something else.

The point is, it is important to work out your priorities and take care of those. However the strong feelings such as guilt may need to be dealt with too. I have a free webinar coming up shortly on how to Ditch The Guilt. This webinar is for you if you struggle with the work-family balance. Or worry about leaving your child in nursery while you go to work. Or feel guilty about ‘me’ time to go to the gym or take an evening class. You will have an opportunity to think about what really matters to you about being a good mum, what you want to focus on, what small changes you could make, how to discard the unhelpful thoughts and focus on the positive ones.

So what about you, what does being a good mum mean to you?

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