(cavet: this is from a woman’s point of view)….
It is a strange thing guilt. It starts as a thought “I have forgotten something but what?” but then progresses to your tummy and you start to feel slightly nauseous. “What should I be doing now? I must have missed something?”. This feeling is universal and seems to be happing right now with a lot of working mothers. It even has a name. Mothers Guilt. Mothers guilt can occur when you START working part time or full time, but this guilt I’m talking about is the guilt of having free time. That feeling of you should be doing something – when actually you need to let go.
Before I started working for myself in mid 2019 my usual day consisted of up at 6:30 am – walk dog, drag child out of bed ready for school, get myself ready, public transport or bike into the city, work without a lunchbreak till home time, pick up child from after school care, walk dog, get dinner ready, child into bed, finish emails, read for 1 hour, bed. Repeat! I did not know it but I was in a cycle of continual being kept busy. I did not know how to relax and breathe.
Last year when Covid hit a large portion of mothers I knew lost their jobs. They went from being on this hamster wheel of life to suddenly not. It was jarring and confusing for them. When talking to them they said, they felt lost, felt sick, as if they should be doing something but what? It made me think – why do we as women feel this guilt at not being busy? Partners or Husbands I knew had no hesitation on the weekends to go out play cricket, golf, footy and most certainly didn’t feel like they were slacking off. Why when we women suddenly had time on our hands did we feel guilt?
I came to the conclusion that for a number of us who had Baby Boomer mothers, it was drilled into us from a young age. We were brought up that before we did anything on the weekend that Saturday was our cleaning/shopping day. We had to cleaning the house, wash bedding, iron clothes and ensure shopping done before we could THINK of doing anything else. Then when we got married and/or had children we added more jobs to the growing pile. Oh and we also were working full time.
So how to shed this feeling of guilt that we should be busy ALL the time. One thing I learnt was it can take months to do. Yes months!
First step – know what this particular guilty feeling is. It is called free time. Yes free time – not “I need to fill up this time” – but free time.
Second step – talk to your partner/friends about how you are feeling. Get them to support and help you to put down that duster (you did it on Saturday), and go for walks. Meet your friends for coffee. Don’t feel you need to re arrange the furniture, paint a wall or wash the windows.
Third step – well there really isn’t one – I like things to be simple these days but I was taught things come in threes 🙂 But if you do want a third step – read a book. When I googled Mothers Guilt all these depressing book titles came up such as “Difficult Mothers, Adult Daughters”, “Stretched Too Thin” and “The Conscious Parent” came up. No wonder we had no inspiration to get over this free time guilt! Do not read one of these – pick up a book you can get lost in or one that has semi clad “fabio or fiona” on the front (you know the ones!). Enjoy your down time and just remember “uber eats” is always there for you when you need it!