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Go away, working mom guilt: I didn’t have kids (or a career) in order to feel inadequate

Dear Working Mother,

You are doing a great job. And your kids will turn out just fine despite the hours you spend away from them. Truly.


Of course, you probably don’t always feel that way yourself. If you are like most working moms I know, you may feel like you’re forever coming up short when it comes to doing enough, giving enough and being enough for your kids.

Not to mention your boss, your partner, your aging parents and extended family, and yes, of course, your community. (I haven’t even mentioned doing, being, and giving enough for yourself—but that’s another article!)

I was warned about mothers’ guilt while expecting my first child. However, having grown up with a hearty dose of ‘Catholic guilt,’ I figured it couldn’t be that bad. And then I became a mother, and over the course of five years I had four healthy children (yes, very blessed, slightly crazy) in between stop-starting graduate studies toward a new career. Needless to say, it was during that time I became much more acquainted with mothers’ guilt.

It became a constant companion until one day I realized that I didn’t have children in order to spend my life feeling forever inadequate.

I wanted children to enrich my life, not enslave my conscience.

It’s time to reclaim our right to enjoy our kids, lest child rearing become a long exercise in never measuring up. But how do working mothers stop wrestling with constant guilt? First, we must uncover the destructive forces that are driving it.

Below are five key ways to embrace your shortfalls as a mother (we all have them) and refocus your preciously finite energy on what truly matters...

...ensuring that your kids know they’re wanted, loved and loveable, no matter what—and that they benefit from having you as a role model on how to live a rewarding life.

1. Accept trade-offs as inevitable

When you choose to combine motherhood and a career in any way, shape or form, there will always be trade-offs, sacrifices and compromises. What is crucial to your happiness—as well as your ability to stave off guilt—is reconciling those trade-offs by being crystal clear about why you are making them in the first place.

Create a list of the reasons you work—money, satisfaction, sanity—to provide a helpful reminder of your personal convictions when your work keeps you from attending a concert or compels you to outsource the organization of your child’s birthday party. While I’m often not able to be as involved with my kids’ activities as might seem ideal, I am very clear that my kids, my family and myself are ultimately all better off because I have a rewarding career outside the home.

2. Don’t “should” on yourself

Mothers’ guilt was not always a mother’s lot. Mothers in Victorian England banished children to nursemaids before farming them off to boarding school at age five so they could continue to their high-tea social lives.

Acclaimed photographer Dorothea Lange paid foster families to look after her children so she could venture off on months-long photography expeditions. Likewise, I cannot recall my own parents ever coming to a softball game or reading me bedtime stories.

Truth be told, I never gave it a second thought—until I found myself feeling guilt-ridden when unable to attend one of my children’s games or too tired to read a bedtime story. Why? Because I had unwittingly taken on board a mother-load of ‘good-parent’ shoulds that my own mother never did.

Our shoulds are a melting pot of social expectations, family pressures and often unspoken ‘rules’ we often buy into without even realizing it. Our shoulds are shaped by our environment, which has seen them skyrocket in recent decades with the rise of so-called “parenting police”—experts that bombard us with advice on what a “good” parent should, and should not, do.

I enjoy being involved in my children’s activities and in their lives. But I also know that they don’t need me cheering at every game, creating scrapbooks for every milestone, or welcoming them home from school with fresh baked muffins in order to feel loved and to grow into secure and well-rounded adults.

While they are central in my life, my world does not revolve around them. Nor, do I believe, would it serve them any better if it did. So when I find myself using the word should, I replace it with could—and add an alternative option. Doing so takes the judgment out, and allows me to give myself permission to do what actually works best for me and my family—minus the should-inflicted guilt.

3. Lower your bar to ‘good enough’

The bar on what it means to be a ‘great parent’ has been gradually moving up, and now it’s so ridiculously high that we’ve set ourselves up to forever fall short in scaling it. Accepting that for the most part, good enough is good enough, takes enormous pressure off of us to be the idealized photo-shopped image of the ‘perfect’ parent—the mom that the magazines imply that we ‘should’ be (there’s that word again!).

Giving up some elusive quest to be a super-mother who does everything ‘just right’ is the only way we can ever have a chance to enjoy the journey of child rearing, without being anxious, guilt-ridden and exhausted.

After all, it’s who we are for our children—happy, good-humored, and a role model for the values we believe in—that ultimately impacts them more than how closely we, our homes or our meals resemble the front cover of women’s magazines. The reality is that you do not have to be a perfect parent to be a great parent.

4. Refuse to buy into guilt mongers

While some women thrive on critiquing other women’s parenting proficiency, the best mothers I’ve met have no need to throw stones at how others parent their children. They’re simply more interested in doing the best they can for their own. So while you can’t always avoid the righteous parenting police, you can choose to see their self-inflating opinions—on everything from disposable diapers to disciplinary tactics—for what they are: an easy way to justify their own choices and conceal doubt about their own parenting skills.

The fact is, there is no one ‘right way’ when it comes to raising children. Just as we all differ in our personalities, preferences and circumstances, the choices that make us feel whole, healthy and happy differ as well. To those who love to critique and judge, and to all those who’ve felt the sting of a judgmental remark or scornful glance, I say “to each their own.” The vast majority of working mothers I encounter work incredibly hard to be the best parent they can, and that deserves encouragement, not criticism.

5. Don’t dilute your presence with distraction

We can be with our kids 24/7 and yet never be fully present to them. While ‘turning off’ from work and other distractions is easier said than done, it’s important to be intentional about being fully present to your children whenever you are with them by minimizing the multi-tasking as much as humanly possible.

I often take my kids out for hot chocolate at a local café as a ‘special treat’—for me as well as them—which removes me from the magnetic pull of my home office. Some may believe this is going to great (or perhaps even unnecessary) lengths just to avoid distraction, but as I’ve mentioned, it’s not about what other people think, it’s about what works for me—and by default, my family.

What other mothers are doing is none of your business.

Doing what works for you, for your children and your family to stay happy, good humored and connected is ultimately all that matters. Which is why it’s time to lower the bar to a scalable height, get off your own back and reclaim your right to enjoy raising your kids. Doing so won’t hurt your children—will free up precious energy to navigate the journey of nurturing your babies into resourceful, well-rounded and gloriously imperfect adults!

Pro tip: Learn how to ditch the working mom guilt for good with Margie’s free download of the very popular “5 Secrets to Ditch Working Mother’s Guilt for Good”!

This article was originally published on Forbes.


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We've had some struggles, you and me. In my teens, we were just getting to know each other. It was a rocky road at times, like when people referred to you as "big boned." I was learning how to properly fuel you by giving you the right foods. How to be active, to keep you strong and in good shape. I wish I knew then what I do now about you and what a true blessing you are. But that's something that has come with the gift of motherhood.

In my 20's, we became more well-acquainted. I knew how to care for you. After I got engaged, we worked so hard together to get into "wedding shape." And, looking back now, I totally took that six pack—okay, four pack—for granted. (But I have the pictures to prove it.)

Now that I'm in my 30's (how did my 30's happen so fast, btw?) with two kids, I'm coming to terms with my new postpartum body.

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If there are two things a mama is guaranteed to love, it's Target plus adorable and functional baby products. Target's exclusive baby brand Cloud Island has been a favorite destination for cute and affordable baby clothing and décor for nearly two years and because of that success, they're now expanding into baby essentials. 🙌

The new collection features 30 affordable products starting at $0.99 and going up to $21.99 with most items priced under $10—that's about 30-40% less expensive than other products in the market. Mamas can now enjoy adding diapers, wipes, feeding products and toiletries to their cart alongside clothing and accessories from a brand they already know and love.


The best part? The Target team has ensured that the affordability factor doesn't cut down on durability by working with hundreds of parents to create and test the collection. The wipes are ultra-thick and made with 99% water and plant-based ingredients, while the toiletries are dermatologist-approved. With a Tri-Wrap fold, the diapers offer 12-hour leak protection and a snug fit so parents don't have to sacrifice safety or functionality.

So when can you start shopping? Starting on January 20, customers can shop the collection across all stores and online. We can't wait to see how this beloved brand expands in the future.

Motherly is your daily #momlife manual; we are here to help you easily find the best, most beautiful products for your life that actually work. We share what we love—and we may receive a commission if you choose to buy. You've got this.

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Many people experience the "winter blues," which are often worst in northern climates from November to March, when people have less access to sunlight, the outdoors and their communities. Another 4% develops Seasonal Affective Disorder, which is a form of clinical depression that often requires formal treatment.

If you have the winter blues, you may feel “blah," sad, tired, anxious or be in a worse mood than usual. You may struggle with overeating, loss of libido, work or sleep issues. But fear not—it is possible to find your joy in the winter, mama.

Here are eight ways to feel better:

1. Take a walk

Research has shown that walking on your lunch break just three times per week can reduce tension, relax you and improve your enthusiasm. If you are working from 9 to 5, the only window you have to access natural sunlight may be your lunch hour, so head outside for a 20 minute brisk but energizing walk!

If you are home, bundle up with your kids midday—when the weather is often warmest—and play in the snow, go for a short walk, play soccer, race each other, or do something else to burn energy and keep you all warm. If you dress for the weather, you'll all feel refreshed after some fresh air.

2. Embrace light

Research suggests that a full-spectrum light box or lamp, which mimics sunlight, can significantly improve the symptoms of the winter blues and has a similar effect to an antidepressant. Bright light at a certain time every day activates a part of the brain that can help restore normal circadian rhythms. While light treatment may not be beneficial for everyone (such as people who have bipolar disorder), it may be a beneficial tool for some.

3. Plan a winter trip

It may be helpful to plan a getaway for January or February. Plan to take it very easy, as one research study found that passive vacation activities, including relaxing, "savoring," and sleeping had greater effects on health and well-being than other activities. Engaging in passive activities on vacation also makes it more likely that your health and well-being will remain improved for a longer duration after you go back to work.

Don't overschedule your trip. Relax at a beach, a pool, or a cabin instead of waiting in long roller coaster lines or visiting packed museums. Consider visiting or traveling with family to help with child care, build quiet time into your vacation routine, and build in a day of rest, recovery, and laundry catch-up when you return.

4. Give in to being cozy

Sometimes people mistake the natural slowness of winter as a problem within themselves. By making a concerted effort to savor the slowness, rest and retreat that complement winter, you can see your reduction in activity as a natural and needed phase.

Research suggests that naps help you release stress. Other research suggests that when your brain has time to rest, be idle, and daydream, you are better able to engage in "active, internally focused psychosocial mental processing," which is important for socioemotional health.

Make a "cozy basket" filled with your favorite DVDs, bubble bath or Epsom salts, lemon balm tea (which is great for “blues,") or chamomile tea (which is calming and comforting), citrus oils (which are good for boosting mood), a blanket or a favorite book or two. If you start to feel the blues, treat yourself.

If your child is napping or having quiet time in the early afternoon, rest for a full 30 minutes instead of racing around doing chores. If you're at work, keep a few mood-boosting items (like lavender spray, tea, lotion, or upbeat music) nearby and work them into your day. If you can't use them at work, claim the first 30 minutes after your kids are asleep to nurture yourself and re-energize before you tackle dishes, laundry, or other chores.

5. See your friends

Because of the complex demands of modern life, it can be hard to see or keep up with friends or family. The winter can make it even harder. While you interact with your kids throughout the day, human interaction with other adults (not just through social media!) can act as a protective layer to keep the winter blues at bay.

Plan a monthly dinner with friends, go on a monthly date night if you have a partner, go to a book club, get a drink after work with a coworker, visit a friend on Sunday nights, or plan get-togethers with extended family. Research suggests that social interactions are significantly related to well-being.

Realize that given most families' packed schedules, you may need to consistently take the lead in bringing people together. Your friends will probably thank you, too.

6. Get (at least) 10 minutes of fresh air

A number of research studies have shown positive effects of nature on well-being, including mental restoration, immune health, and memory. It works wonders for your mood to get outside in winter, even if it's just for 10 minutes 2 to 3 times per week. You might walk, snowshoe, shovel, go sledding or go ice-skating. If you can't get outside, you might try these specific yoga poses for the winter blues.

7. Add a ritual

Adding a ritual to your winter, such as movie night, game night, hot chocolate after playing outside, homemade soup on Sundays, or visiting with a different friend every Saturday morning for breakfast, can add beauty and flow to the seemingly long months of winter. Research has suggested that family rituals and traditions, such as Sunday dinner, provide times for togetherness and strengthening relationships.

8. Talk to a professional

Counseling, which helps you identify the connections between your thoughts, feelings and behaviors, can be extremely helpful for the winter blues (especially when you are also experiencing anxiety or stress). A counselor can assist you with identifying and honoring feelings, replacing negative messages with positive ones, or shifting behaviors. A counselor may also help you indulge into winter as a time of retreat, slowness, planning, and reflecting. You may choose to use the winter to get clear on what you'd like to manifest in spring.

The opposite of the winter blues is not the absence of the winter blues—it's taking great pleasure in the unique contribution of a time of cold, darkness, retreat, planning, reflecting, being cozy and hibernating. Nurturing yourself and your relationships can help you move toward winter joy.

Weary mama,

You are incredibly strong. You are so very capable.

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