By Megan Hewitt
Mommy guilt is a very real issue for working moms. Whether you’re trying to get in 40 hours a week and make it to your kid’s soccer match after school, or running a small business and trying to make it home in time for some quality time before dinner, balancing home and work is challenge that’s almost impossible to get right.
So what can we do about this having it all conundrum? Every working mom’s situation is unique, but I think there’s something to be said about sharing our stories and experiences to help each other out. Here’s mine.
Creating a work/life balance out of chaos
When I started my company, Shrimp and Grits Kids, my children were babies and I worked all of the time because I worked from home. I’d focus on getting everything done when they were napping or at Mother’s Morning Out and in the evenings. Ultimately, it was chaos, but I felt lucky that I could be at home with them, which is what I really wanted. I still felt a lot of guilt, though, because a lot of times I felt like I wasn’t present enough and was distracted with work.
Once my company got an office, it felt nice to be able to go to work and get things done, and then come home and be with my kids. The lines were more delineated. I still took calls and emails, and worked weekends when things got hairy. That’s where family pitched in to help. Luckily, both my parents and my husband’s parents are nearby and were able to sit with our kids when we had work emergencies that we had to attend to.
Nowadays, my kids are older and in school all day, so I can move my schedule around to be more accommodating to their hours. I work in my office from 8:30am until 2pm. And since I work such a limited amount, I keep a rigid schedule—I don’t take lunch, don’t take personal calls, and don’t run errands during work time. When 2pm rolls around, I pick my kiddos up from school and spend the afternoons with them. I’m really lucky in that I have the flexibility to work around their schedule.
There is still some lingering guilt about having to work late or during the day in the summers when they’re out of school. And even during the school year, while other moms volunteer to be room moms or help out with class projects. My girls will sometimes compare me with their friends’ mothers who don’t work and ask “Why can’t you be like Catherine’s mom and volunteer at school all of the time?”, but I try to explain to them that I’m the breadwinner and responsible for putting food on the table and a roof over their head.
Even though that’s hard for them to swallow sometimes, I do feel like they get it. And I hope that I’m setting a good example for them and showing them that women can have it all and really enjoy the work that they do. I want them to be inspired to work hard for their dreams—even if they aren’t considered conventional.
Practicing what you preach
One of the things that I really wanted to implement at our company once we grew was a flexible work environment for parents. It’s incredibly important to me to be able to find a compromise when it comes to work and family, and I want my employees to have that same opportunity. I let our employees with school age children come into the office early, so that they can pick their kids up after school is out. Ginny, our rep coordinator, keeps a schedule similar to mine so that she can spend more time with her children. Also, Chris—one of our employees who works in order fulfillment—works his hours around his kids’ hours in order to be the primary caregiver at home.
A lot of companies aren’t terribly flexible with scheduling and even less forgiving when you need to take a day off to take care of a sick kid. But I’ve found that our system works out really well for us, and I think it has created a much stronger and loyal workforce. I genuinely care about our employees and want them to have a good work/life balance. We also let our workers handle their work from home if their kids are out sick, and when there are teacher workdays or holidays, we let them come into the store and work (we even pay them to help us fulfill orders and help out around the store, which they love!)
Working out the kinks
At the moment, I feel like I have a pretty good balance figured out. I still tend to neglect myself, as there’s only so much time in the day to manage work and family. But I have been trying to make more of an effort to take care of myself and find a few minutes here and there to take care of myself, whether that’s finding some alone time to catch up on reading or taking a quick walk around the neighborhood to get some exercise and fresh air.
I know that there will always be some give and take, and that finding a true balance isn’t always realistic (there will always be some sacrifice on either side). But for now, almost being there is enough.
Megan Hewitt is the owner of Shrimp and Grits Kids, an e-commerce kids clothing boutique that specializes in hand smocked clothing for boys and girls. She was born and raised by the beach in Sullivans Island, SC and lives with her husband and two girls in Mount Pleasant, SC.
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