As a mom to two young people and a business owner, I am often in the limbo land of mom guilt. Let me explain what I mean by this. I am one foot in, one foot out. I have the ability to cuddle a baby just a little bit longer because I don't have to "go to the office." The struggle is real: do I parent or do I work? That's what it boils down to. It's not a passive job, parenting. I am not of the mindset that I can do both at once, and quite frankly I think the notion of being able is causing a larger problem.
If we look back to when we were growing up we see that the mom guilt was not as prevalent as it is now. My mom will tell you, she didn't compare herself to the next door neighbor. They did it together. Where one fell short, the other pitched in. Landlines were just that - attached to the land. Therefore, present parenting was the only option. You could engage with your children as they played or you could tend to work or household duties, but likely work happened in an office & household duties encouraged your child to learn to play on their own.
Today, we are tricked into believing that our children can be at home while we work in tandem. Hats off to the parent whose child's temperament allows for this fairy tale scenario to play out. The reality is that our children get asked to nap longer, watch iPad just a bit more, begged to look at mom's phone while one more email gets tackled. Is this a respectful way for us to tackle either our children or our business matters? How many times have I jotted off the byline, "sorry for the grammatical errors, there are tiny toes on my lap."
If we look at case studies of the most coveted working parent work environments, there is childcare in place. Patagonia offers childcare on site run by teachers and educators. They don't expect that you are working alongside your child, that's simple a non-reality. So now, let's look at the effect of "working with child in tow." My colleague called attention to her children being constantly appeased in order for her to mind one more thing. That one thing can be any number of needs in your life - a shower, a transaction at the store, getting through a travel day in a semblance of one piece, an email, or the laundry. We all do it, but if we always appease our children they do not learn the boundaries that are necessary to function in the world. They do not learn how to play with their toys. They do not learn that "no" is an acceptable answer. Their job is to play and engage with their environment, our job is the create that environment and facilitate interactions. No matter how you slice it, you can not be engaged in a phone conversation, email or strategic planning session - and wholly engaged with your child. That's not wrong, it just means that we need to re-assess our societal expectations. We don't expect men to bring babies to the office. It's not realistic or fair to a child. It would be fodder for a comedy.
This morning my son stumbled upon a sour candy his father had stashed away. He assumed a slumped shouldered, pouty presence and then slowly came around to the idea of a "deal". How about this is an after school treat? It would have been easy to say yes to him in the heat of the moment - already late for school. It also would not have reinforced that we don't eat candy for breakfast or always get what we want.
Breaking this cycle doesn't take as long as you may think. Children are very malleable and they enjoy following rules. It only take a few long conversations with little people to unlearn unhealthy habits. So today, I will cut my workday short and move on to my primary job - parenting. They are not two jobs that I feel I can do in tandem any longer, not if I want to parent intentially.