I used to struggle a lot with guilt associated with being a working parent. But I recently started a job that I absolutely love, and the struggle has gotten considerably smaller.
Obviously, the only solution to ditching that guilt is to find a job you love. Easy-peasy, right?
End of blog post.
Just kidding! Well, kind of I’m just kidding. It definitely helps a lot to have a job you enjoy, but that is a luxury that many of us just don’t have. There needs to be a roof over our heads and food on the table, and I think that especially when you have children depending on you it’s critically important to provide those things even if your job is a soul-sucking, monotonous journey into hell.
How do you ditch the guilt when you’re miserable at your job and your kids are miserable without you? Thankfully (?) this is something I have some expertise in. The suggestions I’m offering definitely come from a privileged place. As a white, college-educated woman who is married to a white, college-educated man there are privileges I enjoy that I realize are not, and cannot (right now, anyway) be enjoyed by those outside of my demographic. All the same, I hope that at least some of this can be helpful.
The job I started shortly after Elizabeth was born (as in, I interviewed when she was 5 weeks old and started working there when she was 8 weeks old) started out great and very quickly became not great. In the end, it was me attempting to track the documentation requirements for close to 500 nursing students – one of which will not be providing me with care when little Michael is born in 10 weeks. During this three-year decline into a soul-sucking march into hell, there are a few things I did that were helpful in getting rid of my guilt and improving my own personal satisfaction with life.
First, and I didn’t even realize it was happening at first, I found a community outside of myself that helped foster my love of writing and helped me identify the need to heal through writing. That community is Link Your Life which has recently migrated for a private group on Facebook to a group on Discord. Finding a group that builds you up, and that you can also build up, is critical. Many of us look for that sense of community at work, but we’re not always going to find it. Your community may look like your community at church, a parenting group that meets for coffee periodically, or a group that exists digitally.
Second, at the suggestion of my village (or support group if you prefer) I ran for public office. Finding a source of professional satisfaction that also improved my community for my children helped a lot. What was even better was that I was able to bring Ada to school board meetings with me until she got a little too old and found our business meetings to be a little too boring for her liking.
Third, and my final tip for this post, I encouraged myself to set some very solid and very healthy boundaries around my work life. This helped me, on some level, to keep work at work so that I could enjoy my time at home with my family.
Developing this skill set has done a couple things for me, and I hope it will help you too.
- It has helped me to feel less guilty about leaving my kids to go to work.
- These steps have helped me grow professionally and identify the kind of life I really want when I grow up.
What are some ways you have worked to get rid of the guilt that sometimes comes with being a working parent?