With the school year in full-swing, I’m reminded of the stress and challenges I faced transitioning my children into a routine. Not only was the adjustment itself difficult for the children, but the “mommy guilt” I felt from trying to maintain my priority focus on my children while also remaining fully invested in my career was particularly overwhelming during this time of year.
That was more than 20 years ago. And still today, 56 percent of working mothers and half of working fathers say they struggle to find the right balance between their job and their family life, according to a Pew Research Center study. I’ve found over the years that trying to be the perfect parent often leads to frustration and feelings of inadequacy.
Despite this widespread guilt, here’s some good news: In 2018, a Harvard researcher found that children of working moms grew up to be happy adults—and just as happy in adulthood as the children of moms who stayed at home.
By spending quality time together—even if it’s limited because of work schedules—we are investing in our children’s futures and possibly improving their academic achievement, behavior and emotional well-being.
In my journey to maintain balance, I’ve found ways to make rewarding, everyday connections with my children (and now grandchildren) without sacrificing success in the workplace. Here are a few of my favorite ways to spend quality time with the children in my life:
Unplug in the evening
After coming home from the office, let go of work stress and be fully present with your little ones. Turn off your mobile devices and establish evening rituals with your children, like taking a walk, reading a book together or dancing to fun music.
Take part in pretend play
When our children were young, my husband and I would allow them to direct us in playtime. We would let them lead, engaging and listening in their imaginary play world. This kind of interaction made our children feel loved, respected, seen and heard while also allowing my husband and me to relax and unwind after the workday! With our grandchildren, we are delighted to have the opportunity to repeat this fun all over again.
Give back to others
Helping other people feel good reminds us of all we have to be grateful for. Getting children involved in giving back at an early age is a meaningful way to spend quality time together and nurture the development of important character traits, such as gratitude, sharing and generosity. You can create lasting memories together by doing simple community service projects, such as adopting a family to shop for during the holidays or making a home-cooked meal for an elderly neighbor.
In my experience as a working mother (now grandmother) and the leader of an early education company, I’ve learned that we working parents have a unique opportunity to be an example of balance and servant leadership for our children.
For newer working parents, focus on the quality of the time you spend with your children, be confident that you are not perfect and that is perfectly okay and my hope is that you too can let go of mommy (and daddy) guilt once and for all.
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