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Avoid Mom Guilt at Work by Practicing the 'Three Ps'

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It is 8:45 a.m. and I'm just settling in to my office at work. I have a fresh coffee, a quiet office, and a to-do list to last a few months. I stare at the list and fall into a daze, staring at the words on the paper in front of me, but I am unable to focus on anything work-related. The mom guilt is hitting hard. My stomach turns and I replay the morning in my head. I pretty much sucked at "mom-ing" this morning; I failed my children big time.

I envision my children sitting at their desks at school, cursing me, the worst mom ever, in their little, innocent minds. They must hate me after the morning we had. If only I could get a do-over, I think.

I swear I would be the super-patient, kind, and loving version of me. I would wake them up with fresh-baked muffins, deliver their clothes for the day to the foot of their beds, and I would calmly say, "Children, it’s time to depart for our day, which will be wonderful, won’t it?" We would stroll to the car, hand-in-hand, talking about how we will be kind to others today because we never know what battle others are fighting. I would drop them at school and say Make today count. I love you!

Yeah, right! Mom guilt has the power to make any mom completely irrational and totally delusional. When it strikes, I often get so wrapped up in how much better of a mother I want to be that I forget the reality of my busy mornings: children resisting the necessary hair- and teeth- brushing, the hunt for matching socks, packing lunches, last-minute homework, and the unexpected seven-year-old meltdown. These hurdles put a real damper on my ability to be Super Mom.

This morning was the perfect storm of misery in our home. We all woke up on the wrong side of the bed — and as the CEO of my family unit, the power to change the sour attitude or allow it to spread like a contagious disease belonged to me. Today, I jumped on the bad-attitude train, and just like that, we were all pouty, snappy, and mean to one another. I snapped, lost my temper, and told my kids they needed to check themselves. Then I sternly cancelled the ice cream trip we had been looking forward to all week, because, well, I wanted them to listen to me. I wanted us to be on time and happy and kind to one another. I wanted a smooth morning!

And now, I am here again: in my office, feeling this all-too-familiar guilt, struggling to focus on the work at hand, while my guilt runs rampant. Ugh. Why? *Why, why did I do this again? *

How to Stop Mom Guilt

Mornings like this happen more often than they should in my household. And while the kids go into school and likely forget about the morning in minutes, I never do. My mind races with regret and worry and it becomes a struggle to turn my day around.

In an effort to improve our morning routines, I have created my own guilt-free morning plan: Prioritize, Pause, and Predict.

Prioritize

Most of the time when we have rough mornings, the underlying cause is a fear of being late. I want us all to get to school and work on time. If you witnessed my reactions when this fear kicks in, you would think that the world would stop if any of us were to be late. Truth is, if we're late, we're late. I don’t get fired, and the world keeps spinning.

So, I must always ask myself, what is important at this very moment? The answer will always be my children. Their moods, their hearts, their spirit. I want them to feel loved and appreciated not as if they are a burden standing between me and my job. I must remember my priorities every morning. Kids first — regardless of what the clock says, or what their attitude is in the morning, they come before work during those early morning hours.

Pause

Count to ten, go in the bathroom and lock the door, or snap a rubber band on my wrist — I must find a way to practice the pause. I have found that putting my headphones on and listening to music is the perfect way for me to take a mommy breather. Whatever the method, I must take some deep breaths, remember what is important, and allow myself the opportunity to act from intention, not react from impulse. As an impulsive, short-tempered Irish woman, I must pause. In my experience, there has never been a negative consequence to pausing.

Predict

Lastly, I try to predict the future based on what I know has happened in the past. I remember how it feels to sit at work consumed with mom guilt. I can anticipate how I will feel when I sneak into the kids’ rooms and spy on their angelic, sleeping faces at night, while wondering how I could have ever lost my patience with them. I've been through enough bad mornings to recognize the mom guilt-making moments as they occur. I don’t want to feel it anymore. So, after I pause, I must look to the future and remind myself that without a doubt, when I lose my cool, I feel pretty, damn lousy afterwards, every single time. It simply isn’t worth it.

As I continue with my workday, I will no doubt slowly be distracted by phone calls, meetings and Excel spreadsheets. The kids are likely more-quickly distracted by friends, schoolwork, and recess. Best case scenario, what happened in the morning stays in the morning. When I wake up tomorrow, I will do my best to think of one of my favorite quotes from The Wizard of Oz: "You had the power all along, my dear." The power is in me to change my reactions. I don’t have the power to magically make my kids into happy, good listeners every morning. I do, however, always have the power to control my own actions and reactions.

I sure as hell won’t wake up and be Super Mom tomorrow morning just because I want to, but I hope to be just a little bit better tomorrow than today. Progress is enough for this mom.

This article was written by Suzanne Hayes.

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