I am a divorced, single mom of four. Like all other moms, I try to do everything I can to make sure my children grow up to be happy, productive people. That becomes even harder when you are the only parent in the house to be both the mom and the dad – the bread winner and the nurturer.
I thought I was doing well at balancing everything between work, my college education, and taking care of my children. This past year, I found myself working extra hours because of the workload and still I thought that I was managing well. Then, I was hit with a project that required me to work a lot of overtime to meet the deadlines. When driving home one night, my daughter texted me and said “It’s been three days and my mom is still not home from work”. My heart broke and the tears poured. They were being taken care of, but I realized that I had made it home after their bedtime for two nights in a row so she had not seen me. The guilt ate me up. I made sure to go home and hug her that night.
I stayed up that night wondering how I had gotten to that place. I blamed my job and the people there for awhile, but then I realized that I had gotten myself to that place. My mistake? I didn’t set expectations for anyone.
The next day, I gathered my team together and told them that I would no longer miss dinner with my children. If they need me to come back later or to work from home, then I could do that, but dinner belonged to my children. Surprisingly, everyone agreed and encouraged it. Since that day, I have not missed dinner with them any night. Even on the days that I have to do extra work, just having dinner together allows us to stay connected as a family and get quality time together.
Looking back, I created the guilt in this situation. I have since found that simply by setting expectations to keep my family a priority has ridden me of a large amount of guilt that I had been carrying around. It eliminates the guilt that I am letting co-workers down because they know ahead of time when I am available. It eliminates the guilt that I am letting my children down for my work because they know they are important enough to stop what I am doing and focus on them. It eliminates guilt that I am letting friends down because they know my free times and now plan towards them.
Now, when I am feeling guilty, I take time to ask the question “are you causing this guilt?”. Many times, I actually am causing it, but recognizing that allows me to make simple changes in what I am doing. Setting expectations does wonders!