Jackie Frank, editor of Marie Claire magazine broke down on this week’s episode of her TV documentary ‘Under the Cover’ over a topic that every mother struggles with – motherhood guilt.
Rushing to catch a flight home to take her son to his school camp, Jackie was moved to tears as she reflected on her role as a mum and how she juggles work and being a mum.
“I don’t feel like I put enough time into my kids”. said an emotional Jackie.
Sadly it is a common story that echoes in the minds of mums everywhere. So the question remains: Is it really possible to have a career and juggle it all without parental guilt?
Jackie Hall, Author of The Happy Mum Handbook and mother of two shared with us why she thinks it is possible for mums to obtain a guilt-free, work/life balance.
She believes that motherhood guilt doesn’t come from a lack of balance, but unrealistic expectations about what that balance is and because of the continual pressure put on themselves to be more, do more and have more.
“Something that stuck out to me when I watched this episode was that when Jackie called her son as she was rushing home, she was met with a typical boy who was not at all phased by his mother’s absence and who was a far cry from the neglected child that us mums often envisage our children to be.
We often have these unrealistic beliefs about how things ‘should’ be and we keep shifting the goal posts, continually trying to live up to these impossible ideals. If we ‘drop the ball’ and can’t reach these goals, we feel guilt or can even feel like we have failed as parents.”
In her book, Jackie Hall helps mums to gain a healthy perspective and solution focussed approach to handling work and being a mum using her 5-step Mind TRACK to Happiness process.
She shared with Essential Baby how this process can be applied to motherhood guilt.
The word TRACK in the process’s title is an acronym for the five steps:
Step One - Thoughts – What am I thinking?
This step identifies what your thoughts are, because we often feel these intense emotions without really consciously reviewing what it is we are actually saying to ourselves about the situation. Ask yourself: What do I think I should be doing differently? What do I think my children are actually missing out on? What is really causing my guilt and where is the pressure coming from – your desire to achieve, maintain a certain status, etc? There will always be a self-worth component underlying all guilt and the priorities for why you are doing what you are doing.
Step Two – Reality – Changing your thoughts to align with the reality of the situation and changing your perspective on it.
Write down what your current commitments are that you are obligated to fulfil, because this is the reality of your situation for whatever reason. Also, write down what your children are getting (often we focus so much on what they are missing out on, we fail to recognise that there is value in the what they are currently experiencing. Are they really suffering? Or, like when Jackie Frank spoke to her son, is this part of your own pressure to ‘get everything right’.
Step Three – Aim – What do you want?
If you feel like your child needs more of something, what is that, specifically? How much time would you like to spend with your kids, or on work, time for yourself, your relationship etc. Write down a specific amount of time for each area that would make you feel more balanced. This is going to be your aim. Balance is not about spending equal time on each area, it’s about you feeling like you are giving enough time to each area.
Step Four – Choices – What are my options, solutions. HOW do I get what I want?
This is where you resource solutions to your problem. Rather than remaining stuck on what’s not happening and what you are not doing right, you start to become more pro-active about changing the present situation. If you want to spend more time with your kids, how will you do this? It may mean that you need to re-prioritise some things in your life now that you have assessed what you want. This is where you start to formulate a specific schedule that includes what you want from step three.
Step Five – Know your plan & Action it
This final step is where you create your specific plan that incorporates how much time you want to spend on each area of your life into an organised time schedule for you to follow. In this plan you will know what is next and, knowing that each area of your life is taken care of, it leaves you to immerse yourself in that area of your life, guilt free.
Jackie says, “when mums assess their thoughts about what is actually causing their guilt they will find that it’s not because there is too much going on, it is because of how they are perceiving their life, their roles and what they believe they ‘should’ be doing in order to become a successful person/mother. When these issues are addressed, modified and a solution focussed attitude is applied, then guilt and stress are significantly lessened.”
To find out more about Jackie Hall’s book and techniques, go to www.thehappymumhandbook.com.au.